The new delegate count for General Conference 2016 will give the Western PA Conference 12 delegates—6 clergy and 6 laity—to the denomination’s policy-making body. The total number of delegates was reduced from nearly 1,000 in 2012 to about 850 for 2016 by a vote of the Commission on the General Conference at its October 2013 meeting.
General Conference Secretary L. Fitzgerald Reist released a list of numbers of delegates by annual conferences at the Council of Bishops meeting in Lake Junaluska. Secretaries of each annual conference were previously notified how many delegates their own conference would have. (See the breakdown at umc.org/gc2016delegatecount
The number of delegates per annual conference is calculated based on the requirement for one lay and one clergy delegate for each annual conference, with additional delegates assigned according to a formula that considers the total clergy and lay membership per conference.
“The reduced number of delegates did not result in significant changes in the proportionate representation of delegates from individual jurisdictions and central conferences,” said Reist, who has served as the secretary since his election in 2004.
Thirty percent of delegates in 2016 will be from Africa, 58.3 percent from the U.S., 4.6 percent from Europe and 5.8 percent from the Philippines, with the remainder from the Concordat churches.
The 2012 General Conference shifted the responsibility for determining the target number of delegates from the secretary of the General Conference to the Commission, offering the rationale that it should not be the decision of only one person.
The Constitution of The United Methodist Church allows for the General Conference to have anywhere from 600 to 1,000 delegates. The overriding factor in reducing the number of delegates was a desire to move toward a smaller structure which meeting facilities outside the U.S. could accommodate.
“While there were reasons to set the number of delegates at the higher and the lower end of the range, the Commission arrived at this figure in a spirit of compromise,” said Judi Kenaston, Commission chair. “It is an incremental move toward a smaller conference, which will allow us to hold General Conference outside the United States, and it represents responsible stewardship while limiting the percentage change in representation from various parts of the worldwide church.”