Jun 3, 2010

What is a Methodist Annual Conference: Part II?

In our last blog/blast I wrote about what an Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is. As a refresher, an Annual Conference is a regional body that governs much of the life of the broader or “Connectional Church.”

The Annual Conference is the chief unit of our denomination’s government. Regional groups of conferences within the United States make up the Jurisdictional Conferences, and outside the United States they make up the Central Conferences. The entire group of all annual conferences makes up the General Conference which meets every four years. Only the General Conference can speak officially for the church.

The 2010 Central Texas Annual Conference meets the week of June 6-9, in Fort Worth. The Annual Conference is composed of an equal number of clergy and laity. Each charge conference elects as many lay members to the Annual Conference as they have ministers appointed to that charge. In most cases that is one. The Lay Member must, at the time of election, be a Professing Member of the United Methodist Church for at least two years and four years an active participant in the church. The Central Conferences may waive this requirement for those fewer than 30 years old as the General Church waives the requirement for newly organized churches.

The Annual Conference also consists of a number of “at-large” members, also known as “additional lay members,” the number of at-large members being the number necessary (after the members elected by charge conferences are seated) so that the laity and the clergy are equal in number. First seated among at-large members are lay persons holding certain lay positions or offices designated by the Book of Discipline or by the Annual Conference itself. Among those officers are the lay leaders of the conference and each of the districts within the conference, as well as the Conference presidents of the United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women, the young adult organization, the college student organization and the youth fellowship. Also all the diaconal ministers, home missioners, and the deaconesses under Episcopal appointment are lay members. When there are multiple congregations in a charge conference, the General church encourages members from each congregation to become at-large members.

I write of these matters because it is through this means that our church makes its decisions for our church. Some churches have a select group of laypeople or in some cases clergy who make virtually every decision for the church. Methodist Churches could not be any more democratic in decision making. For this reason alone our church, when it debates things, seems as wide open as it could be. This is the way we are.

Pray for our delegates and clergy as we enter the exciting process that we call the Annual Conference.

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