The U.S. jurisdictions will have fewer delegates
to the General Conference of The United
Methodist Church than they did in 2008. This
has affected the representation of women and
U.S. people of color as delegates. That’s because
the denomination’s membership is growing
in Africa, the Philippines and Europe, while
membership continues to decline in much of the
According to a statistical overview of The United
Methodist Church provided by the General
Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA),
from 2005 to 2009 (most current data), the
membership of the U.S. jurisdictions declined
from 8,071,938 to 7,772,966, a decrease of 4%.
The Central Conferences over the same period of
time increased from 3,497,512 to 4,400,510, an
increase of 26%.
Furthermore, during that same period, the
Central Conferences increased their share
of the total membership of The United
Methodist Church from 30% to 36%. And,
while this has increased the diversity of the
General Conference from a global perspective,
it has decreased the participation of women
and people of color from the United States.
The number of U.S. female delegates has decreased
from 306 (2008 General Conference) to 266 (2012
General Conference), a drop of 40 (see Table 1).
During the same time period, the number of U.S. male
delegates has decreased from 398 to 336, a decrease
of 62 (see Table 1). As a result, these changes have
slightly increased the percentage of U.S. female representation at General Conference from 43% (2008 General
Conference) to 44% (2012 General Conference). From 2000 to 2012, the female delegates have declined from
324 to 266 delegates, a loss of 58 (18%), while male delegates have dropped from 506 to 336, a loss of 170
Yes, all U.S. groups—clergymen, laymen and laywomen—have seen their numbers decrease over time;
however, the great impact has been on clergywomen (see Tables 3 , 4 and 5). At 1992 General Conference,
81 clergywomen were delegates and by 2004 General Conference, that number had risen to 137, an all-time
high (Table 2). Today, the decrease in clergywomen has reversed all gains over the past 12 years, so that
the number of U.S. clergywomen to the 2012 General Conference (117) is almost equal to the 2000 General
Conference (112). (Note: clergywomen represent 39% of the clergy delegation while clergywomen make
up 24% of all clergy.)
While the number of Central Conference delegates has increased, people of color from the United States
has lost representation over the past four years. The number of people of color has dropped from 173 (2008
General Conference) to 135 (2012 General Conference), a loss of 38 or 22%. The 38 persons of color represent
37% of the total loss of 102 persons by the U.S. delegations since 2008 General Conference. Clergymen of color
took the biggest loss at 18 persons with people of color laywomen at 15. Clergywomen of color loss is at five
persons, but the laymen of color showed no change. Unfortunately, no accurate numbers exist from previous
General Conferences to track the impact of decreases on people of color.
The North Central Jurisdiction dropped its representation
from 138 to 112, a loss of 26 or 19% persons from the 2008
General Conference to the 2012 General Conference. Women
had their representation decreasing the most with a net loss of
10 laywomen and nine clergywomen. These 19 represent 73% of
the total loss of representation by the North Central Jurisdiction
(see Tables 3 and 4).
Persons of color had a net loss of 15 representatives from the
2008 General Conference to the 2012 General Conference.
They followed the national trend with laywomen and
clergymen suffering the greatest losses. Persons of color saw
their numbers almost cut in half from 33 to 18 in the North
Central Jurisdiction. Consequently, their share of the overall
jurisdictional representation fell from 24% to 16% (see Tables 3
The Northeastern Jurisdiction dropped its membership from
126 to 110, a loss of 16 or 13%. The female representation
showed no net change staying at 54 delegates. The Northeastern
Jurisdiction had a net increase of one laywoman and a net
decrease of one clergywoman. The 54 delegates represent 49%
of the total delegation (see Tables 3 and 4).
Persons of color also showed no net change. They had a
net increase of four laity and a net decrease of four clergy.
Clergymen lost three persons and laymen gained three
persons. By holding their own, persons of color actually saw
their total representation increase from 29% to 32% of the
Northeastern Jurisdiction (see Tables 3 and 4).
The South Central Jurisdiction dropped its representation
from 148 to 128, a loss of 20 or 14%. The female
representation had a net loss of eight members (two clergywomen and six laywomen). The two clergywomen
were both women of color, but only one of the six laywomen was a woman of color. Women delegates make
up 38% of the South Central Jurisdiction, a one percentage point drop from the 39% at the 2008 General
Conference (see Tables 3 and 4).
Persons of color had a net loss of seven delegates from 2008 to 2012. Clergymen, clergywomen and laymen had
a net loss of two persons each. Persons of color fell from 35 to 28 delegates. Consequently, their representation
dropped from 24% to 22% of the delegation (see Tables 3 and 4).
The number of Southeastern delegates fell from 252 to 220, a loss of 32 or 13%. Clergywomen had a net
increase of one representative while laywomen had a net decrease of 13 delegates. In actuality, the Southeastern
Jurisdiction added two women of color clergy. Women have 92 delegates or 42% of the Southeastern delegation
(see Tables 3 and 4).
The number of persons of color dropped from 52 to 42, a loss of 10 or 19%. The loss of 10 persons represents
one-third of the total delegation loss from 2008 to 2012. Clergymen dropped eight representatives and
laywomen dropped seven representatives, which were offset by the gains of laymen and clergywomen. People
of color make up 19% of the Southeastern Jurisdiction delegation (see Tables 3 and 4).
The Western Jurisdiction number of delegates fell from 40 to 32, a loss of 8 or 20%. Females lost one delegate
from 2008 to 2012 with clergywomen showing a net loss of three, while laywomen showed a net increase of
two. Nevertheless, women make up 21 or 66% of the Western delegation, the only jurisdiction in which women have a majority of delegates (see Tables 3 and 4).
Persons of color had a net loss of six persons, from 17 to 11. Clergywomen and laywomen had
a net loss of two persons each while laymen and clergymen had a net loss of one person each. The decrease in
persons of color from 17 to 11 saw their representation fall from 43% to 34% (see Tables 3 and 4).
As the United Methodist denomination continues to grow globally, the challenge for the U.S. United Methodists
is to remain inclusive while its membership (and thus General Conference representation) gets smaller. Just
because the U.S. delegations and representation are getting smaller, the decrease does not have to rest on
the backs of women and people of color. Yes, the U.S. United Methodist Church is over 90% white, but the
representation at General Conference—the highest decision-making body of the church — needs to be more
than white. The United States — our mission field — is 35% people of color and growing. For The United
Methodist Church in the U.S. to become the body of Christ, we need to become the inclusive and diverse church.