General Conference delegates acted on hundreds of pieces of legislation, taking part in heated debates, prayerfully discerning options, and sometimes simply voting yes to consent calendars. Some of the notable legislation from GC2016 is below.
(Compiled from United Methodist News Service)
Several pieces of legislation related to clergy were passed by the General Conference. The Ministry Study Commission titled “Deepening the Theology of Ordination” passed, as did legislation that would strengthen the requirement for lifelong learning and coaching for clergy. Another provides for periodic clergy assessments and a third says local pastors no longer must be at least age 40 to apply for provisional membership.
But a renewed effort that would have begun the process to remove the constitutional bar to end guaranteed appointment for ordained elders failed in committee, as did an “early ordination” petition. Read more
Green Light for New Hymnal Project
The United Methodist Church is on track to get its first new hymnal since 1989, and this one will be Internet-cloud based and print-on-demand — the first high-tech hymnal for a mainline denomination. General Conference 2016 approved on a consent calendar Tuesday, May 17, a petition authorizing the creation of a 15-member Hymnal Revision Committee. Read more
Term Limits for Bishops Fails
Term limits for United Methodist bishops got strong support in a vote at General Conference 2016, but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the church constitution. Read more
Africa will be getting five more United Methodist bishops, but not before 2020
The denomination’s rapid growth in some parts of that continent has prompted a widespread recognition that more bishops are needed. But on May 16, General Conference 2016 delegates narrowly defeated an effort to add two bishops right away, in Nigeria and in Zimbabwe. Instead, they favored the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters to add five bishops after General Conference 2020. Read more
Mandatory Penalties Ruled Unconstitutional
Imposing a mandatory penalty during the “just resolution” process for a clergyperson admitting to committing a chargeable offense is unconstitutional, The United Methodist Church’s top court ruled. Read more
Special Sunday Updates
One Great Hour of Sharing will now be known as UMCOR Sunday. Offerings for the special Sunday, observed annually on the fourth Sunday of Lent, cover the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s overhead. Two other special Sundays, Women’s Ministry Sunday and Volunteer in Mission Awareness Sunday — both without offering — were approved as well.
Oppose Mascots That Demean Native Americans
Delegates overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on United Methodist agencies to raise awareness about the harm caused by sports teams that use mascots or symbols that disrespect Native Americans. The petition had been amended in the Discipleship Committee, deleting language that would have called on United Methodist groups not to have meetings in cities that have sports teams with such mascots or symbols, which previous church resolutions contained. Read more
Church Ends Membership in Reproductive Health Coalition
A petition to withdraw denominational membership from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice was passed, as was a second petition to remove language supporting the coalition from the Book of Resolutions. The United Methodist Church was a founding member of the organization in 1973 and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Women are currently members. Read more
Next GC to Vote on All Legislation Approved by Committee
A petition calling for a mandatory vote on all proposed legislation sent to the next General Conference was approved by a vote of 406 to 361. All petitions submitted to General Conference “shall receive the vote of a legislative committee” and all petitions approved by legislative committees “shall receive a vote by the plenary session at that year’s General Conference.”
Delegates Approve Budget
General Conference delegates approved a general church budget of $604 million for 2017-2020. That budget proposal came from the board of the General Council on Finance and Administration and the Connectional Table, which coordinates the denomination’s agencies. Read more
Bid to divest from settlements fails
An amendment offered during debate on socially responsible investing that sought to divest from illegal settlements on occupied lands failed 559-167. Earlier in the General Conference, the Financial Administration Legislative Committee failed to support any petition calling for divestment from companies doing business in Israel. Delegates also adopted an amended petition on behalf of a Palestinian village, Wadi Foquin, where United Methodists support an Advance project and community development site. The petition calls on General Conference to send letters to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other State Department officials, U.S. President Barack Obama, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and the Israeli Civil Authority to express “our concerns over the confiscation of land and destruction of life in the village.” Read more
Other Votes of Note
Delegates affirmed the direction of the draft for a General Book of Discipline and asking for a churchwide consultation process involving all Annual Conferences.
Delegates approved calendar items related to the Asian American Language Ministry Plan, the Pacific Islander Ministry Plan, the National Plan for Hispanic Ministry and the Korean Ministry Plan as well as Accessibility Grants for Churches and the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund.
Deacons now have fewer hoops to jump through to request permission to administer sacraments. A petition passed that allows deacons to contact their resident bishop directly to ask for permission. Previously, the pastor-in-charge or district superintendent had to make the request on the deacon’s behalf.
Delegates approved a constitutional amendment that would allow General Conference to set provisions for the Council of Bishops to hold its individual members accountable for their work. They also approved legislation that alters the complaint process against bishops. The new measure sets a definitive timeline of 180 days to try to resolve a complaint in the denomination’s supervisory process within the College of Bishops. The legislation also allows the Council of Bishops at any time to remove the complaint from the College of Bishops with a two-thirds vote of the council.
Delegates voted to create a new provisional central conference in Southeast Asia and Mongolia.
Delegates voted to adopt a petition updating the language of the “Health Care for All in the United States” entry in the Book of Resolutions. The amendment features updated language to reflect changes in health care delivery in the United States during the previous quadrennium. Read more
Delegates defeated Thursday, by a vote of 336 to 446, a petition titled “Confronting Twenty-First-Century Anti-Semitism.” The committee that handled the petition had not supported it, instead backing one titled “Called to Be Neighbors and Witnesses: Guidelines for Interreligious Relationships.”
By a vote of 509-242, delegates just exceeded the two-thirds threshold needed to support amending the article on “Inclusiveness in the Church” in the denomination’s constitution. The amendment adds “gender” and “age” to the list of qualities that will not be discriminated against in the life, worship and governance of the church. The amendment is structured to preserve United Methodist groups based on gender or age, such as church youth groups. Now, the constitutional amendment heads to annual conferences, where it needs two-thirds of the total vote of members to be ratified.
After prolonged, impassioned debate, delegates chose not to add a fossil fuels investment screen for the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits. The question came down to divestment vs. engagement as the better way to use church investments in influencing energy companies to address climate change. Ultimately, delegates voted 630-101 against amending church law to call for screening out investments in fossil fuels companies. Read more
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