Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I've never had so many people vote for me, or against me for that matter

One of the events at the 218th General Assembly that affected me directly was my election to the Advisory Committee on the Constitution. I had been appointed to fill a mid-term vacancy on this committee, subject to election by the next meeting of the General Assembly. This is an unpaid, volunteer position working in an area where I have some applicable expertise.

Early in the meeting I learned that there was going to be a challenge nomination from the floor. Having worked at getting up to speed with the committee's work, and having contributed some of what I had to offer during that time, I discovered that I now had feelings of investment in that committee. Being elected mattered to me in a new way.

The General Assembly has procedures for handling challenge nominations, and I learned a few weeks after the Assembly that some photographs had been taken of the proceedings that I had merely watched with great interest.

The following photographs were taken by Harry Young, the stated Clerk of Utica Presbytery (the same presbytery that ordained me 28 years ago). I am posting these photos on my blog with his permission.

On Thursday morning, June 26, the General Assembly Nominating Committee began presenting the nominations that were to be challenged by other nominations from the floor. My nomination was the first to be presented. The above slide was shown to the commissioners, giving them some demographic information about me and the challenger.

"WMC" = White Male Clergy. "46-55" is my age bracket. "Pittsburgh" identifies me as a member of Pittsburgh Presbytery. "TRI"=Synod of the Trinity (where Pittsburgh Presbytery is located). I was being nominated for an At-Large position; all of the positions on the Advisory Committee on the Constitution are "at-large" because they are not tied to representing particular governing bodies or categories.

My challenger was White Female Clergy, in the "56-65" age bracket, from the Presbytery of Nevada, in the Synod of the Pacific.

Under the rules of the General Assembly, the commissioner making the challenge nomination was to make a nominating speech of up to three minutes.

Then a representative of the General Assembly Nominating Committee was allowed to make a three minute speech in support of their nominee (me).

Those two speeches and the demographic information above were the only pieces of information formally presented to the assembly before it went through its voting procedure. But before the commissioners voted, the Assembly polled various categories of Advisory Delegates for their advice (the Assembly followed this procedure on most items of business when the voting pads were going to be used).

Each of the slides showing the advisory polls had two categories of advisory delegates. The Youth Advisory Delegates were 68% in favor of me (with 95 of them indicating a choice). The second category on that slide showed the poll of the Theological Student Advisory Delegates. That one was much closer, but with a lot of the TSAD's not supporting either nominee.

The next slide showed the poll of the Missionary Advisory Delegates. There were a total of eight delegates in this category, and the seven that indicated a preference all supported me.

Also on this slide were the Ecumenical Advisory Delegates. Only a little over a third of these delegates indicated any preference at all. In that category I got three votes and the challenger got two.

After the Assembly had received the advice of its advisory delegates, the commissioners voted. There were a total of 752 commissioners at the Assembly and I received 67% of the votes, so I was elected.

In retrospect, I realized that because most of my ministry has been in small presbyteries and in small to medium-sized congregations, this was the largest group of people to vote on me in my life. Even the raw number of people voting against me in this election was larger than the number of votes I had received in any previous election.

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