Bishop: Rules Followed in Delegate Elections


--By Jackie Campbell, Communications Director--

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi has ruled that the election of 12 delegates to the 2020 General Conference who were endorsed by the Western PA Wesleyan Covenant Association was done through a fair and open process and followed the letter of the law, in this case a Conference rule. 

The rule in question -- Rule includes this statement:

Throughout the election process, care shall be given to select a slate of delegates who reflect our inclusive nature in regard to theological diversity, race, age, gender, and disability. Delegates should evidence a strong understanding of faith, and a clear sense of being open to the discernment of the Holy Spirit in the work of the church.

The question of a rules violation was raised by a voting member of the Western PA Annual Conference after six lay and six clergy delegates had received enough votes for election in balloting Friday afternoon, June 7. All 12 were on a slate circulated by the WCA, which, according to its website, "connects Spirit-filled, orthodox churches of Wesleyan theology and their members." The WCA proposed and vigorously campaigned for the Traditional Plan approved by the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
Before the June 6-8 Annual Conference session, the Western PA WCA Twitter feed included lists of the candidates endorsed by the group. As the votes were counted on each ballot, it became apparent that the results almost exactly mirrored the WCA slate. The full General Conference delegation of WCA-endorsed candidates elected were: Clergy-- Robert Zilhaver, Alyce Weaver-Dunn, Janet Lord, Steve Cordle, Duk Hee Han, and Keith McIlwain; and Laity -- Nancy Denardo, Paul Morelli, Vicki Stahlman, Holly Fugate, Richard Hoffman and Katherine Fehl. 

The elected delegation included an equal number of men and women. One of the 12 is a native of South Korea. The others are white. 

The point of order raised by Brandon Moore, who will begin serving as a part-time local pastor in the Pittsburgh District on July 1, was this:  "I believe rule has been broken. Specifically ‘Throughout the election process, care shall be given to select a slate of delegates who reflect our inclusive nature in regard to theological diversity, race, age, gender, and disability.'

“This rule has been broken through a network on social media which has a published document from 5/30/19 stating therein that votes should be cast for traditionalists. The slate elected today reflects the same organization’s published slate of delegates. Together the two documents point to a plan to not take care to reflect our inclusive nature."
Bishop Moore-Koikoi said she consulted with the Conference chancellors and other Conference leaders while discerning how she would rule. She discerned that "while we have followed our rules, I believe God is calling us to something deeper!"

The Bishop said she celebrated the balance of men and women among the elected delegates, as well as the election of the first Asian-American, a deacon and one young adult. But she asked delegates to pray about those missing from the group as balloting continued. 

"As far as theology goes," she added, "we also don't really know that (about a candidate). Some on social media have labeled others, but... that doesn't mean it is so." 

While the rules were followed, for the process to result in a diverse group, "the change is up to individuals," the Bishop said. "We have some more to elect for our delegation and the charge will be to take care that we elect a slate of candidates to reflect our theological diversity.  I pray that is what we will do when we continue to elect delegates."

After the decision was announced, the Rev. Scott Shaffer, lead pastor of Faith UMC in the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel, appealed the ruling to the annual conference and reminded members of the conference of the emphasis on inclusivity in Article IV of the Constitution (¶4). After prayer, the members voted and the Bishop’s decision was upheld. 

As balloting continued through Saturday for clergy and laity who would serve as General Conference alternates and voting members of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, only two who were not on the WCA slate were elected.

The list of delegates in order of election follows. The first six in each category serve as General Conference delegates. The next six join General Conference delegates to form the delegation for the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference and serve as alternates for General Conference. The final six in each category are alternate delegates for the Jurisdictional Conference who were determined based on their standing on the final ballot.
Alyce Weaver Dunn Nancy Denardo
Robert Zilhaver Paul Morelli
Janet Lord Vicki Stahlman
Duk Hee Han Holly Fugate
Steve Cordle Richard Hoffman
Keith McIlwain Katherine Fehl
John Seth William Patrick
Eric Park Jerry Rectenwald
Randall Bain Alexander Hoffman
D. Renee Mikell Sherry Meterko
Laura Saffell Joseph Emigh
Joseph Stains Kayla Schwanke
William B. Meekins Jr. Andrew Chung
Anais Hussian Denise-Nicole Stone
Amy Wagner Peggy Ward
Sung Shik Chung Diane Miller** (resigned)
Timothy Goodman Tracy Merrick
Brett Dinger Jennifer Gordon
  Brad Smith