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Who sets policy for the United Methodist Church? Only the General Conference can speak officially for the United Methodist Church. Every four years, delegates at each conference revise the Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions. The Social Principles, in both books, are described as a "prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions." The Book of Resolutions is not legally binding but serves as a guide for the church for reference, encouragement, study and support.

(Updated 10/02)

The United Methodist Church opposes gambling in any form.

The church's position is stated in the denomination's Social Principles (Paragraph 163G of the 2000 Book of Discipline and page 57 of the 2000 Book of Resolutions):

"Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government. As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice. Where gambling has become addictive, the Church will encourage such individuals to receive therapeutic assistance so that the individual's energies may be redirected into positive and constructive ends. The Church should promote standards and personal lifestyles that would make unnecessary and undesirable the resort to commercial gambling - including public lotteries - as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue or funds for support of charities or government."

The church's opposition to gambling dates back to at least 1928, when gaming was mentioned in a resolution on "commercial prize fighting." Later resolutions expanded on the theme, and gambling was cited in the denomination's Social Creed in 1964.

Gambling was addressed in the United Methodist Church's first collection of resolutions following the 1968 merger of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches. In a statement titled, "Health, Welfare and Human Development," the 1968 General Conference said, "Gambling as a means of seeking material gain only by chance is a menace to personal character and social morality. …

"Legalized pari-mutuel betting has greatly increased gambling and stimulated illegal bookmaking. Dependence on gambling revenue has led many states to exploit the weakness of their own citizens. … We support the strong enforcement of gambling laws; the repeal of all laws legalizing gambling, and the rehabilitation of compulsive gamblers. … We should protest all forms of gambling practices carried on in our communities."

The General Conference passed a new resolution (page 493 of the Book of Resolutions) in 2000, urging that every delegate obtain a copy of the federal study commission's gambling impact report, read it completely and acquaint the members of the church with its contents.

Another new resolution (pages 524-525) instructs church entities to develop for the 2004 General Conference "an innovative and economically strategic report for a God-centered alternative to gambling-centered economic development for Native American communities." That builds on a resolution (page 526) passed in 1996 that urged all United Methodists to reaffirm the denomination's historical stand against gambling and "to support the efforts of sovereign Native American nations to provide means and methods of economic development that do not depend upon gambling."

The Book of Resolutions also includes other positions on gambling adopted by various General Conferences.

One resolution (pages 491-493), adopted in 1980 and amended and readopted in 1996, elaborates on the gambling statement in the Social Principles. Opposition is expressed to the growing legalization and state promotion of gambling and the legalization of pari-mutuel betting. Concern is expressed for the "increasing development of the casino enterprise in the United States," and support is encouraged for the enforcement of anti-gambling laws. United Methodist churches are asked to abstain from "raffles, lotteries, bingo, door prizes, other drawing schemes, and games of chance for the purpose of gambling or fund-raising."

In the "Investment Ethics" resolution (page 520- 524), General Conference notes the church's historic opposition to investing in companies that manufacture liquor or tobacco products or that promote gambling. The resolution asks all agencies, institutions of the church and members to support this policy.

A resolution titled "Equal Justice" (pages 581-585) calls for changes in the courts, including the repeal of some criminal laws against personal conditions or individual misconduct.

Examples given include "personal gambling," public drunkenness and prostitution. The resolution argues that these items account for more than half of all arrests in some jurisdictions and "result in little social good, but great evil in class discrimination, alienation and waste of resources needed for other purposes." The resolution also advocates strengthening laws against drunken driving and limiting the operation of gambling establishments.

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