Task force to investigate GC2019 voting

The Rev. Gary W. Graves, secretary of the General Conference, speaks to the press following the conclusion of the special session in St. Louis. To the right is Bishop Kenneth H. Carter.
The Rev. Gary W. Graves, secretary of the General Conference, speaks to the press following the conclusion of the special session in St. Louis. To the right is Bishop Kenneth H. Carter.

General Conference organizers have appointed a task force to investigate possible improper voting at the recently completed special session of The United Methodist Church's top lawmaking body.

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The multinational Commission on the General Conference held an emergency meeting by teleconference March 16, after a preliminary review found that "a very limited number" of ineligible people potentially obtained credentials to vote. The commission has not reported a precise number.

"The task force of commission members was created to work with the secretary and business manager of the General Conference to address matters related to credentialing, voting and other systemic issues of the 2019 special session," Kim Simpson, the commission's secretary, announced at the meeting's conclusion.

Graves said the task force expects to report its findings to the full commission before the group's next regularly scheduled meeting in the fall. But the date for that meeting has yet to be set.

The commission held the meeting after Graves revealed March 14 the possibility that people who were correctly denied delegate credentials later were able to procure them.

Graves told United Methodist News Service that the number of possible ineligible voters was too slim to affect the final outcome of support for the Traditional Plan or the defeat of the rival One Church Plan. The latter would have left questions of marriage up to individual clergy and churches, and ordination up to annual conferences.

However, voters later decided by a two-vote margin, 402-400, to substitute a minority report for Petition 90066, disaffiliation legislation that would allow churches, within limitations, to leave the denomination while keeping church property.

Because voting is by secret ballot, Graves said, General Conference organizers do not know if the possible ineligible voters supported a particular outcome.

Denials and charges are already flying even before the task force begins its work.

The sons of two different bishops, East Congo Area Bishop Gabriel Unda and South Congo Area Bishop Kasap Owan, were named in a New York Times article as possible ineligible voters.

Both bishops and their sons contend that the two men were duly elected reserve delegates. Each of the denomination's regional units, called annual conferences, elects a certain number of delegates to General Conference. A conference can elect as many reserves as they choose.

The same New York Times article also named Philippe Kasap Kachez, son of Bishop Kasap, as a possible ineligible voter.

Bishop Kasap provided to United Methodist News Service a list of elected delegates and reserves that he said General Conference officials had before the Feb. 23-26 meeting started in St. Louis. His list of delegates elected in 2018 shows his son as the seventh "replacement reserve" delegate. Kasap Kachez is not listed on General Conference delegate attendance records. 

Both the Traditional Plan and disaffiliation legislation face a review in April by the Judicial Council, the denomination's top court. The requests for constitutional review came before the issue of ineligible voters became public.

Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter and Vicki Brown, news editor, UMNS

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