aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Holy politickin'

I didn't have to be up at Annual Conference quite so early today, which was a relief. Still, I got up there in good time and had some leisure to schmooze people before my first commitment of the day. Schmoozing is the way most of the real work of the Conference gets done. I not only greeted old friends, but I had informal conversations with people I really needed to talk to about one thing or another. It was time well spent.

At 11:15, the Asbury College and Seminary Luncheon took place. I hadn't gone for several years, but it was nice to hobnob with people with whom I share that relationship. And then it was time to go vote.

The laity voted in the morning, using hand-held electronic devices that looked like TV remotes. It took them two hours. It took us clergy three hours, which is not surprising. The laity always take a more business-like approach to voting for delegates. They lack the back-scratching relationships, the egos, the career designs, and the commitment to causes and cliques that are so prevalent among the professionals.

We were to elect eight lay and eight clergy delegates to General Conference, who will also attend Jurisdictional Conference. Then, we were to elect eight lay and eight clergy as delegates to Jurisdictional Conference (who also function as Alternates to General Conference). Finally, we were to elect three Alternates to Jurisdictional Conference. Those attending General Conference next April in Portland, Oregon, will have to handle all the stuff coming down the pike, especially social issues and restructuring plans of various sorts. It's a high-pressure, exhausting job, and immensely important. Those attending the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Peoria next July will elect no fewer than three new bishops, as well as have a say in which bishop (old or new) is assigned to Indiana.

Now, it's no secret that I am associated with the Confessing Movement within the UMC, one of the orthodox renewal groups that try to keep our Church faithful in doctrine and practice. We had recruited, vetted, and came ready to support good candidates. Lots of people were talking about a goal of electing "4 under 40," meaning seeing some young adults elected to General and Jurisdictional Conference. The Confessing Movement had on their preferred list of candidates no fewer than five "under 40" lay candidates and one "under 40" clergy candidate.

In the laity election for General Conference, eight of the candidates recommended by the Confessing Movement won -- a clean sweep -- as well as six, I think, of the eight elected for Jurisdictional Conference. All five "under 40" candidates won; in fact, one of them -- Tyler Best -- led the poll.

In the clergy election, six of the eight candidates recommended by the Confessing Movement for General Conference won. Three of them, including "under 40" clergy candidate, Sam Padgett, won election to Jurisdictional Conference. I did not get elected to anything (not that I expected to); still, I got a very respectable number of votes in the middle ballots for Jurisdictional Conference, which was very gratifying. This was my last ever election to compete in, and I close it feeling very good about the overall results, as well as very good about my personal standing amongst my colleagues.

I'm sure there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the progressives who ran. They, too, recruited candidates and came prepared to work to get them elected. Having done comparatively poorly, I'm sure there will be lots of talk about the dire influence of "interest group politics" on the process. *Sigh* We change the process every four years, usually because the progressives keep trying to come up with a "fair" process that means they can get their people elected. But when people actually know whom they're voting for, they tend to vote conservatively; this is Indiana, after all. And this time, nobody can blame the lack of interest and dwindling number of votes cast on each ballot as the process drags on: we were confined in a single room and not allowed to leave until we'd sent the white smoke up the chimney!

One thing that did bother me -- and some others -- is that there were only about 465 clergy there to vote. If Annual Conference were attended by the clergy as faithfully as it used to be, there should have been nearly a thousand votes on each ballot. But then, the Conference leadership has tried its best -- successfully -- to make Annual Conference as dreary an experience as possible, and kept as much decision-making power as possible in the hands of the Conference poobahs. It's no wonder a lot of those who should be there don't bother to show up.

After all the shoutin' was over, I attended the Confessing Movement dinner at the Sheraton. Heard a very interesting talk given by a Vice-President of Good News, and enjoyed the fellowship at my table very much. I didn't stay for the Memorial Service, since I was pooped and I have to be back up at Conference at 7:00 o'clock in the morning for the Pathfinder Chapter of NAUMS Annual Meeting. I should be home and dry by noon or so tomorrow, and I would think a nap would be in order.

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