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Age Statistics Comparison of #gc2012 Delegates

I checked with infoserv to dig up some information on the ages of delegates to General Conference 2012 as compared to the entire denomination. Thank you to the wonderful team at Ask InfoServ for their data gathering!

There is no official United Methodist source for age statistics for the denomination.  GCFA has not collected age statistics since General Council on Ministries. However, there is the 2010 State of the Church: Congregational Life Survey which breaks down ages by percentage. Here is the comparison between the Congregational Life Survey and the ages of 790 of the 988 total delegates to General Conference 2012.

  • Age 18 to 24
    • 2.8% – General Conference Delegates
    • 5% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 25 to 44
    • 14.9% – General Conference Delegates
    • 19% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 45 to 64
    • 64.4% – General Conference Delegates
    • 37% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 65 to 84
    • 17.8% – General Conference Delegates
    • 34% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 85+
    • 0.0% – General Conference Delegates
    • 5% – United Methodist attendees in 2010

5 replies on “Age Statistics Comparison of #gc2012 Delegates”

Looks like the very old are not represented at all. We had many calls for age diversity; in my conference, there was a desperate plea to elect young delegates. Do we not value the voice of our elderly?

So, under 44 is 24% of attendees and 17.7% of delegates. Under-representation of 6.3%. Let’s not ask the question of how many newly minted UMs or people new to a conference after moving would we expect to be elected to General Conference.

For 65 and over, they are 39% of attendees but only 17.8% of delegates. That is an under-representation of 21.2%!! So, while US members of non-European descent were dramatically OVER-represented compared to their percentages of clergy and laity, but General Conference is ageist!!

Will we move away from making decisions based on where people are from or what they look like to instead make decisions based on merit???

Some of the under-representation of the old as compared to attendance is related to the fact that many if not most conferences simply don’t elect retired clergy as delegates. That is significant when half of our delegates are clergy. That doesn’t erase the ageism criticism, but starts to points to some other expectations that come into play when different groups elect delegates. Very few less-than-full-time, on leave, or extension ministry outside the church clergy are elected either. It has to do with expectations of current service. The old are no less susceptible to ageism than the young, but it isn’t insignificant that the majority of lay members of annual conference who elect delegates are probably over the age of 65. That is my anecdotal sense in Kansas East anyway.

You can make the data look very different depending on the cut-offs that are used. Here are the percentages of 2012 GC delegates printed on DCA p. 2387. It shows that the large number of delegates in the 45-64 range are way in the top half of that range.

Age Group
(as of 2012 birthday)
Under 30 years 3.97%
30-39 years 8.46%
40-49 years 16.06%
50-59 years 32.82%
60+ years 38.69%

You are absolutely right that statistics can be manipulated to make a point. But, this started out as a way to “prove” that young people were “yet again” “discriminated against” by the bad, old UMC. Yet, it would appear that the US delegation for General Conference was younger and more colorful than the laity as a whole. There was a higher percentage of female clergy among the delegates than there are in the clergy as a whole. But, all we hear is about “discrimination.” Probably because we spend over $5 million a year on agencies whose whole purpose of being would end without finding more examples of “discrimination.”

We continue not to make the main thing the main thing.

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