To run, or not to run – that is the question.
It’s not what Shakespeare had in mind, but for some clergy and laity, the thought of being elected to General Conference can be one of the highest privileges of our church. It is a great honor, and it is a great commitment.
Laity, and clergy in many conferences, are allowed to put their names forward on the conference website with a 300 word statement about their beliefs and positions on issues. The deadlines for submitting names in North and South Georgia are upon us. Electing delegates will be the major work of this year’s annual conferences, so each conference should begin prayerfully considering who would best represent the voice of their conference at the General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
This will be the first time clergy in South Georgia will submit their names to indicate their interest in being elected. While almost all elders and deacons can be elected, South Georgia’s delegates will probably come from this list. Some clergy in South Georgia may feel uncomfortable putting their names out, but I hope all who feel led to serve in this capacity would participate fully in the process.
For all potential delegates, consider one word – commitment. Be aware of the following (taken from North Georgia’s website):
- The General Conference lasts for two weeks, followed by the North or South Georgia Annual Conference which lasts one week and the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference which lasts one week. Altogether delegates to General Conference need to commit four weeks to these three conferences within the three months time period from April 21 through July 19, 2008.
- There will be numerous meetings of the clergy and lay delegates, usually a full day Saturday meeting per month during the year following election of the delegates.
- The General Conference, in particular, requires extensive preparatory study plus long hours of meetings during the two weeks the General Conference is in session.
- Most delegates find that the per diem provided by the General and Jurisdictional Conferences does not cover all costs of being a delegate, and have to use personal funds to cover some of their expenses.
Prayerfully consider the commitment demanded of you. While a great honor to represent your conference, it requires a tremendous amount of time, energy, and personal resources. If you are unable or unwilling to fully participate, don’t submit your name! Years ago, I heard of someone who got elected knowing they would not be able to attend the next year’s conference. That is not fair to those who trust you will represent them with your presence. If they wanted the alternate to serve, they would have voted for them!
If the Lord moves you, submit your name. Be a part of making the United Methodist Church the best it can be. But be ready! With the responsibility and all that is asked of you, you may not question your existence as Hamlet did in Act 3, Scene 1, but you might come close!