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Conference to elect NCJ reserve delegates

Delegates to NCJ Conference

The Michigan Conference seeks four reserve delegates to serve at the 2024 North Central Jurisdictional Conference.

Content Editor

Because of vacancies, the Michigan Conference seeks four reserve delegates—two clergy and two lay—to serve at the 2024 North Central Jurisdictional (NCJ) Conference. A special election will be held at the upcoming 2023 Michigan Annual Conference in Acme, MI.

May 1, 2023, is the deadline to nominate someone so they appear in the list of nominees published before Annual Conference. Persons wishing to be placed on the ballot or to nominate someone for this important role in The United Methodist Church should prayerfully review the responsibilities and then complete the appropriate online form.

Due to changes in their professional and personal lives, one clergy member (Matt Weiler) and two laity members (Lisa Hahn and Brenda DuPree) of the Michigan Conference’s General and Jurisdictional Conference delegations, who were elected in 2019, have resigned. Additionally, Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, upon her election to the episcopacy at the 2022 North Central Jurisdictional Conference, became a member of the Council of Bishops and no longer serves as a delegate of the Michigan Conference. These changes have exhausted the pool of lay and clergy reserve delegates.

Given that there is another year before the General Conference (set for April 23–May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, NC) and the North Central Jurisdictional Conference (set for July 10-13, 2024, in Sioux Falls, SD), the Committee on Rules, the Commission on the Annual Conference Session, and members of the current delegation determined it was prudent to elect reserve delegates.

Todd Price, Chair of the Committee on Rules, explains that the Michigan Conference could wait until the 2024 Annual Conference to elect these reserve delegates, but that would leave less than two months for them to prepare for the NCJ Conference in July.

“Electing reserve delegates at this time is to ensure they have a period of time to come up to speed with the current delegation and topics that will be discussed,” Price says. Having that extra time to get to know one another and bond is crucial to the Holy Spirit-led work they will do together. Electing them this year will also give them plenty of time to plan to attend the NCJ Conference in Sioux Falls.

At the opening of the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference on Friday, June 2, the Committee on Rules will make a motion to suspend the rules to allow for the special election of two clergy and two lay reserve delegates to occur. Instead of electronic voting machines, paper ballots will be used, and nominees will need a majority for a valid election.

Jurisdictional conferences typically occur every four years following General Conference for the primary purpose of electing bishops, but both conferences have been delayed by a string of postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s special NCJ Conference in Fort Wayne, IN, was permitted out of cycle to elect bishops since there had been several episcopal changes and retirements since the last NCJ Conference in 2016.

Recently, the Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest court, ruled that annual conferences are permitted to elect delegates to General Conference and to regional jurisdictional or central conferences if they had exhausted its pool of reserve delegates, but it is not required.

According to Decision 1472, released on March 21, 2023, “When that point is reached, and only then, ¶33 [of the 2016 Book of Discipline] grants annual conferences ‘the right to vote . . . on the election of clergy and lay delegates to the General and the jurisdictional or central conferences’ and to elect new delegates up to the maximum number of allocated delegates.”

The current delegation to General Conference and North Central Jurisdictional Conference has been serving since they were elected in 2019 and will continue through the 2024 NCJ Conference. Rev. David Eardley, Chair of the Commission on the Annual Conference Session, expresses his gratitude: “Due to the postponement of the 2020 General Conference, this delegation has served longer than any other. I am grateful that so many of the delegates have been able to continue to serve throughout this extended time.”

So, who can serve as an NCJ delegate? The 2016 Book of Discipline states that clergy delegates must be elected from clergy members in full connection with the Michigan Conference (¶35, Article IV). Lay delegates must be members of a church within the Michigan Conference, professing members of The United Methodist Church for at least two years as of the date they are elected, and active participants in The United Methodist Church for at least four years as of the date elected (¶36 Article V).

The Michigan Conference seeks clergy and lay delegates who have a passion for serving The United Methodist Church and will work hard to understand the complex issues facing it. Nominees need to exercise initiative and demonstrate success in visionary leadership with the local church and beyond. Delegates must be attentive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as we embrace needed change, strengthen our connection, and enhance our ability to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

As always, the Michigan Conference strives for a slate of nominees inclusive of age, gender, persons with disabilities, and ethnic diversity.

Reserve delegates are considered a vital part of the entire delegation. Bishop David Alan Bard says, “One may think that being a reserve to jurisdictional conference does not sound terribly important. Know that the Michigan Conference’s delegation works together as a team, and every member of that team matters. You will help the entire delegation think about the issues coming before both General Conference and North Central Jurisdictional Conference.”

The team-building starts shortly after this year’s election, when delegates begin meeting virtually (expect to attend six to eight meetings in the next year) and then stay connected via electronic communications, including email, phone, and text messaging. In addition, delegates must plan on attending the North Central Jurisdictional Conference, July 10-13, 2024, in Sioux Falls, SD, where there will be a rigorous schedule with an extensive amount of walking required.

Ultimately, according to Bishop Bard, “the delegation team needs people of deep faith in Jesus Christ, a love for The United Methodist Church, and a commitment to its improvement. The team needs inquisitive and open minds, generous hearts, and people of energy and prayer. Our conference will be well served by having a solid group of people interested in becoming a delegate. I encourage our lay and clergy to give this every consideration, either by nominating themselves or others.”

To learn more about the responsibilities of serving as an NCJ delegate and to complete the online forms for nominating clergy and lay delegates, click here. Nominations received by May 1 will be posted by May 15, 2023. If you miss this deadline, nominations will also be accepted during our Annual Conference business sessions prior to each vote.

For insight into what it means to serve as an NCJ delegate, read these reflections from several of our current delegates who served at last year’s special NCJ Conference:

Also, watch this video summary of last year’s NCJ Conference to get a sense of what delegates will witness throughout the conference.

Last Updated on October 30, 2023

The Michigan Conference