Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Amendments to the Constitution of the United Methodist Church

As Annual Conferences gather for the meetings this summer, delegates will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on 32 amendments to our constitution of the United Methodist Church. There are a variety of amendments that on the surface sound rather innocuous. Some call for us to be more of a worldwide church. We have operated for some time as if we (the US church) were a the most important United Methodist. In recent years, the church in America has declined, and the church in Africa and other places has caught fire with growth. So, say these amendments we ought to acknowledge this with a change in structure.

Some other amendments are an attempt to create "regional" conferences. One reason is so that we can get away from the use of the words "central conference". I certainly understand this. Central Conferences were conferences for African American United Methodists before integration and merger. Regional conferences may form, say some of the amendments, without accountability to the United Methodist Church's Discipline.

One amendment gives voting rights to Local Pastors and Associate Members of the Annual Conference, generally pastors who are serving under appointment without a seminary degree. They could, if the vote is yes, vote for Clergy delegates for General and Jurisdictional Conferences. I will vote yes on this one. The are pastors and should be given the right to vote on these matters.

I will vote no on the other amendments. While the idea of being a global church sounds good, and the idea of regional conferences sounds OK, my concern is that the effect will in fact further fragment us as a church.

I believe that we would open up a possibility of different conferences and regional bodies and we would lose any common accountability and mission. This would follow what is going on in the Episcopal Church now. A friend of mine, an Episcopal Clergy person, says that they are "bleeding" members. He says that "they are leaving in droves." If you like what is going on in the Episcopal Church right now, then vote yes on all the other amendments.

Our prayer is that God will give us insight into these matters, that we will all have a fruitful debate about the issues, and that we will make the right decision. Take my viewpoint for what it's worth.

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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