Methodist Judicial Council Asked to Determine Delegation Size for Cote d’Ivoire

United Methodist Communications
Stephen Drachler, Executive Director of Public Information
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June 5, 2006

Contact: Stephen Drachler
(615) 742-5411 office
(615) 456-4710 cell

Methodist Judicial Council Asked to Determine Delegation Size for Cote d'Ivoire

NASHVILLE With the 2008 General Conference approaching, the Commission on the General Conference is asking The United Methodist Church's top judicial body to rule on the size of the delegation from Cote d'Ivoire to the denomination's quadrennial assembly.

Cote d'Ivoire was accepted as the newest regional conference of The United Methodist Church at the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. The commission is asking the Judicial Council to rule on the size of the delegation because of an apparent conflict between the 2004 action and the denomination's constitution.

Under the legislation adopted by the 2004 General Conference, Cote d'Ivoire would be entitled to two voting delegates at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. That decision seems to conflict with the church's constitution, which apportions delegation sizes according to a formula outlined in the denomination's Book of Discipline, said the Rev. L. Fitzgerald Reist II, of Williamsport, Pa., the secretary of the General Conference. The Discipline gives the responsibility for making those determinations to the secretary.

In asking the commission to seek a Judicial Council ruling on the issue, Reist said Cote d'Ivoire could be entitled to up to 70 voting members if the apportionment formula were to be followed. That would make the West African nation's delegation the largest at the conference. To fit within the 1,000 delegate limit on the number of delegates to the General Conference, it would mean reducing the size of other delegations, Reist said.

"Ethically, I feel constrained to ask the question," Reist told the commission. "How can we admit [Cote d'Ivoire] and have two delegates? I don't want to assume anything. Constitutional questions need to be decided by the Judicial Council."

The Rev. Alan J. Morrison of Nashville, business manager of the General Conference, said the 2004 action could create questions about the legality of the entire 2008 General Conference.

"Someone could stand up on the floor of General Conference and raise the issue of constitutionality [related to delegation sizes] and have the entire General Conference declared unconstitutional," Morrison said.

Commission members decided to seek the Judicial Council ruling in part because the Discipline directs them to work with the secretary on preparations for each general conference and to prepare delegates from outside the United States for full participation in the assembly.

In a related matter, commission members discussed issues related to updating and confirming membership totals from conferences throughout the church. Reist said some conferences have not updated their membership totals since at least 1995.

The membership totals, Reist said, are important to maintain the integrity of the church's legislative process. Lay and clergy membership are the major factors in determining the size of each delegation to the General Conference. While every conference is entitled to at least two delegates, one lay, one clergy, delegations are apportioned by the numbers of lay members and clergy. Larger conferences get larger delegations.

"This is a concern, not a criticism," Reist emphasized.

The commission decided to develop legislation for the 2008 General Conference dealing with the issue. The legislation would require conferences to update their lay and clergy membership numbers unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances.

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