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.
As 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:
- Many delegates to the 2008 General Conference did not represent very well the beliefs and concerns of United Methodists back home.
- The leadership of our church should stop tinkering with our organization because organization is not our problem.
- 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.
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%.
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.
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.)
|•||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.”)|