|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 more 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 BUC Constitution this will be 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 at Conference level by allocating one delegate to each local church, and then an additional number per church based on the size of that church. For Union constituency meetings the process is different because the delegates are now representing the conferences and missions, rather than local churches. A mathematical formula is used to calculate how many delegates each field is entitled to, based on its membership at the end of the previous year.
Delegates. It is important to remember that a delegate is a person chosen by the local conference or mission to represent the views of that conference or mission, 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 conference or mission feels strongly about. With the very limited amount of time at a union 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 five years (in the case of the BUC). 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. We are proposing that we modify the BUC constitution to use a total cap rather than a regular delegate cap, following the pattern of the missions, as this makes the calculations simpler and easier to understand. A total delegate cap of 350 will give approximately the same numbers as we currently have.