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Annual conferences to consider changes to church constitution

 


Annual conferences to consider changes to church constitution

April 5, 2005        

By Linda Green*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)—Eight proposed changes to the United Methodist Church’s constitution are being considered this year by annual (regional) conferences meeting throughout the world.

The changes must be ratified by an aggregate two-thirds vote of the 63 U.S. annual (regional) conferences meeting this spring and the 52 conferences meeting throughout the year in Europe, Africa and the Philippines.

Delegates to the United Methodist Church’s General Conference proposed the eight amendments during their meeting last May in Pittsburgh. If the annual conferences approve the changes, the amendments will go to the Council of Bishops for final ratification.

The denomination has more than 10 million members worldwide, including 8.3 million in the United States.

One of the proposed amendments would make possible the adoption of enabling legislation at the same General Conference where an amendment is voted upon. Such adoption would be contingent on the required ratification by the various annual conferences. Currently, enabling legislation cannot be introduced until at least the General Conference following the adoption, and subsequent ratification, of a constitutional amendment.

Another amendment states that a fair and open process must be used for the election of General Conference delegates.

Two amendments relate to home missioners. If the changes are approved, General Conference would have the authority to define and fix the powers and duties of home missioners, and home missioners would be appointed by bishops as members of the annual conference.

Other amendments also address conference membership. One defines clergy members of an annual conference.

Another calls for the people responsible for promoting the work of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries to be members of the annual conference. The rationale for the amendment states that about 30 percent of conference secretaries of global ministries are laity. Currently, unless elected by his or her home church or included under the conference’s equalization rule, the secretary is not a member of the annual conference.

The 2000 General Conference passed legislation listing the lay members of the annual conference. The 2005 annual conference delegates will consider an amendment to add the conference director of lay speaking ministries to the list of lay members in Paragraph 602.4 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline.

The final amendment calls for the deletion of the phrase “and provided further that this provision shall not apply to annual conferences of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church during the first three quadrenniums after union.” The phrase is found in the 2000 Book of Discipline, Division Two, Section IV, Paragraph 25.4, Article V, and in the 2004 Book of Discipline, Division Two, Section IV, Paragraph 27.4, Article V. The phrase, proposed to be deleted, applied to annual conferences in existence before 1981, making it now obsolete.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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