UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry
East Ohio delegates Jessica Vargo and Gary George confer during the Monday April 30 plenary.
The General Council on Finance and Administration, Office of Analysis and Research, conducted a study of the delegates at General Conference 2012. (In 2008 they conducted a similar study. And prior to that study, the General Council on Ministries conducted surveys of the delegates to General Conference.)
Survey responses were provided by 484 jurisdictional delegates and 120 central conference delegates (604 delegates out of 988 total delegates, 61%).
Delegates to the 2012 General Conference were older, came from larger churches and have higher incomes than the denomination’s average.
Highlights of the survey include:
» The most important issues facing General Conference: Restructuring was the most important, then guaranteed appointments, homosexuality/human sexuality, the global church and church’s budget/finance.
» 51 percent of respondents were from churches that are greater than 500 members, while 10 percent of United Methodist churches are greater than 500 members.
» 25 percent of respondents were from churches that are smaller than 200 members, while 70 percent of United Methodist churches are smaller than 200 members.
» 72 percent of the respondents are 50 years of age or older and 4 percent of the respondents are 30 years of age or younger.
» For U.S. delegates, 48 percent of laity and 60 percent of clergy has a household income of more than $100,000, while only 20 percent of the U.S. population has a household income of more than $100,000. Fourteen percent of lay and 3 percent of clergy has a household income below $50,000, while 50 percent of the U.S. population has a household income of less than $50,000.
These demographics give a glimpse to the people who made the choices for The United Methodist Church at the 2012. Did we have delegates who represented the complexities of those in the United Methodist denomination? For example, most delegates come from large churches. Do these delegates have the experience or knowledge of smaller churches? Most delegates are over age 50. Do they have the experience or knowledge of what younger people may be experiencing or what challenges they may be encountering in the church?
Most of the U.S. delegates’ household income is higher than the average population and the average clergy salary. When making decisions, especially regarding pension plans, do these delegates understand the life of a clergy person who is making $40,000 annually?
When making decisions, we need to look at who is making the decisions and if those people making the decisions have the information and knowledge to represent the needs of most of the people they are affecting – not just the needs of those similar to themselves.
For more information, please go to the gcfa.org website.
Elaine Moy is assistant general secretary of the General Commission on the Status and Role of women.