The theme for the Tampa world convention of Methodists.
The big news out of the Tampa’s Methodist convention
- for friends of Israel and
- for those who know the impact of Motorola and Caterpillar on the Illinois economy
is the overwhelming defeat of liberal efforts to force Methodist investments out of those and other companies doing business with Israel.
The Institute of Religion and Democracy leads with that outcome of the meeting in its May 2nd report:
Good News! Despite massive lobbying by dozens of yellow shirted anti-Israel activists, the United Methodist General Conference decisively rejected anti-Israel divestment today by 685 to 246.
Sometimes the debate language was ugly.
One Western [West Coast U.S.] Jurisdiction delegate likened United Methodist policy to supporting firms helping Nazi Germany conduct the Holocaust.
So much for temperate argument.
But good sense prevailed in the final vote.
Here’s Jeff Walton’s report on yesterday’s rally for anti-Israel divestment featuring a United Methodist missionary claim he was more “conservative” than Billy Graham even as he speechified in the gay advocacy rally tent.
Debates over marriage, sexual ethics and homosexuality are expected tomorrow. Here’s Bart Gingerich’s report on a speech touting “queer people” here by radical theologian James Cone of Union Seminary.
And here’s a report from Jeff Walton about a “Church Within a Church” event for gay clergy who have unofficial ordinations.
Bart Gingerich blogged about hyper political correctness at General Conference.
But overall, the news here is mostly good.
United Methodism is slowly moving away from dying North American liberal Protestantism and towards growing, biblical Global South Christianity.
In the church restructuring approved today, overseas churches’ representation on church agency boards will increase from 10 percent to over 30 percent, more in line with their membership.
Please keep praying, especially tomorrow.
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Below is what the group Good News is reporting:
The 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church has been slowly dealing with legislative issues under the watchful eye of silent protesters.
Gay and lesbian protesters encircled the delegates in silent protest as they worked. The banner says, "The UMC is bullying me." Photo credit: Good News.
As time is quickly slipping away, delegates are feeling the pressure to make the next several days really count since so many of the big-ticket issues have not been dealt with.
We have been hosting our Briefing Breakfasts every morning this week for the delegates, monitoring the legislation on the floor of the General Conference, and distributing our daily newsletter [newsletters are here] outside the convention center.
If you are watching the General Conference via live streaming and want to see a legislation tracking guide of issues of interest to the Renewal and Reform Coalition, click HERE.
The big agenda today is supposed to be the new Restructure Proposal called PlanUMC. You can read it HERE
Some of the actions that warrant your attention:
- Delegates voted to end the guaranteed appointment of United Methodist elders. To learn more, click HERE.
- Delegates decided not to approve a petition that would have created a new full-time role for the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops. To learn more, click HERE.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Delegates created an additional episcopal area in the Congo Central Conference, increasing the number of bishops in the area from three to four.
- 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. To learn more, click HERE.
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The Confessing Movement reports some of the same information, but with a different viewpoint, as well as additional happenings on May 2nd:
Wednesday, May 2 – Day 8 of General Conference
Update (9:30 pm):
The gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual groups and their supporters have been here from the beginning of General Conference.
They have engaged in numerous actions such as walking around the area designated for delegates and conference officials only holding signs, handing out pro gay materials and lining up so delegates must walk through their silence demonstrations but they had not violated the General Conference rules.
At about 5:30 today as the delegates were going to break for dinner, the demonstrators entered the restricted area violating General Conference rules.
The conference agenda for tomorrow morning is scheduled to deal with sexuality issues including the practice of homosexuality.
JUST IN (12:35 pm) After 3 hours of debate, restructuring for The United Methodist Church has passed with a vote of 567 in favor (59.6%) to 384 against.
The pace of General Conference thus far has been very slow.
The agenda includes many items and activities that keep petitions from getting considered.
At previous General Conferences this has also occurred, forcing many important issues to the end when there is little time for discussion and debate.
The proposal to require restructuring of the general church is scheduled to occur today. After hours of committee discussion and work outside of the committee a compromise has been reached with one proposal being presented rather than a major and minor report.
The debate on restructuring began about 9:30 this morning. A motion to refer this report for action in 2016 was defeated with 555 delegates voting against this proposal to kill restructuring this year.
Other important developments include:
- The United Methodist Women (UMW) petition to become an autonomous organization passed by an overwhelming vote, 889 to 20. This means the UMW will no longer be a division within the General Board of Global Ministries but will be a stand-alone autonomous agency. There appear to be a number of reasons for the desire to be autonomous. The UMW has been subsidizing the World Division and the National Division for a number of years and this has become more difficult since giving is down for UMW. Furthermore, it was uncertain what restructuring would do with UMW. At the moment UMW selects one third of the board and this would change in restructuring. For its part, many in Board of Global Ministries think the UMW has had too much dominance (since it selects so much of the board) and that the board might be more effective if UMW were independent. As part of the change the Deaconess and Home Missions Program, which were part of the board, will be moved to the jurisdiction of UMW.
In Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports May 2, 2012, there are 314,461 Methodists as of 2010. During the decade, the church lost 50,721 members in Illinois. That's almost 14%. The Northern Illinois Conference is under the control of some of the most liberal Methodists in the world.
The final budget has not yet been set for the General Church (it is usually the last agenda item) but the General Council of Finance and Administration (GCFA) is recommending a 6.04% reduction [emphasis added]. This is the first General Conference in recent times that has recommended a reduction. The question still to be answered: how will the monies in the budget be divided up? Boards and agencies have already needed to cut back on staff. In 1971 there was a total of 3,139 staff serving general agencies. By 2010 this number had been reduced to 1,384.
- The General Conference referred to the Commission on the Status and Role of Women a petition that would amend Article IV of the Constitution on “Inclusiveness.” The petition, submitted by the Status and Role of Women would have added “gender” and “age” to the categories that are welcomed into United Methodist Churches. The additional words were unnecessary in the minds of many of the delegates. Referral basically kills the petition. Another petition on the paragraph wanted to add sexual orientation, gender choice, and gender identity to the category of persons needed to be included. This petition failed.
- By a vote of 879 to 25 the General Conference voted to enter into full communion with five predominately black Methodist denominations: Africans Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, African Union Methodist Protestant, Christian Methodist Episcopal, and Union African Episcopal Church. Each of the denominations will recognize each other as part of the one true apostolic faith, recognize the authenticity of each other’s sacraments, recognize the ordination of each denomination, and enter into cooperative ministry where possible. A service of celebration and recognition was held in the afternoon of May 1. At one time there was some talk of merger but the other denominations would not favor that.
- Five more resolutions have been passed to bulk up the Book of Resolutions, which is already 1048 pages long. A number of others are recommended for passage but have not yet made it to the floor. One of these is on “Just War” which, if passed, would move the United Methodist from a pacifist position (presently no support for any war). The Publishing House has indicated the Book of Resolutions is so big that it would cost $70,000 to translate it per language and that would not include printing costs. Only 21,000 copies of the book sold after the 2008 General Conference and this is supposed to be a an important book on United Methodist positions. Only 32% of UM pastors feel they understand it.
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Other articles that may be of interest: