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A lesbian couple invited to address the 2009 session of the Mississippi Annual Conference suggested that the United Methodist Church is wrong in refusing to affirm and celebrate homosexual relationships.

Renee Sappington, Connie Campbell, Bishop Ward

Renee Sappington and Connie Campbell;
in background, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward

One of the women, Dr. Connie Campbell, a faculty member at UM-affiliated Millsaps College, told the gathering, “We have no doubt that God embraces who we are and blesses our relationship.”

The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline states that the UMC “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” It further states that “sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage” (¶161G).

The two women spoke at a June 12 worship service that was centered around the theme “that the loving touch of Jesus through believers and the church is healing,” according to a summary of the service posted on the Mississippi Conference web site.

“Carol and Ray McNulty, [an interracial] couple, and [homosexual] partners Renee Sappington and Tommie [sic] Campbell, all testified to the healing which comes through churches which open doors by following the example of Jesus, and surround persons with love,” the summary reported.

Don Wildmon on the cover of the AFA Journal

Don Wildmon on the cover of the Sept. 2007 AFA Journal

Retired Mississippi Conference clergyman Don Wildmon, an influential conservative activist and founder of the Tupelo-based American Family Association (AFA), thinks the testimony by Sappington and Campbell at an annual-conference worship service was out of bounds.

On June 16, Mr. Wildmon e-mailed an “open letter to Mississippi United Methodists” arguing that the testimony was aimed at promoting acceptance of same-sex marriage in the UMC.

“They presented their story and told how rejected they felt because their church would not accept their marriage. Their clear intent was to promote homosexual marriage in the United Methodist Church,” Mr. Wildmon wrote.

Here is a shortened version of Ms. Sappington and Dr. Campbell’s remarks (full video posted below):

Renee Sappington: My name is Renee Sappington, and this is my partner Connie Campbell…. [B]ased on the love and support that we experienced growing up, it was easy to know that God loved us unconditionally.

Even so, when we realized we were gay, we each really struggled with it, and we wondered if this was something we needed to give up for God….

Connie Campbell: And it was years later, actually in church, that we met…. We were really in the same place, both of us having come to the point where we realized that being true to God meant being true to ourselves. We didn’t date long at all before I knew that this was the person for me….

Over the course of a year, we knew we wanted to spend our lives together. So, we wrote our vows and we went to the church. But since the denomination of which we were members does not condone same-sex unions, we did not go in….

[O]utside the doors of our church, but no less in the presence of God, Renee and I vowed to love, honor and cherish each other till death we do part.

Renee Sappington: And, that was 11 years ago…. Around four years ago, we started attending a small study group at Parkway Hills United Methodist Church. We started going to Sunday School and the worship service — and soon realized that we had found what we were looking for.

We joined the church and felt very welcomed…. Our Sunday school class truly treats us as a married couple….

But even as we found so many open doors — and we celebrate them — we are painfully aware that some doors remain closed…. We realize that at some churches in this very denomination we would be denied membership.

And we also know that were we to say our vows today, we would also be standing outside closed doors.

Connie Campbell: ….We are in the church not because of how the church addresses homosexuality but rather in spite of it….

We have no doubt that God embraces who we are and blesses our relationship, that God’s doors are open even when the church’s doors sometimes aren’t. We also know that many others are not so fortunate…. That they are hurting, angry or confused, not realizing that the church just doesn’t always speak for God….

We, on the other hand, choose to hope, believing this church that we are a part of — a church whose faith is founded in the life and death of Jesus, in His teachings and His promises — this church will find the courage to follow His radical example: opening new doors and always showing God’s love to all.

(Note: The applause at the beginning of the
excerpt is in response to the previous speakers.)

The Rev. Buddy Smith, associate pastor the Mississippi Conference’s Tremont Charge (and executive assistant to Don Wildmon at AFA), thinks giving the lesbian couple a platform from which to argue for acceptance of homosexual relationships was clearly inappropriate — not only because embracing homosexuality runs counter to historic Christian teaching, but also because the congregation included children and youth.

“These testimonies [were] an assault on biblical truth about human sexuality and a shameless promotion of homosexual ‘marriage,’” Mr. Smith wrote in a June 20 posting on his blog. “There were young people present when [Ms. Sappington and Dr. Campbell] were given a platform to promote a lifestyle that the Bible clearly condemns as sinful behavior.”

In answer to critics Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, episcopal leader of the Mississippi Conference, insists that the couple’s testimony was not a challenge to official church teaching.

“The witness was not a challenge to the law of the church in any way,” she said in a report published in The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. “It was an invitation for us to live faithfully and lovingly with all people with whom our lives are intertwined, … people who may be different from ourselves.”

In a “pastoral letter” issued in response to concerns, Bishop Ward said she is committed to upholding UM teaching. “As your bishop, I have been given responsibility to uphold the doctrine, discipline and polity of The United Methodist Church,” she wrote. “This is a responsibility I remember and embrace in this instance and in every instance.”

The bishop, in response to feedback about the appropriateness of the homosexual couple’s testimony, has “invite[d] clergy and lay members to a ‘dialogue’ on the issue sometime in early July,” the Clarion-Ledger reported.

In addition to its declaration that homosexual practice is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” the United Methodist Church officially “support[s] laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman” (¶161B—Book of Discipline 2008).

That provision was added to the UM Book of Discipline in 2004 as the result of a 624-to-184 vote of the General Conference.


Related posts
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ‘08
Joe Whittemore: ‘Enough is enough’
UM Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments

Related articles and information
An Open Letter from the board of directors of the Mississippi Fellowship of United Methodist Evangelicals (MSFUME) | via Good News (July 2009)
Statement issued by the Mississippi Conference GC ’08 delegation | (July 21, 2009)
Healing sought in church controversy | Gary Pettus, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger (Aug. 3, 2009)
Lesbian testimony ignites debate among Mississippi United Methodists | Mark Tooley, Institute on Religion and Democracy (June 26, 2009)
Lesbians’ testimony shows church rift | Gary Pettus, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger (June 25, 2009)
A pastoral letter from Bishop Hope Morgan Ward (June 20, 2009 — posted to the Web by blogger Una Malachica)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
On reparative therapy: Shouldn’t homosexual transformation be believable to people of faith? | Karen Booth (Transforming Congregations), Reporter Interactive via The Internet Archive (April 13, 2004)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
The gospel of radical inclusion | James V. Heidinger II, Good News magazine (July/August 2006)
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the [United Methodist] Church’s Position on Homosexuality | Abingdon Press (2003)
Four myths of pro-homosex propaganda: A response to [United Methodist professor] Tex Sample’s ‘What do Bible, tradition say about gay marriage?’ (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (October 2003)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)

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Writing in the May/June issue of the We Confess newsletter (PDF), published by the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, editor Bill Bouknight says early results from the amendment-voting process should be sending a clear signal to denominational leaders.

Those leaders are the Council of Bishops, the Connectional Table (47 clergy and laypersons), and many of the delegates to the 2008 General Conference. That group was responsible for the 32 constitutional amendments that were approved by at least a two-thirds vote of the 2008 General Conference.

we-confess-mayjun09As of this date (June 24), the rank and file United Methodists of America, expressing themselves through their Annual Conferences, have delivered a resounding rejection to the six most dangerous amendments — Amendments I (1), IV (4), X (10), XIII (13), XXIII (23), and XXVI (26).

Currently most of the amendments are being rejected by at least a two-thirds vote. None of them has received even a simple majority (51%) approval. And we haven’t heard from most of the Central Conferences yet.

American Methodists are sending some clear messages to their leadership:

  1. Many delegates to the 2008 General Conference did not represent very well the beliefs and concerns of United Methodists back home.
  2. The leadership of our church should stop tinkering with our organization because organization is not our problem.
  3. The main problem of the UMC is spiritual and theological. We no longer have consensus about our mission and message.We’re not sure anymore that all persons in their natural condition are lost and need to be saved. We’re not sure anymore about the purpose of the cross and whether it was necessary. We have a desperate need for our bishops to lead us in recovering our fundamental beliefs as stated in our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith.

Five of the amendments Dr. Bouknight mentions (IV, X, XIII, XXIII, XXVI) call for restructuring the United Methodist Church into “regional” conferences that would have greater national autonomy.

Opponents have argued that the plan would do irreparable harm to the essence of UM connectionalism by creating a series of “national” churches.

Holston Conference voting

Holston Conference voting

Structurally segregating United Methodists in the United States from United Methodists in Asia, Africa, and Europe, opponents say, is likely to foster greater disunity in the UMC, rather than greater unity.

In North Georgia, the largest annual conference in the U.S., the restructuring amendments were voted down by an average tally of 94% to 6%.

The other amendment mentioned by Dr. Bouknight, Amendment I, would alter Article IV of the United Methodist Constitution, an article dealing with eligibility for membership in the local church.

Opponents of Amendment I have voiced concerns that passage of the amendment would make it more difficult for pastors to give spiritual oversight regarding the readiness of individuals to take the vows of membership.

Amendment I also carries the liability of having been hastily considered by the 2008 General Conference. Less than four minutes transpired between the time the language of the amendment was settled and the floor vote was took place. The amendment passed (on a second ballot, the first was invalid) by a margin of only two-tenths of one percent.

Bill Bouknight

Bill Bouknight

Dr. Bill Bouknight, an associate director of The Confessing Movement, retired from the pastorate in 2007, after more than 40 years of serving churches in South Carolina and Tennessee.

He is the author of The Authoritative Word: Preaching Truth in a Skeptical Age (Abingdon, 2001), and If Disciples Grew Like Kudzu (Bristol House, 2007).

Dr. Bouknight was educated at Duke University, the University of Edinburgh, and Yale Divinity School.

For the latest results from the amendment voting, laid out in a spreadsheet format, go here (PDF).

For full results from specific conferences, visit the ThinkerTwitter page and look for items marked #pcaumc. (NOTE: Not all annual conferences have released results; some conferences have yet to vote.)


Related posts
Leaders in North Georgia, Holston urge defeat of re-structuring amendments
North Georgia overwhelmingly disapproves restructuring amendments
Ed Tomlinson: Proposed amendments would ‘decimate connectionalism’
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments
African UM leader on amendments: ‘We should have been consulted’
Proposed amendments would separate UMC into ‘national entities’
John Ed Mathison: Seven concerns about the UMC
A ‘procedural’ argument against Amendment I
Bill Bouknight: The bad news from General Conference ‘08
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ‘08
Bishop Lindsey Davis speaks to the Confessing Movement

Related articles and information
We Confess newsletter (PDF) | Confessing Movement (May/June 2009)
Full text of all 32 amendments, showing how each would alter the current language of the United Methodist Book of Discipline—material stricken through would be deleted; material in bold/blue would be added (PDF)
Voter guide from Concerned Methodists (PDF)
Worldwide decision: United Methodists to vote on amending constitution | Bill Fentum, UM Reporter (April 10, 2009)
Which way to a Worldwide Church? (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 31, 2009)
Amending away our global church? | Riley Case, Good News (March/April 2009)
Constitutional Amendments | John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries blog (May 21, 2009)
A rationale to oppose proposed constitutional changes | Tim McClendon, Columbia District Superintendent, South Carolina Conference
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
Conferences to consider church structure | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (March 10, 2009)
Constitutional Amendments 2009 | William J. Abraham, Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University)
Transcript of the brief General Conference debate on Amendment I (PDF—see pages 2705-2707)
Amendment I (without the baggage) (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 18, 2009)
Inclusiveness and membership decline (on the possible implications of Amendment I) | Riley Case (March 23, 2009)
Coming soon to your Annual Conference (article supporting Amendment I) (PDF) | The Kindred Connection (Winter 2009) (This is a publication of an arm of the Reconciling Ministries Network — “We envision a United Methodist Church which…accords all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, full participation in the life of the church.”)

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With many clergy wrestling with new appointments and others disillusioned over being reassigned to places that seem unfruitful, here is a timely word from Bishop James Swanson, episcopal leader of the Holston Conference.

[A]nytime you find yourself being consumed where you’re only thinking about yourself, you’re in danger. You’re in danger of missing the very thing you want — because then you’re going to start acting on your own behalf when you don’t even know what your own future holds.

Bishop James Swanson

Bishop James Swanson

God holds your future — and regardless [of] what anybody will tell you, when we sit around the table to make the appointments…the vast majority of times, we don’t even have a clue.

God reveals it in the midst of the process….

I want you to understand: It’s impossible for the bishop or anybody to send you anywhere that God doesn’t want you to be.

If you don’t believe that…quit preaching that God is all powerful. Don’t say that anymore! Don’t ever tell anybody, “He’s got the whole world in His hands!” And that “It’s God’s plan, and no matter what man or woman does, God’s will will be performed!”

You quit telling folk that, because you don’t believe it!

If you don’t come to a point where you believe that you are in God’s hand and that God’s going to take care of you, your whole life will be miserable — and you will spew your misery on all your people….

How can you tell a man who just lost his job…[that] God’s going to make a way when you don’t believe that God’s going to make a way for you?

How can you tell a woman who just came through divorce, who all of her life has depended on somebody else to take care of her, how can you tell her that God’s going to walk by her side when you don’t believe that God’s walking by your side because you didn’t get the appointment you wanted?

How can you do that?

Use the audio player below to listen to Bishop Swanson’s remarks about trusting God (4.5 min.), recorded at an April 2006 pastor’s retreat at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. (Note: His remarks reference the biblical account of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in law, who was suffering from a high fever.)


Be still my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change He faithful will remain.

Be still my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny way leads to a joyful end.

— Katharina von Schlegel / trans. by Jane Borthwick

James E. Swanson Sr. was elected to the episcopacy in 2004 and assigned to the Holston Conference, which includes parts of Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. At the time of his election, he was a District Superintendent in the South Georgia Conference.

Before becoming a D.S., he was the pastor of St. Mary’s Road United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ga., a congregation that under his leadership grew from 16 active members to a weekly attendance of more than 500.


Related information
Biography of Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
Web site of the Holston Conference

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By an average tally of 94% to 6%, delegates to the 2009 session of the North Georgia Annual Conference voted disapproval of five amendments aimed at restructuring the United Methodist Church into “regional” conferences that would have greater national autonomy.

The 2009 Session of the North Georgia Annual Conference, meeting in Athens, Ga.

The 2009 Session of the North Georgia
Annual Conference, meeting in Athens, Ga.

Final approval or disapproval of the amendments, all of which received a two-thirds majority endorsement at the 2008 General Conference, will be based on the aggregate vote of delegates throughout the 135 annual conferences of the UMC (62 in the U.S., 73 outside the U.S.). More than half of U.S. conferences have already voted.

The North Georgia vote is particularly significant because the North Georgia Annual Conference is the largest annual conference in the United States. The lopsided outcome in North Georgia will have a large impact on the final aggregate total.

Although the aggregate vote will not be officially announced until the Council of Bishops meeting in November, vote totals already released by various annual conferences suggest that the restructuring amendments are not likely to win the two-thirds margin needed for ultimate approval. Indeed, it now seems doubtful that the amendments will even win a majority of the votes cast by annual conference delegates.

Here are the raw vote totals from the North Georgia Conference for the five restructuring amendments:

Amendment IV
yes 88
no 1262
Amendment XXIII
yes 86
no 1400
Amendment X
yes 84
no 1402
Amendment XXVI
yes 85
no 1399
Amendment XIII
yes 83
no 1403

At a gathering of conservative North Georgia leaders earlier this year, Dr. Ed Tomlinson, district superintendent of the conference’s Atlanta-Roswell District and vice chair of the North Georgia’s 2008 General Conference delegation, argued that implementation of the restructuring amendments would “decimate connectionalism as we know it today.”

The Rev. Diane Parrish urges no vote on Amendment I

The Rev. Diane Parrish urges a 'No' vote on Amendment I

Delegates to the North Georgia session also voted disapproval of Amendment I — by 64% to 36% (958 to 544).

Amendment I would alter Article IV of the United Methodist Constitution, an article dealing with eligibility for membership in the local church.

During the debate on the amendment, several clergy members of the conference voiced concerns that passage of Amendment I would make it more difficult for pastors to give spiritual oversight regarding the readiness of individuals to take the vows of membership.

Use the audio player below to listen to that debate (13 min).


North Georgia delegates gave strong support — 86% to 14% — to Amendment XVII, which would convey voting privileges to lay members serving on a committee of investigation.

By an 88% to 12% tally, delegates approved Amendment XIX, which would empower qualified “local pastors” to vote on delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences.

Full amendment results from the North Georgia Conference are here. To listen to Bishop Mike Watson announce the results of the voting, use the audio player below (8 min.)



Related posts
Ed Tomlinson: Proposed amendments would ‘decimate connectionalism’
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments
African UM leader on amendments: ‘We should have been consulted’
Proposed amendments would separate UMC into ‘national entities’
John Ed Mathison: Seven concerns about the UMC
Bill Bouknight: The bad news from General Conference ‘08
A ‘procedural’ argument against Amendment I

Related articles and information
Full text of all 32 amendments, showing how each would alter the current language of the United Methodist Book of Discipline—material stricken through would be deleted; material in bold/blue would be added (PDF)
Voter guide from Concerned Methodists (PDF)
Worldwide decision: United Methodists to vote on amending constitution | Bill Fentum, UM Reporter (April 10, 2009)
Which way to a Worldwide Church? (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 31, 2009)
Amending away our global church? | Riley Case, Good News (March/April 2009)
Constitutional Amendments | John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries blog (May 21, 2009)
A rationale to oppose proposed constitutional changes | Tim McClendon, Columbia District Superintendent, South Carolina Conference
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
Conferences to consider church structure | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (March 10, 2009)
Constitutional Amendments 2009 | William J. Abraham, Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University)
Transcript of the brief General Conference debate on Amendment I (PDF—see pages 2705-2707)
Amendment I (without the baggage) (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 18, 2009)
Inclusiveness and membership decline (on the possible implications of Amendment I) | Riley Case (March 23, 2009)
Coming soon to your Annual Conference (article on Amendment I) (PDF) | The Kindred Connection (Winter 2009) (This is a publication of an arm of the Reconciling Ministries Network — “We envision a United Methodist Church which…accords all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, full participation in the life of the church.”)

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Describing “the Methodist way of living” as being “based on faith not on fear,” presiding Bishop Mike Watson opened the 2009 session North Georgia Annual Conference.

Bishop Mike Watson

Bishop Mike Watson

He spoke about the three General Rules of the United Methodist Church: “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God” (the last is literally “attending upon all the ordinances of God.”)

For his biblical text, the bishop spoke from Pslam 37:

Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart….

Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide forever….
Wait for the LORD, and keep to his way.

The bishop urged the conference delegates to “live the Methodist Christian way with holy boldness” and invite others into relationship with Jesus Christ. “God gives us life — and God wants us to share abundant life with our world,” he said.

Use the audio player below to listen to Bishop Watson’s remarks (26 min.), or download an mp3 (6 MB).



Related posts
A conversation with North Georgia Bishop Mike Watson
Bishop Mike Watson’s 2008 Installation sermon
MethodistThinker Podcast: Bishop Mike Watson — ‘We Wish to See Jesus’
Bishop Mike Watson: Spiritual disciplines for the New Year
An Advent sermon from Bishop Mike Watson
Bishop Mike Watson on ‘prevenient grace’
Bishop Mike Watson on ‘justifying grace’
Bishop Mike Watson: ‘The Methodist Christian Way’

Related information
Biography of Bishop Mike Watson
Bishop Michael Watson ready for next step after eight years leading South Georgia | Allison Kennedy, The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer (June 14, 2008)

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Others — including Maxie Dunnam, Andrew Thomson (PDF), and Billy Abraham — have put forth well-reasoned policy arguments against Amendment I, the proposed constitutional amendment that would alter Article IV the United Methodist Constitution.

amendment1To their insightful comments I humbly add the following “procedural” argument against the amendment, related to the problematic manner in which the amendment was passed at the 2008 General Conference.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline sets a high bar for constitutional changes. First, any proposed amendment must pass the General Conference by a two-thirds super-majority. If an amendment receives that vote of confidence from the General Conference, it then must also receive a two-thirds super-majority from the delegates of all the Annual Conferences.

Put bluntly, Amendment I, which was approved on the final afternoon of the 2008 General Conference, passed in manner that clouded the outcome, making it unclear if the amendment legitimately received the support of the two-thirds of the delegates.

Consider the following. Many of the African delegates were forced to leave the conference early because they had been “given plane tickets mandating their departure before the end of the General Conference,” according to reporter Mark Tooley writing in the November 2008 Touchstone magazine.

Although it isn’t clear exactly how many African delegates were absent on that final afternoon, it appears that more than half of Africa’s 186 delegates were missing.

Tooley reported that “over 100 Africans missed the votes during the final afternoon on the church’s participation in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).” Those RCRC votes occurred almost immediately prior the vote on the Article IV amendment.

When the vote occurred on changing Article IV, only 834 of 992 delegates voted.

vote-on-inclusiveness-amendment

Results from the GC08 video screen

As previously noted, in order to pass the amendment required a two-thirds majority, or 66.7 percent. It passed with 66.9 percent, just two-tenths of 1 percent more than the super-majority needed. (This was a four-vote margin of victory, based on the number of delegates who voted.)

No matter the size of the margin, of course, the measure passed — and, under the rules, the outcome is considered a legitimate super-majority vote. Still, it is not difficult to conclude that the outcome would have been quite different if so many African delegates had not been missing.

Confidence in the General Conference vote on Article IV was further sullied by the confusion that existed during the debate and the voting process.

The confusion stemmed from the fact that, in the midst of the debate, the language of the measure was changed via an amendment from the floor. Although the change was considered a “friendly” amendment, it nonetheless altered several sentences of the measure, creating confusion among the delegates because the language now being debated (and ultimately voted on) was not the same language delegates had in their printed material.

vote-on-inclusiveness-first-vote

Results of the invalid first ballot

Indeed, after the voting began, Presiding Bishop Charlene Kammerer (Virginia Conference) had to stop the process and declare the vote invalid because of what she described as “unclarity in the body.” (Interestingly, that first vote fell just shy of the two-thirds super-majority.)

One reason for “unclarity” was that less than four minutes transpired between the time the language was finalized and the vote was called. In other words, delegates had less than four minutes to consider the implications of legislation calling for a significant change in the UM Constitution — legislation they did not have in writing in its final form.

Moments after the invalid vote, and following a requested reading of the revised amendment, a second vote was called and the measure prevailed with a four-vote margin of victory.

To summarize: after only scant minutes of debate and with more 150 delegates absent, the 2008 General Conference — without having the final legislative language in print — passed a constitutional change by the barest of margins.

Even apart from any deficiencies of the amendment itself, the problematic procedure described above should give Annual Conference delegates reason enough to defeat Amendment I. A constitutional change wrought via such a sullied process is not likely to inspire the confidence of the church.

Use the audio player below to listen to the Friday, May 2, 2008 debate on changing Article IV (18 min.), with Bishop Charlene Kammerer presiding. (The audio has been shortened slightly by reducing the length of several extended pauses.)


Eddie Fox

Eddie Fox

Speaking last month in North Carolina, Eddie Fox, world director of World Methodist Evangelism, touched on the fact that some African delegates to the 2008 General Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas, were effectively “disenfranchised” on the conference’s final day. Travel arrangements made on their behalf forced them to leave Forth Worth before the conference had ended.

Use the audio player below to hear Mr. Fox’s comments (1 min.), excerpted from longer remarks about various proposed constitutional amendments.



Related posts
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments
Bill Bouknight: The bad news from General Conference ‘08

Related articles and information
Full text of all 32 amendments, showing how each would alter the current language of the United Methodist Book of Discipline—material stricken through would be deleted; material in bold/blue would be added (PDF)
Voter guide from Concerned Methodists (PDF)
Constitutional Amendments | John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries blog (May 21, 2009)
Constitutional Amendments 2009 | William J. Abraham, Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University)
Transcript of the brief General Conference debate on Amendment I (PDF—see pages 2705-2707)
Amendment I (without the baggage) (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 18, 2009)
African Power: How 192 delegates saved Methodists from madness & other stories from the General Conference | Mark Tooley, Touchstone (November 2008)
Inclusiveness and membership decline (on the possible implications of Amendment I) | Riley Case (March 23, 2009)
Coming soon to your Annual Conference (article on Amendment I) (PDF) | The Kindred Connection (Winter 2009) (This is a publication of an arm of the Reconciling Ministries Network — “We envision a United Methodist Church which…accords all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, full participation in the life of the church.”)

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The following prayer points will help you intercede for this year’s gathering of your Annual Conference.

  • Thank God for His faithfulness to us, even though we haven’t always been faithful to Him. (Ps. 100)
  • Pray for God to open hearts and bring unity based on Jesus. (John 17:22-23; Ps. 133)
  • prayer-AC05-ngumc

    Prayer at the 2005 N. Georgia Conf.

  • Repent of anything in your Conference and in your local church that you believe grieves the heart of God. (Neh. 1:5-11)
  • Pray for an attitude of repentance among bishops, administrators, pastors, local church staff, and congregations. (2 Chron. 7:14)
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to give the people of your Conference a heart for prayer. (Mark 11:17)
  • Ask the Lord for church growth by new professions of faith in Jesus Christ. (John 4:35; Acts 16:14)
  • Pray that the members of your Conference (and the UMC at large) will submit to the truth of Scripture. (John 17:17)
  • Pray that pastors and teachers in your Conference will be empowered speak the truth in love regarding sin and holiness. (Eph. 4:25; 1 John 1:8-2:2)
  • Intercede for your bishop, district superintendents, and other conference leaders. Pray for wisdom and holiness. (1 Thess. 5:19-24)
  • Pray for seminaries. Ask God to enhance, maintain, or transform these institutions into places where Scripture is believed and where Jesus is proclaimed as the Way of salvation. (John 14: 6; John 17:2-3; Acts 4:12)
  • Pray for a great working of the Holy Spirit in churches that are exalting Jesus Christ. (Acts 19:17-18)
  • Ask God to manifest Himself as Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD our provider. (Gen. 22:14)
  • Pray that we would love God and love one another. (Matt. 22:37-40; 1 Cor. 13)

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Bishop Mike Watson, episcopal leader of the United Methodism’s largest U.S. Conference, is interviewed in the premiere issue (PDF) of the North Georgia Advocate, now the official newspaper of the North Georgia Conference. (The North Georgia Advocate is the successor to the recently discontinued Wesleyan Christian Advocate.)

Bishop Watson was assigned to North Georgia last summer after serving eight years as the leader of the South Georgia Conference.

Interview excerpts:

Advocate: What is the biggest challenge facing [the North Georgia] Conference?

north-ga-advocate-june5-09-imageBishop Watson: There are several major challenges. Among them is the constant need to reach new people with the Good News of Jesus Christ across all racial, ethnic, cultural, economic, and generational lines….

While we rejoice that the United Methodist Church is growing in North Georgia [quadrennial report, May 2008—PDF], we are not keeping up with the population growth.

We especially need to reach the younger and more diverse culture around us.

Another challenge is one of financial stewardship. Even during difficult economic times, can we even imagine what resources for ministry would be available if United Methodist people tithed?

Fundamentally, we do not have a financial problem, we have a financial stewardship problem. Until we faithfully commit our pocketbooks, we will not be able to do all that God has for us to do in North Georgia….

Advocate: Excluding your time as Bishop, what do you consider your most blessed time in ministry?

Bishop Mike Watson

Bishop Mike Watson

Bishop Watson: God has blessed my life in too many ways to count throughout my 37 years in ministry; however, serving as the founding pastor of a new congregation for 11 years certainly was a rich blessing.

We began with no conference money, no building, no land, and no members. [My wife] Margaret was the first one to join!

Being part of an experience in new church development that has resulted in Covenant United Methodist Church (Dothan, Ala.) becoming one of the strongest congregations in the Alabama-West Florida Conference was pure joy.

Advocate: Other than the Bible, what book has most affected your thinking?

Bishop Watson: The Bible definitely is the book that has affected my thinking the most. I have a daily Bible reading plan that enables me to read the Bible through each year.

I have also been greatly influenced by John Wesley’s sermons and Journal, by Henri Nouwen’s The Living Reminder and The Wounded Healer, and by Eugene H. Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity.

I love to read and I read so much that it is difficult to say what one book other than the Bible has affected me the most.

Advocate: How do you make time in your schedule for prayer and Bible study?

Bishop Watson: I have made a personal commitment to an hour of quiet time each day, usually in the morning, for prayer, Bible and devotional reading. I also try to do an hour of physical exercise each day. The North Georgia Committee on Episcopacy holds me accountable for these two commitments to spiritual and physical care.

The North Georgia Advocate will feature more conversations with Bishop Mike Watson in future issues, using questions submitted by readers.

Next week, Bishop Watson will preside for the first time at a session of the North Georgia Annual Conference.

During a “Bishop’s Forum” at the Georgia Pastors’ School in 2004, Bishop Watson briefly discussed his approach to presiding at annual conference sessions, especially during times when delegates are called on to vote on various issues. (Next week, North Georgia delegates will vote on 32 proposed amendments to the United Methodist Constitution).

Use the audio player below to listen to his remarks (1 min.).



Related posts
Bishop Mike Watson’s 2008 Installation sermon
MethodistThinker Podcast: Bishop Mike Watson — ‘We Wish to See Jesus’
Bishop Mike Watson: Spiritual disciplines for the New Year
An Advent sermon from Bishop Mike Watson
Bishop Mike Watson on ‘prevenient grace’
Bishop Mike Watson on ‘justifying grace’
Bishop Mike Watson: ‘The Methodist Christian Way’

Related information
Biography of Bishop Mike Watson
Bishop Michael Watson ready for next step after eight years leading South Georgia | Allison Kennedy, The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer (June 14, 2008)

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thinker-twitterIn the right column of this page, just below the list of Today’s Most-Viewed Posts, you will now see a box labeled ThinkerTwitter.

It features (primarily) quick summaries of interesting news items, plus links that will take you to additional information.

In most cases, items in ThinkerTwitter feed will not be discussed here in the main blog posting area. We simply think these items are worth noting.

If you have a  Twitter account and wish to “follow” ThinkerTwitter, go to Twitter.com/MethoThinker.

Don’t have a Twitter account and don’t want one? :)

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Leaders from two Annual Conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction — the North Georgia Conference and the Holston Conference (covering parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia) — are urging defeat of proposed constitutional amendments that would restructure the denomination.

North Ga. Flier

Flier produced by North Ga. group

In North Georgia, a self-described “ad hoc group of very concerned United Methodist[s]” — which includes nearly 80 percent of North Georgia’s 2008 General Conference delegation — is distributing a flier (PDF) that expresses concern that five amendments related to the “worldwide nature of the church” (amendments IV, X, XIII, XXIII, and XXVI) would “fundamentally harm our classic connectional polity.”

The five amendments would allow for the creation of a series of regional conferences across the denomination, likely resulting in a greater degree of structural segregation between United Methodists in the U.S. and United Methodists in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The North Georgia flier is being distributed at district-sponsored pre-conference briefings held in advance of the June 16-18 annual conference session, although not as part of the official Conference literature.

In the Holston Conference, that area’s entire 2008 General Conference delegation has issued a three-page position paper (PDF) recommending “that [Holston] Annual Conference delegates vote ‘no’ on all [23] amendments related to the worldwide nature of the United Methodist Church.” These include the five amendments mentioned above, as well as 18 other amendments that would rename overseas conferences, changing their designation from “central conferences” to “regional conferences.”

The restructuring and renaming amendments, proposed by the Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church (Task Force report—PDF), were approved by last year’s General Conference.

Holston’s General Conference delegation is urging that the current restructuring proposals, as well as other restructuring suggestions that are being studied, be vetted and debated more thoroughly “[b]efore we vote to change the constitution of the church.”

In addition to urging defeat of the 23 restructuring/renaming amendments, the position paper from the Holston delegation offers guidance on the other nine amendments to be voted on at Holston’s annual conference session, which will be held June 14-17.

Joe Whittemore

Joe Whittemore

Members of North Georgia’s General Conference delegation have been granted time to speak about the 32 proposed amendments (PDF) during the series of 12 pre-conference briefings (schedule) leading up to North Georgia’s annual conference session.

Use the audio player below to listen to a clear and concise explanation of all 32 amendments by former North Georgia Conference Lay Leader Joe Whittemore, recorded earlier this week at a pre-conference briefing held in Athens, Georgia (sponsored by the Athens-Elberton District).

His presentation is 22 minutes. The green-colored sample ballot Mr. Whittemore mentions is here (PDF).


(If you prefer, download an mp3 of Mr. Whittemore’s presentation — 5.2 MB.)

In addition to explaining the various amendments, representatives of North Georgia’s 2008 General Conference delegation are using their pre-conference briefing presentations to announce the results of a delegation straw poll in which North Georgia’s GC delegates voted informally on the various amendments.

Among the results of that poll: the North Georgia delegation was unanimous in its opposition to Amendments IV, X, XII, XXIII, XXVI — the five amendments that would allow for the creation of regional conferences; 95% of the delegates opposed the name changes from “central conferences” to “regional conferences”; and 65% opposed Amendment I, which would change language related to inclusiveness in membership.

The North Georgia Conference, with approximately 345,000 members, is the largest UM Annual Conference in the United States.

All 135 UM Conferences (62 Annual Conferences in the U.S. and 73 Conferences in Africa, Asia, and Europe) are voting on the 32 proposed constitutional amendments, including the nearly two dozen relating to the structure of the denomination.

More than 30 conferences have already completed their voting. The rest will be voting over the next several months (schedule of annual conference sessions—PDF).

amendments-clipAlthough some conferences are announcing their voting results immediately (see here and here), the final tally will not be released until late this year or possibly early next year.

To be enacted, an amendment to the UM Constitution must be ratified by two-thirds of the aggregate “voting members” from all the Conferences. (Provisional deacons and elders, “local pastors,” and associate and affiliate clergy members are not eligible to vote — ¶602.1 of the Book of Discipline).

Members may debate a proposed amendment, but cannot alter it.


Related posts
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments
Ed Tomlinson: Proposed amendments would ‘decimate connectionalism’
African UM leader on amendments: ‘We should have been consulted’
Proposed amendments would separate UMC into ‘national entities’
John Ed Mathison: Seven concerns about the UMC
Bill Bouknight: The bad news from General Conference ‘08

Related articles and information
Full text of all 32 amendments (PDF)
Voter guide from Concerned Methodists (PDF)
Worldwide decision: United Methodists to vote on amending constitution | Bill Fentum, UM Reporter (April 10, 2009)
Which way to a Worldwide Church? (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 31, 2009)
Amending away our global church? | Riley Case, Good News (March/April 2009)
Constitutional Amendments | John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries blog (May 21, 2009)
A rationale to oppose proposed constitutional changes | Tim McClendon, Columbia District Superintendent, South Carolina Conference
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
Conferences to consider church structure | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (March 10, 2009)
Constitutional Amendments 2009 | William J. Abraham, Outler Professor of Wesley Studies, Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University)
Transcript of the brief General Conference debate on Amendment I (PDF—see pages 2705-2707)
Amendment I (without the baggage) (PDF) | Andrew Thompson, Gen-X Rising blog (May 18, 2009)
Inclusiveness and membership decline (on the possible implications of Amendment I) | Riley Case (March 23, 2009)
Coming soon to your Annual Conference (article on Amendment I) (PDF) | The Kindred Connection (Winter 2009) (This is a publication of an arm of the Reconciling Ministries Network — “We envision a United Methodist Church which…accords all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, full participation in the life of the church.”)

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