|Photo by Regina Holmes|
|Delegates discuss business items at round tables this year, which many agree has helped facilitate conversation and face-to-face dialogue about issues.|
The delegate body of the 2012 Annual Conference has acted on a query about elections. The body adopted a recommendation from the Standing Committee of district delegates that “the query respectfully be returned and that the 1979 statement, ‘Call to Accountability,’ be reaffirmed.”
The query concerned the issue of whether the ballot process should be changed beyond what the 1979 statement says to further ensure representation of women, ethnic and other minorities in denominational leadership. It was prompted particularly by the nomination from the floor in 2011 that resulted in a male moderator-elect being chosen over the two female candidates who had been presented through the usual nominating process.
Leah Hileman presented the recommendation on behalf of Standing Committee and the rationales that led to it, including the concern that the Holy Spirit have freedom to move not only during the established nominating process but also on the Conference floor.
Among other concerns shared by the Standing Committee representative was that many women have declined invitations to serve, that in general more nominations are needed, and that gifts discernment and calling out of leaders and leadership development must be deliberately worked on at all levels of the church, from the local congregation on up. This would develop a larger pool of qualified candidates for denominational service. Also, individuals should monitor themselves concerning gender bias. Hileman concluded her presentation with an emphatic shout, “Nominate more people!”
Although the Standing Committee’s recommendation to return the query was adopted with strong support, concerns and suggestions for improving the leadership selection process were raised at the microphones. A leader from Pacific Southwest District–which sent the query–expressed dismay, saying that it had been affirmed unanimously at the district conference last year. Other speakers were concerned that the competitive Annual Conference elections process creates winners and losers and discourages qualified, willing people, and suggested working toward bringing a slate to Annual Conference for affirmation.
— Frances Townsend is a volunteer writer on the Annual Conference news team, and pastor of Onekama (Mich.) Church of the Brethren