Did you notice all those groups of young people running around and being shepherded here and there at one of the recent Annual Conferences? Who are they? Actually, a lot of them are what we call District delegates or members, who attend and vote at the Conferences. They are sometimes referred to as District-at-Large (DAL) Delegate. What is this about?
We try to “equalize” the number of clergy and laity who attend and vote on issues brought before the Annual Conference. Each church has at least one clergy delegate, and should have one lay delegate as well. If you have more than one clergy person serving your church or charge, you should have as many lay persons going to Annual Conference as well. This is it in a nutshell, but of course, it is more complicated than that. According to the Book of Discipline, clergy delegates (or “members” of the Annual Conference) include “deacons and elders in full connection, provisional members, associate members, and local pastors under appointment” (Paragraph 32, Article I of the BOD, see http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/section-vi-annual-conferences). There are a few additions to the laity as well, but usually the District Offices are looking for other lay persons to attend Annual Conference, besides the ones from the churches.
So what’s the problem? Most churches cannot afford to pay for their lay delegates to attend Annual Conference, and the Districts usually do not have money for this either. In fact, many churches cannot afford to pay for their clergy to attend. It can get expensive! Our next Annual Conference will be June 15-18 at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel at Disney World. This will be three and maybe four nights in the hotel at $130.00 a night (and that’s cheap!), plus meals and travel. So, does that count you out? Think about it. We have a long tradition of making important decisions together, all of us—clergy and laity alike. Do you not think that this balanced partnership approach should be continued into the future together? It may cost you personally, but it is a worthy sacrifice.
Volunteer to be a DAL, if you are not already a delegate from your church. Youth delegates as young as 12 years of age can attend and serve as well. Both youth and adult delegates need to be orientated and trained on their responsibilities, and prepared to consider all sides of all the issues facing the church.
Whatever the case may be, we recommend that you become more involved in the meetings of the Florida Annual Conference. If you cannot attend, maybe you can help prepare and send youth from your own church, and help them consider all points of view. All of our delegates and all of our churches will be better served through your own conscientious involvement.