Monday, May 18, 2009

Fear Factor: 2008 UMC Consitutional Amendments

Yesterday I attended our district's pre-annual conference briefing. One of the main agenda items was, of course, discussion on the upcoming constitutional amendment vote. We received rationales and perceived pros and cons on each amendments. Naturally, there were people on both sides of each issue and I expected that. What I did not expect was the blatant use of fear as a tactic of persuasion.

On the amendments changing "central" to "regional" conferences, there were those who expressed concern that allowing this change would create disunion within the Church. There was concern that each "regional" conference could form their own Discipline. The underlying fear expressed was that the conservative African Church vote would be taken away smoothing the way for a change of the homosexuality stance of the UMC. First of all central conferences already have the power to change the Discipline to suit their own cultural and governmental needs (2008 Discipline Para. 543.7). Secondly, the process for changing the Social Principles would remain the same, i.e. only the General Conference would have that power. The fear tactic was that this nominal change would destroy the connectionalism of the Church. This, I believe, is untrue.

Secondly, the proposed change the Article 4 also drew hot debate. The ear tactic used here was that this was somehow an end-around to circumvent the GC and change the status of LGBT persons, allow for LBGT clergy, and provide for same-sex marriage in the UMC. No of these things are addressed in the proposed change to Article 4. Another elder stood up and proclaimed that if this amendment were to pass he would be forced to receive a KKK member who would then recruit in the Church. The fear is that the power to decide readiness for membership would be stripped away from the clergy, although the Judicial Council recently affirmed it, and no preparation for membership would be required. This is not the case. The change to Article 4 would simply affirm the Church's commitment to ALL persons and to welcome ALL persons into the Church. This is what Jesus commanded us to do, to welcome people without stipulations. It would not force pastors to accept those whom they do not feel are ready for membership. The powers given to appointed pastors remain the same and one of those powers is to determine the readiness of a potential member (Para. 340).

I saw similar fear tactics in the 2008 Presidential Election. People spread false statements and irrational fears about Barack Obama. It did not work then and I pray that it does not work in this matter. Let us discuss these issues honestly, openly, and in a Christian manner. There are those on both sides who have earnest concerns about these amendments and we need to listen to both sides before making a prayerful decision. That is Christian Conferencing and that is our heritage as United Methodists.

1 comment:

Matt Kelley said...

A very good summary, Brad. It's sad when people can't really talk about their actual viewpoints and choose instead to use fear-mongering and outright lies in place of genuine debate.