Hard work, much prayer ahead for 2016 General Conference delegation

Jay Clark

Jay Clark

Perspective from a former delegate, current observer

By P. Jay Clark
Special Contributor

As we move into a time of discernment before the 2015 Annual Conference rolls around, I find myself in deep thought regarding elections for the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. This year we will elect our four lay and four clergy delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences, another four lay and four clergy to Jurisdictional Conference, plus alternates. The delegates will spend the time between their election and the gatherings getting to know the issues they will face there.

This year is different for me because two years ago, I embarked on a new path—that of the local pastor. A local pastor is considered clergy if appointed and laity if not appointed. Local pastors are kind of in a “no-person’s land” when it comes to running for, and even voting for, General and Jurisdictional Conference delegations. Local pastors cannot run for a delegate spot or vote for delegates unless specific requirements are met. In 2012, I served as one of the lay delegates from the Arkansas Conference; this time, I’m not eligible, so I’ll be watching from the sidelines.

For those who have never witnessed the work of the General Conference, it will next convene May 10-20, 2016, in Portland, Ore. Delegates spend the first part primarily in committees—such as Church and Society, Local Church, Higher Education, Faith and Order—sorting through hundreds of petitions from all over the world. The second part involves the entire voting body hearing reports and debating and discussing petitions on the floor. Of course, there is also fantastic worship throughout the 10-day gathering.

The work of the Jurisdictional Conference (July 13-16, 2016, in Wichita, Kan.) primarily has to do with the election and assignment of bishops within our own South Central Jurisdiction. Our own Bishop Mueller was elected at the 2012 Jurisdictional Conference and assigned to lead the United Methodists of Arkansas.

As someone who has had the privilege of being elected to General and Jurisdictional Conferences, I can tell you that being a delegate involves a lot of hard work. 2016’s General Conference is shaping up to one of the most anticipated General Conferences in many years—especially after the last General Conference, held in Tampa in 2012. That Conference attempted to significantly change the structure of the church, but the plan they approved was overturned by the Judicial Council.

The United Methodists of Arkansas have sent many wonderful leaders to General and Jurisdictional Conferences over the years. Although there is wisdom in electing those who have gone to General Conference before, there is also wisdom in electing those who can look at who we are as a worldwide church with fresh eyes.

If you have a passion for the United Methodist Church and have the gift of listening to others of same and differing opinions, I hope you will join me in prayer and discernment for this time of election. Maybe you will feel God nudge you toward talking to others about your desire to be elected. On the other hand, if you have had the honor of being elected to a past General Conference, perhaps you may feel God nudging you to step aside and let new leadership help carve out the future of our church.

My prayer is for our delegation to be a wonderfully diverse group—in age, gender, ethnicity, backgrounds, theologies and more—that truly represents who we are as the Arkansas Conference.

The Rev. Clark, who was a lay member of Arkansas’ 2012 General Conference delegation, serves as pastor with youth and their families at Pulaski Heights UMC Little Rock.

Elections at AC2015: what you need to know

Arkansas’ General Conference delegation will consist of four laity and four clergy; the first two elected Jurisdictional Conference lay delegates and first two elected Jurisdictional Conference clergy delegates will serve as alternates.

Arkansas’ Jurisdictional Conference delegation will include the General Conference delegation plus four more laity and four more clergy, with two lay and two clergy alternates.

Visit http://ac2015.arumc.org to watch Bishop Mueller’s video about electing the delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference.

Those interested in serving on the delegation are encouraged to self-nominate. To download a nomination form, visit http://ac2015.arumc.org.

Please be in prayer for those who discern a call to run for a seat on the delegation, and for the members of Annual Conference who will vote in the elections.