(From my email this afternoon)

Good News Perspective

Good News leaders respond to voting results
on Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Good News, an evangelical renewal and reform ministry within the United Methodist Church, is pleased to report that many local pastors and provisional members have finally been granted the right to vote for clergy delegates to General Conference. Additionally, the 43-year old ministry commended the delegates to annual conferences around the globe for overwhelmingly rejecting the proposal of many controversial constitutional amendments from the Study Committee of the World Wide Nature of the Church.

Good News leaders eagerly awaited the official results of worldwide voting on proposed constitutional amendments before the denomination. The final outcome was announced May 4 by the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church during their gathering in Columbus, Ohio.

For nearly forty years Good News has advocated for the right of local pastors and provisional members to vote for clergy delegates to General Conference. “We have always considered this a matter of justice,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News. “We entrust local pastors and provisional members with the responsibility of counseling congregants, presiding at weddings and funerals, and celebrating the sacraments. Surely we can entrust them with the responsibility of voting for delegates to General Conference. This is long overdue, but we rejoice that this privilege is now granted to them.”

The Council of Bishops also announced the unprecedented news that a number of proposed constitutional amendments were rejected by the majority of annual conference members around the world. Indeed, 26 of the 32 proposed constitutional amendments were defeated.

Twenty-three of those amendments were originally from the Study Committee on the World Wide Nature of the Church. Although the amendments were passed at General Conference with over two-thirds of the delegates in support, they were soundly defeated by annual conference members. Nearly all of the amendments only managed to gain the support of 38 percent of the annual conferences’ voting members. The proposed amendments needed 66.67 percent support to pass.

Although the proposed amendments were touted as a way of granting more autonomy to Central Conferences, they actually fared the worst in Africa where the majority of central conference members reside. Nearly 95 percent of African annual conference members rejected the 23 proposed amendments.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, chairperson of the Good News Board of Directors, said, “We believed these amendments carried real potential of dividing and not uniting the church. Furthermore, from the start, we maintained that the Study Committee had the process backwards. It would have been wiser to first present a plan for restructuring the church, rather than asking the church for the authority to do so, without a clear plan. Too much was left for speculation in the defeated amendments and the impact of the amendments would have been to separate the church in the United States from the influence of our brothers and sisters outside the United States.”

Finally, proposed constitutional amendment I, which was originally presented by Breaking the Silence, a self-styled gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer advocacy group in the Texas Annual Conference, was also soundly defeated. The proposed amendment was an obvious bid to circumvent the church’s statement on the practice of homosexuality. The amendment was passed on the final day of General Conference by just over two-thirds of the delegates, but there was little time for debate on it.

However, many annual conferences engaged in robust and lengthy debates, which led to the amendment falling nearly 20 percent points shy of approval. Forty-eight percent approved of it, but 52 percent rejected it.

“We always believed that when rank and file United Methodists knew the full story behind the proposed amendment they would reject it,” said the Rev. Walter Fenton, chief operating officer at Good News. “We are disappointed that some are characterizing the vote on this matter as bigoted and prejudiced. Article IV of the church’s constitution did and still does ensure that all are welcome to attend worship services in the church and receive the sacraments.”

Good News magazine, P.O. Box 150 , Wilmore, KY 40390