Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Thoughts on Amendment 1

I think that it is time for me to add my own voice to the Amendment 1 debate. Most United Methodists know the ends and outs of this amendment , for those who don’t here is a link The basic argument against Amendment 1 that I have encounter is that this Amendment takes away the pastor’s power to determine the readiness of a potential member because of the new language “All persons shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, and upon baptism be admitted as baptized members.” Some believe that the use of “all” and “shall” would require pastors to receive any person willing to recite the baptismal vows as a member. Some examples of the danger I have heard is, what if a KKK grand dragon wanted to become a member for purposes of recruitment, or what if a pedophile wanted to become a member, etc.

I refute this argument in two ways. First, I do not believe that the language of Amendment 1 strips the power of the pastor. The language states that all persons are “eligible” for membership. This is an important distinction. It does not require all persons to be accepted as members without preparation provide by the pastor, which is granted to the pastor in ¶216.3. It is the responsibility of the pastor to determine the readiness of a potential member and amendment 1 does not change this. In addition, once a person becomes a member the pastor also holds the power to keep that member accountable, a power that is rarely used, in ¶221. This includes the right to bring the offending member to church trial, that’s right laity can be brought to church trial too, see ¶2702.3. This prevents or remedies scenarios like the one’s state above.

Secondly, I ask, don’t we always take the professing member’s vows at face value? If someone takes the vows of membership, don’t we believe that she or he is serious in that commitment? Isn’t the argument against the amendment a slap in the face to all those who profess their faith in Christ? Don't we believe the? Shall we strap them to a lie detector before administering the questions of the profession of faith? No. We do as we have always done. We prepare the people for the profession and we accept their commitment at face value and we trust in the grace of God. Amendment 1 does not change this power.

Amendment 1 does prevent a pastor from denying someone willing to make the commitment because of some underlying issue. It does prevent racism, xenophobia, and yes, homophobia, which, unfortunately, are still rampant in the church. This amendment holds the United Methodist Church accountable to its slogan Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors. A friend of mine from seminary, Will Campbell, stated it beautifully, “everyone should be welcomed into the church, and that we would be a stronger church if we focused more intently on accountable membership based on the "time, talents, gift... Read More, service, and witness" agreements. Gender, sexual persuasion, skin color, etc have nothing to do (and should have nothing to do) with accountable membership.” Amen to that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you should look at the definition of eligible. From the Collins Essential English Dictionary come this definition.

eligible Adjective
1. meeting the requirements or qualifications needed: Ex.he may be eligible for free legal services

Applying that definition to the United Methodist Constitutional Amendments would mean that if a person presents themselves for membership that they are "eligible."

The word shall can be that one must or one can. Can you guess which definition will be used.

I think you are reading the Amendment through eyes that want it to be like you want it to be and not how it really will be.