Delegates to Constituency Meetings
|Principles. Our guiding principles for representation and democracy come from the Church Manual, page 26: "The Seventh-day Adventist form of governance is representative, which recognizes that authority rests in the membership and is expressed through duly elected representatives at each level of organization, with executive responsibility delegated to representative bodies and officers for the governing of the Church at each separate level.". To read this in context download the whole Church Manual.
|Representation. One of the most complicated and potentially confusing sections of the Constitution is where it deals with representation and the numbers of delegates required to attend a constituency meeting. In the proposed new NEC Constitution this is in Article 6 - Representation.
|Democracy. In order for a constituency meeting (in the Church we often call them 'sessions') to function properly, there needs to be a fair representation of delegates from across the territory. In the Church system we do this by allocating one delegate to each local church, and then an additional number per church based on the size of that church.
|Delegates. It is important to remember that a delegate is a person chosen by the local church to represent the views of that church, not to present his or her own views. If a delegate uses their status as a delegate to air a particular personal grievance, or to propose certain personal ideas, they are abusing their position, and, by taking time from other delegates, they are damaging the whole democratic process.
|Time Constraints. Of course, in order for democracy to work effectively, the delegates need to be able to express themselves, by voting, but also by speaking on matters which their church feels strongly about. With the very limited amount of time at a conference constituency meeting - maybe just a few hours - not everyone is going to be able to speak. This can be frustrating, and the frustration increases in proportion to the number of delegates present, all of whom may wish to speak.
|Cost Considerations. The church recognises that democracy does not come cheap, and so a certain amount of money is budgeted every year so that the constituency meeting can be held every four years (in the case of the NEC). Constituency meeting costs include the venue hire, but also accommodation, travel, food, and numerous other expenses. The cost increases as the number of delegates increases, but, contrary to intuition, an increase in numbers beyond a certain point does not bring about economies of scale. As the number of delegates increases, so the choice of venues becomes more restricted. The companies running these larger venues recognise that they have a strong market position, and prices tend to rise accordingly.
|Capped Delegation. Recognising all of the above points, the church feels that the best way forward is to cap the delegation at a sensible level. The BUC currently uses 300 as the cap for its regular delegates, and the Missions each use 100 as the cap for their total number of delegates. It is reasonable to assume that the NEC constituency meeting could function effectively with a total number of delegates of just 300, though a figure of 330 would give the closest approximation to the current formula. To be cautios the NEC Executive Committee has tentatively raised this cap to 350 in the proposed new constitution, though delegates the the session may wish to revise this. The calculations below are based on real figures from the ACMS membership database, and show exactly what church representation would look like with a capped delegation. Please experiment with the two variables, Total Number of Delegates, and Desired Number of Regular Delegates, to see what the effect would be on any particular church. As a rule of thumb, a lower total number of delegates slightly favours smaller churches, and a larger number of delegates slightly favours larger churches. For comparison purposes we have also calculated the allocation of regular delegates according to the current constitution, though in the event this will be based on the membership at the end of 2020 rather than the 'current' membership. Note that the old system is weighted even more in favour of larger churches. By including a capped delegation in the new constitution, the NEC will be proteted against excessive rises in delegate numbers, should there be significant membership growth, which of course we hope for!