Dr. Ed Tomlinson, who served for eight as years executive assistant to the bishop of the North Georgia Conference, is expressing strong opposition to five constitutional amendments to be voted on this year by Conferences throughout the United Methodist Church.
Dr. Ed Tomlinson
If passed, the amendments would allow United Methodists in the United States to structurally segregate themselves from United Methodists in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Speaking at a gathering of North Georgia pastors and leaders, Dr. Tomlinson warned that the five amendments would radically alter the connectional nature of the UMC.
If we pass [these] five constitutional amendments…we’re going to change the whole nature of our church and, I believe, decimate connectionalism as we know it today. I can’t say that any stronger….
The five amendments move us away from connectionalism to become more like the Anglican Communion [with semi-independent church bodies in different parts of the world]….
The more issues on which we have differing stances in our denomination, the less connectional we’re going to be. That just stands to reason, does it not?
Dr. Tomlinson, now the Superintendent of the North Georgia’s Atlanta-Roswell District, also noted that the the changes would likely add “another level of administration” between the General Church and the local church. “Those of us who are deeply concerned about the voice of the local church are just being removed yet one more step down the line,” he said.
You can listen to Dr. Tomlinson’s remarks (5 min.) by using the audio player below. The handouts he mentions are here and here (both in PDF format).
Related: “A Rationale to Oppose Proposed Constitutional Changes,” authored by Dr. Tim McClendon, Superintendent of the Columbia District in the South Carolina Conference.
All 135 UM Conferences (62 Annual Conferences in the U.S. and 73 Conferences in Africa, Asia, and Europe) will vote on 23 amendments relating to the structure of the denomination. The amendments were proposed by the Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church (the Task Force’s 2007 report—PDF).
Most of the 23 are “cosmetic” in nature, simply implementing certain name changes. The “five amendments of distinctive substance” that would actually alter the structure of the UMC are numbered IV, X, XIII, XXIII, and XXVI.
Nine additional constitutional amendments will be on Annual Conference agendas, bringing the amendment total to 32.
The full text of all 32 proposed amendments is here (PDF). (Note: There are two minor errors in Amendment XXV on page 18. In the second paragraph, the two references to “Article I” should read “Article II.”)
To be enacted, a constitutional amendment 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). Members may debate a proposed amendment, but cannot alter it.
Even if approved by requisite number of Annual Conference voting members, amendments related to changing the church’s structure would not go into immediate effect. Last October, the UM Judicial Council ruled (Decision 1100) that the 2012 General Conference must enact specific enabling legislation for a regional conference to be created in the U.S.
Dr. Ed Tomlison’s comments came at a Feb. 24 meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Renewal Movement (WCRM), a group of North Georgia pastors and leaders founded in 2004 to “promote the presence of leadership within the [North Georgia] Conference…committed to the renewal of historic Wesleyan standards and Biblical authority.” An October 2008 statement describing the WCRM is here (PDF).
Ed Tomlinson served as a North Georgia delegate to the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in 2000, 2004, and 2008. He has been a delegate to every Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference since 1988.
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