What to Expect at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in 2020

Sara Hotchkiss, General Conference business manager, speaks to the Commission on General Conference during its meeting at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Heather Hahn, UM News.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, organizers hope to improve proceedings at General Conference 2020.

Among the adjustments that delegates can expect are stricter requirements for their credentials after an investigation found four ineligible people cast votes during the 2019 special General Conference using credentials of absent delegates.

Changes at The United Methodist Church’s top policy-making assembly also include more time for legislative action during plenary sessions as well as some proposed revisions to the rules of order.

Ultimately, it will be up to delegates to approve any rule changes and keep to the schedule when they meet May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis. The theme for the gathering will be “…and know that I am God” from Psalm 46.

At its last planned face-to-face meeting before GC2020, the Commission on General Conference spent much of its time dealing with the ramifications of what happened at the February special session in St. Louis.

“The Commission on the General Conference is committed to protecting the integrity of the legislative process,” said Kim Simpson, commission chair, in a statement following the Aug. 7-9 meeting. The commission elected Simpson of the Central Texas Conference after her predecessor Duncan McMillan resigned due to health reasons.

The commission determined that the four ineligible votes were enough to invalidate a key vote on how congregations can leave the denomination. But the commission also wants the denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council, to decide what the fraudulent voting means for the full disaffiliation legislation.

In a three-page report released late Aug. 15, the commission outlined its actions as well as new registration and voting procedures for possible implementation.

The recommended procedures would require primary and reserve delegates to:

• Present government-issued identification and their annual conference-issued credential card to register.
• Register individually rather than as a group or delegation.
• Use dedicated points of entry into the plenary.
• Use nametags that include their photos.
• Sit in assigned seats within their delegations.

The recommended procedures also require a dedicated check-in table for reserve delegates and language interpretation at registration. The recommendations stress the need for commission personnel to use consistent names for delegates, including ensuring their names match government IDs on file and visa tracking sheets.

Other concerns raised at the 2019 General Conference have led to some proposed changes to rules of order.

Chief among these is a new rule that says:

“Delegates are free to vote according to their conscience without interference by others observing, monitoring, or recording their votes. Persons shall not give or accept bribes or threaten delegates in order to influence voting.”

On the final day of the highly contentious 2019 General Conference, a delegate raised concerns that some delegates were being bribed for their votes. The Committee on Ethics was not able to substantiate that allegation.

Still, suspicions and hard feelings remain.

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Source: United Methodist News