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.
The United Methodist Church calls "upon all governments of the world in which there is a United Methodist presence to establish national bans on ownership by the general public of handguns, assault weapons, automatic weapon conversion kits, and weapons that cannot be detected by traditionally used metal-detection devices."
That stand is included in a resolution titled "Gun Violence," passed by the delegates at the 2000 General Conference. The resolution replaced one that had been approved by the previous General Conference in 1996. The new document can be found on pages 587-589 of the denomination's Book of Resolutions. The book has included resolutions on gun control since 1976.
Focusing on violence against children and youth, the current statement decries school violence and calls for "a significant total reduction in the numbers of guns in our communities." It offers 10 church initiatives or calls for action. The initiative calling for a ban on guns was hotly debated when the resolution reached the floor of the conference.
The resolution also addresses prevention, education, policy and victim advocacy, gun registration and other avenues to reduce the carnage and promote healing.
A separate declaration, in both its title and content, declares the "Church Is a Weapon-Free Zone" (page 562).
In addition, the 1980 resolution titled "Equal Justice" (pages 581-585) was amended and readopted in 2000. Among its many provisions, the document still calls for "strict limits on the police use of guns."
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