The special election for reserve delegates to the 2024 NCJ Conference, scheduled for this year’s Michigan Annual Conference, has been canceled.
The United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops met in Chicago last week and made a decision that impacts the upcoming Michigan Annual Conference, set for June 2-4, 2023.
The previously planned special election will not be held to fill four reserve delegates to serve at the 2024 North Central Jurisdictional (NCJ) Conference.
Michigan Conference leadership agreed to cancel the election immediately following the Council of Bishops’ interpretation of a recent Judicial Council ruling that stated annual conferences are permitted to hold elections to fill delegate vacancies. Reserve delegates were not included as also permitted. Therefore, electing reserve delegates at this time, prior to the 2024 General Conference, would be considered out of order.
The 19 candidates nominated for this election were notified last week and thanked by Bishop David Bard and other leaders for the time they took to complete the application and for their openness to serve the church.
The Michigan Conference has 16 NCJ delegates, which is the number General Conference has allocated to the conference, but the pool of reserve delegates—two clergy and two lay—had been exhausted because of recent withdrawals.
When the Judicial Council released Decision 1472 less than two months ago, leadership within the Michigan Conference believed the decision did not prohibit the election of reserve delegates and began to prepare to fill the reserve delegate vacancies.
Decision 1472 ruled that annual conferences are permitted to fill vacancies in their General and jurisdictional delegations due to death, resignations, or otherwise, since the current delegation has been serving since 2019 for the postponed 2020 conferences, now to be held in 2024.
General Conference is scheduled for April 23–May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, NC, and the North Central Jurisdictional Conference is scheduled for July 10-12, 2024, in Sioux Falls, SD.
Michigan Conference leadership interpreted Decision 1472 to mean they could go ahead with an election for reserve vacancies, even though it was not required.
But last week’s meeting of United Methodist bishops further clarified Decision 1472 as the denomination continues to navigate a string of pandemic-caused disruptions to the typical four-year General Conference cycle.
The Council of Bishops comprises all active and retired bishops of The United Methodist Church. Bishops give oversight to the worldly and spiritual interests of the church. They meet twice a year, and this spring’s meeting in Chicago was the first in-person gathering since 2019. About 100 bishops from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America attended, with about 20 attending virtually.
Bishop Bard, who was present, reported, “The Council of Bishops understands this ruling to mean that persons cannot be elected as reserve delegates to General Conference. At our meeting, the Council also asserted that, by implication, the same should hold for jurisdictional conferences. Election for jurisdictional conference delegates should include election up to the maximum number of originally allocated delegates if they cannot be filled with reserve delegates, and therefore the election of additional reserve delegates would be out of order.”
This clarification by the Council of Bishops led leadership within the Michigan Conference to cancel the upcoming election for NCJ reserve delegates. Bishop Bard offered his apologies and gratitude to the candidates, “I am sorry that this was not clear even a month ago. I deeply appreciate those who have offered their names for consideration. I celebrate your willingness to be part of our delegation and regret not being able to move forward with this election.”
Rev. Paul Perez, the co-chair of the Michigan Conference General and jurisdictional delegation, communicated the news to the 19 candidates. He said, “I imagine this is disappointing news to receive. Thank you for your grace and understanding as our denomination moves through a difficult and complex moment.”
Perez admitted that the special election for reserve delegates would have provided a safeguard in case a delegate needed to resign for unexpected reasons. In addition, having new reserve delegates would have allowed new voices and perspectives to join the delegation. But despite the decision to cancel the election, he said, “I am confident our delegation will be able to fulfill its duties at the General and North Central Jurisdictional Conferences.”
Last Updated on May 16, 2023