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.
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  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.
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).
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.
|•||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.”)|