The official business meetings for General Assembly opened Monday with almost an hour of prayer in small groups. Delegates and visitors gathered in groups of 5-10 with GS’s giving prayer prompts about every five minutes or so.
From a legislative perspective, some of the most significant decisions of the day were as follows.
- We rejected a proposal to change General Assembly to once every five years, rather than once every four years. It seemed that most people feel like (a) General Assembly is so important for our church as to justify the cost and time of doing it every four years, and (b) Changing the cycle to every five years would slow an already painfully slow global decision making process.
- We approved a proposal to allow simultaneous sites for future General Assemblies. As many as 50% of international delegates are unable to obtain visas to visit the USA, so this would greatly increase our international participation to more accurately represent every member of our church. Also, it would significantly decrease travel costs. The sites will all be linked via video and internet (and probably by technologies that don’t even exist yet).
- We rejected a decision to reduce the size of the General Board to about 30 instead of 50, based on increasing the ratio of General Board members to church members. (Currently each region gets one General Board member for every 100,000 members. The proposal was to change this to one delegate for every 150,000.) This would have decreased the total number of delegates for every region except Africa. However, because the proposal also combined USA/Canada into one region, it would have decreased the North American representation to 10 from 20. This would have been proportionate, but I’m guessing this may be why the proposal failed.
- Also, we decided that churches should give their pastors a sabbatical during their seventh year of ministry instead of after their seventh year.
Of course, there were other actions taken or rejected, but these were most important.
The other drama of the day centered naturally on the General Superintendent election process. In the Church of the Nazarene, there are six General Superintendents, who serve until a mandatory retirement around age 67 or voluntary retirement previously. Standing GS’s are re-elected by a yes/no vote. As far as I know, no GS was ever voted out of office. (If anyone knows differently, please speak up.) This quadrennial (Yes, that’s the weird name for meetings that happen every four years.) we have two retiring GS’s, so we are electing two.
Here’s how the voting works. The first vote happens in the regional caucuses before the official beginning of General Assembly. Then on the first day of business meetings, those votes are announced, and each candidate on the initial ballot is assigned a voting number. For the rest of the assembly, if someone wants to vote for that person, they type that number into their hand-held voting device.
To be elected, one candidate must receive 67% of the total votes cast. It is an open ballot, without nominations or limits on the number of candidates. On the first ballot a total of 245 people received at least one vote. With 802 total votes cast, only two people had more than 100, and A. Valvassoura (from Brazil) was in 10th place with 43 votes. If no candidate receives 67% of the vote, then we just vote again ... and again ... and again. (I say “we” here liberally because I don’t actually vote since I’m not a delegate.)
There is no campaigning either by the potential candidates or their friends (at least not publicly). No one gives any speeches or makes any promises, at least not that I know of. People are either elected or not based on what people already know of them. That means that there is a certain amount of name recognition that is necessary, but it's a different kind of political process from governmental affairs.
We now have the results from the 11th ballot, and the results of 12th will be released on Tuesday. The two leading candidates have consistently been Carla Sundberg (an American DS who was previously a missionary to Russia) and Gustavo Crocker (a Guatemalan who serves as the Eurasia Regional Director). Only two other candidates have even broken 100. Carla was in the lead for the first 5 ballots, but then Gustavo pulled ahead. (Yes, people track these votes kind of like gamblers at a racetrack. It’s fun, but must be rather strange to outsiders.)
After the 11th ballot, Gustavo Crocker needed 648 votes to be elected, and he received 577 total votes. If past history holds true, he will probably be elected on one of the next two ballots. If so then, he would be the first Latino GS in the history of the Church of the Nazarene.