Parliamentary Procedure

These guidelines, based on Robert’s Rules of Order, will ensure an orderly plenary session. Follow the procedures outlined below so your voice can be heard and the discussion is fair.

Making a motion

You can introduce a motion when there are no other motions pending.

1. Write down the text of your motion before approaching the microphone. Be prepared to give two written copies of your motion, one to the conference secretary and one to the communications team.

2. Approach a microphone and wait to be recognized by the bishop.

3. Say: My name is ___________. I am from ___________ United Methodist Church in ________(town name). I move __________.

For example: “My name is Sue Wesley. I am from Open Hearts UMC in Rivertown. I move that the Minnesota Annual Conference hold future conference sessions in Hawaii.”

(Pause and wait for someone to second your motion and for the bishop’s permission to offer your explanation.)


  • Do not approach the microphone without knowing the specific wording of your motion.
  • Wait for the bishop to acknowledge your motion and state whether it is in order (that is, follows the conference’s rules of procedure).
  • Do not defend your motion until someone seconds the motion and the bishop invites you to speak.
  • Do not exceed the time limit allotted.
  • Provide two written copies of your motion. Give one to the conference secretary, who sits at the front table with the bishop, and one to the communications team.
  • Don’t be intimidated by frequent, confident participants in the discussion. Your voice is needed. If you have a concern, please come to the microphone and join the discussion.

Proceeding in debate

1. Approach the microphone and wait to be recognized by the bishop.

2. State your name and church affiliation. State whether you are in favor or opposed to the motion on which you are speaking.

For example: “I am Charles Ingalls of Walnut Grove UMC. I oppose this motion. While I enjoy traveling, my church could not afford the plane fare for our pastor and lay member.”


  • Your speech will be most effective if you focus on one point. Write down your point before you come to the microphone.
  • State whether you are in favor or opposed. Do not make the bishop guess.
  • Keep your comments focused on a rational point related to the action item or amendment itself. Speak respectfully of the faith, intelligence, and sincerity of those who disagree with you. Make sure your speech is calm and directly addresses the content of the action item. This will make your comments more persuasive.


1. If you want to improve a motion by amending it, write down your amendment neatly. Be prepared to give the conference secretary a copy of your amendment.

2. Approach the microphone and wait to be recognized by the bishop. State your name and church affiliation. Say that you would like to amend the motion.

3. The bishop will let you know if an amendment is in order. Amendments must be seconded. They are debatable, amendable, and must be voted upon (or withdrawn by the maker).

For example: Member: “My name is May O’Brothers. I am from Great Healer UMC in Rochester. I’d like to move an amendment.” Bishop: “What is your amendment?” Member: “I move the following amendment: that the words ‘study the possibility of holding’ replace the word ‘hold.’ The amended motion would thus read: ‘Moved that the Minnesota Annual Conference study the possibility of holding conference session in Hawaii.’”


  • Do not approach the microphone before you have written down the specific wording of your amendment. The bishop will not develop your amendment for you.
  • Again, do not explain the purpose of your motion until someone seconds the motion and the bishop invites you to speak.
  • While an amendment is on the floor, debate addresses only the amendment, not the original motion.
  • Be prepared to give the conference secretary a written copy of your amendment.
  • Because amendments can themselves be amended, be sure to follow the debate closely.

Point of order

1. If you think the rules of procedure are being overlooked, you can come to the microphone and raise it to the bishop’s attention.

2. The bishop will determine whether the point of order is well taken.

3. Points of order are not debated and not voted upon.

Point of information

1. You may rise to the microphone to ask for a point of information if you have a question about the motion or seek clarity.

2. You raise that question to the bishop. The bishop asks the question of the maker of the motion or another authority, who responds directly to the bishop. For example: “My name is Rachel Johnson from Second Avenue UMC. I would like to ask if the Council on Finance and Administration has done any research into the effects that moving conference sessions to Hawaii would have on the Conference budget, and if so what their findings were.”


  • Do not try to mask a speech in favor or against a motion as a point of information. The bishop will rule out of order.
  • This is not an opportunity to debate with the bishop or the provider of information.

Ending debate

1. If you think the motion being debated has received enough attention and it is now time to vote, you may “move the previous question.” Approach a microphone and, when recognized by the bishop, identify yourself and say “Bishop, I move the previous question on the motion before us.”


  • A motion for the previous question is not in order by our rules until there have been at least two speeches for and two speeches against the motion being considered.


1. The bishop will call for a vote if debate has ceased.

2. Vote is taken in the manner prescribed by the rules of procedure or by the bishop’s determination.

Referring the motion

1. You may move that an action item be referred to a conference ministry team or group at any time. Reasons for doing so include: if debate flushes out unanswered questions about an action item, if more research is needed, or if you would like the team to bring back a better proposal. Know which group should receive it. If it is not clear which team to refer it to, you can refer it to the Extended Cabinet, and they will direct it to the appropriate place.

Postponing indefinitely

1. If you want to recommend that debate cease on a motion without vote, you may move to postpone it indefinitely. This effectively kills the motion and can avoid embarrassing the maker of a poor motion. This must be seconded, is debatable, and cannot be amended.

Holy Conferencing

During Annual Conference 2023, two items are to be considered under Holy Conferencing. The procedures described in this document based on Robert’s Rules of Order will not apply. Instead a time limit will be set for consideration of the item.

1. Persons wishing to speak to the item will be recognized in order of standing at the microphone, and and the bishop will invite each person to speak in order. Speeches are limited to 2 minutes each.

2. At the end of the allotted time, a ballot vote will be taken on the item.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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