|Fourteen delegates — seven laity and seven clergy — will represent the Oklahoma Conference at the denomination’s 2016 General Conference (GC), Joseph Harris has announced. He is annual conference secretary for Oklahoma.
In 2012, Oklahoma’s voting bloc totaled 18.
"We are still the second-largest delegation in the jurisdiction," said Rev. Dr. Harris. "The Texas Conference has 18."
In the eight-state South Central Jurisdiction, the smallest delegations are the New Mexico and Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conferences, each with two GC delegates.
The 2016 General Conference will have 864 delegates from around the world, Harris reported.
Thirty percent of them will be from Africa, 58.3 percent from the U.S.A., 4.6 percent from Europe, and 5.8 percent from the Philippines, according to United Methodist Communications (UMCOM).
In the U.S., churches are grouped as annual conferences. In other nations, such groups are called central conferences.
The number of GC delegates per annual/central conference is based on a formula that considers the total clergy and lay membership of that conference. At minimum, one lay and one clergy delegate are required.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa, United Methodists of North Katanga Conference will be represented by 48 people, Harris noted, forming the largest delegation. Churches in the Congo are grouped in 14 conferences, with a total of 138 GC delegates from that nation.
Most conferences, including Oklahoma, will choose delegates in 2015, although a new Book of Discipline rule permits elections next year. Harris said the change was made to help international delegates secure passports.
Oklahoma’s 14 GC delegates will be elected at the 2015 Annual Conference in Oklahoma City. An additional 14 delegates, equally divided between laity and clergy, will be chosen, plus several alternates, for the 2016 South Central Jurisdictional Conference. That meeting will be in Wichita, Kan., in July 2016.
In 2012, that voting was completed in one day, as recommended by the annual conference secretary.
"Last time we elected a number of younger delegates, an increase over previous voting," Harris said. "I think our conference has a commitment to diversity and will continue that."
He added, "Our people also give their leadership to other areas of the General Conference, such as chairing legislative committees and subcommittees, not just voting."
The Church’s Constitution allows a range of 600 to 1,000 GC delegates. Since 1968 that number has been close to 1,000.
At its October meeting, the Commission on the General Conference voted to reduce that total. The overriding factor was a desire to move toward a structure more suitable for potential locations beyond the U.S.A., UMCOM reported.
Meeting every four years, the General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church. Delegates can revise Church law as well as adopt resolutions on moral, social, public policy, and economic issues. They also approve plans and budgets for church-wide programs.
The 2016 General Conference will meet in Portland, Ore. Theme is "Therefore, Go."