A proposal to end guaranteed appointments was approved on a consent calendar. An effort to reconsider the previously approved legislation was defeated by a margin of 564 to 373.
Under this new legislation, bishops and cabinets will be allowed to give elders less than full-time appointment. The legislation also would permit bishops and their cabinets, with the approval of their boards of ordained ministry and annual (regional) conference’s executive session, to put elders on unpaid transitional leave for up to 24 months. Clergy on transitional leave would be able to participate in their conference health program through their own contributions.
Under the legislation, each annual conference is asked to name a task force to develop a list of criteria to guide the cabinets and bishops as they make missional appointments.
The cabinets shall report to the executive committees of Board of Ordained Ministry the number of clergy without full-time appointments and their age, gender and ethnicity. Cabinets will also be asked to report their learnings as appointment-making is conducted in this new manner.
Earlier the assembly voted down a proposal that would have allowed elders and deacons to be eligible for ordination as soon as they complete their educational requirements after serving a minimum of two years as a provisional elder or deacon.
Delegates celebrated an April 30 decision to enter into full communion with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church.
“We have a shameful history of blatant racism that led to the breakup of American Methodism into multiple denominations beginning in the late 18th century,” said the Rev. Stephen J. Sidorak Jr., staff executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.
Noting the existence of the Pan-Methodist Commission, Sidorak said, “There is some solace in the fact that there has been demonstrable dedication within The United Methodist Church to preserve a special relationship with the historic African-American Methodist churches.”
Representatives of the Wesleyan denominations were introduced to the assembly.
New introduction to Social Principles
It is not a new insight to discover that United Methodists don’t agree on every subject.
Delegates opposed, 407 to 383, a longer preamble proposed for the Social Principles by a legislative committee. They agreed with a minority report that affirms “our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the gospel.”
Voting 532 to 414, delegates in a May 1 plenary session added a clause, “We stand united in declaring our faith that God’s grace is available to all –– that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
Some delegates argued against the added sentence saying that belief and action can separate us from the love of God in Jesus. Others suggested that there is a difference between God’s love for all and human response to that love.
The full introductory statement was approved 632 to 302.
United Methodist Women
General Conference voted 889-20 to make United Methodist Women an autonomous agency. That action is mirrored in every structure presently under consideration by the conference.
Up to the present time, United Methodist Women has been a division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. Before 1968, the organization, known as the Women’s Society of Christian Service, was also related to the Methodist Board of Missions.
“This is a great result for United Methodist Women and for the church and positions us for the next 143 years of mission,” said Harriett Jane Olson, chief executive of the national United Methodist Women organization.
General Conference also approved a series of recommendations to strengthen ties between local United Methodist Women members, their national structure and the ministries they support. The actions will provide more flexibility to local, district, conference and jurisdictional United Methodist Women as they organize for mission in their respective communities.
In a separate vote, oversight of the denomination’s deaconess and home missioner programs was placed with the new national United Methodist Women organization.
New national plan
Noting the presence of more than 1 million Tongans, Samoans, Fijians and native Hawaiians living in the United States, delegates approved a sixth national plan for Pacific Islanders.
The sixth national plan will provide resources for 80 U.S. churches, congregations and fellowships ministering to Pacific Islanders.
“There will be a special focus on health in addition to the three other areas of focus,” said Nam Jin (NJ) Jun, executive secretary of Asian American and Pacific Island ministries at the Board of Global Ministries. “For the past 25 years, Pacific Islanders have been trying to have a national ministry plan.”
The group is asking for $500,000.
Delegates revised the Social Principles statement on abortion to say, “We mourn and are committed to the diminishment of high abortion rates.”
Churches are encouraged to provide “age-appropriate sexuality education, advocacy in regard to contraception, and support of initiatives that enhance the quality of life for all women and girls around the globe.”
Churches are also encouraged to support “crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women explore all options related to unplanned pregnancy.”
In other business, the conference:
*Peck is a retired clergy member of New York Annual Conference attending his 12th General Conference, including four times as editor of the DCA and three times as a member of the UMNS news staff.
News media contact: Maggie Hillery, Tampa, Fla. (813) 574-4837 through May 4; after May 4: (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.