Error made in one of five amendments approved by GC2016; three of five pass
By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—Lay and full clergy members of Annual Conference will get the chance to rev-ote on The United Methodist Church’s gender justice constitutional amendment when they gather June 3-6 at the TD Convention Center.
The amendment, Constitutional Amendment I, was one of five amendments approved by the 2016 General Conference but which had to be ratified by annual conferences before they could become part of the 2016 Book of Discipline.
The proposed constitutional amendment, which would have created a new paragraph focused on gender justice, narrowly failed to be ratified by the conferences. A two-thirds majority (66.66 percent) is required, but only 66.52 percent (31,304 voters) approved it.
However, the Rev. Gary W. Graves, secretary of General Conference, learned an error was made in the text of the amendment as it was presented for voting. It mistakenly included a sentence that had been removed by the legislative body.
The sentence that should not have been included in the amendment was removed by a vote of 746-56, but was inadvertently included in the version that was distributed. The sentence is, "The United Methodist Church recognizes it is contrary to Scripture and to logic to say that God is male or female, as maleness and femaleness are characteristics of human bodies and cultures, not characteristics of the divine."
“As a result, annual conferences voted on the wrong version, so at this year’s Annual Conference, we will vote on the corrected version of the constitutional amendment,” said the Rev. Ken Nelson, conference secretary for the South Carolina Annual Conference.
Graves said the mistake was simply a matter of human error and that all annual conferences will vote on the correct version of Constitutional Amendment I at their next meeting.
While South Carolina and most other conferences will vote this year, some conferences will not meet again until 2019.
Nelson said the re-vote is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. He expected the voting, to be done by paper ballot, will be quick, as constitutional amendments are not amendable and cannot be altered. There can be three speeches for the amendment, three speeches against and then a vote.
“My guess is we can do this in 30 minutes or less,” Nelson said.
The correct version of the amendment as approved by the General Conference should have read, “As the Holy Scripture reveals, both men and women are made in the image of God and, therefore, men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God. The United Methodist Church acknowledges the long history of discrimination against women and girls. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of women’s and girl's equality and well-being.”
Nelson said the amendment is posted on the annual conference website, www.umcsc.org/ac2018, and he hopes people will read it, pray about it and give it serious consideration before they get to Annual Conference.
As with last year’s original vote, the results of how South Carolina votes this year will not be released until all conferences have the opportunity to revote (so as not to influence the voting process).
South Carolina nearly passed the initial amendment (with the incorrect language), garnering just shy of the two-thirds majority at 64.3 percent.
Three of five other amendments pass
Three of the five total constitutional amendments approved by the 2016 General Conference—amendments III, IV and V—passed by the required two-thirds vote.
Amendment III attempts to fix what the rationale calls “unduly vague” language in Section VI, Para. 34, Article III, of the Discipline, with language about delegates to General Conference needing to be elected (not appointed). Amendment IV adds language to Para. 46, Article I, of the Discipline about episcopal elections being held in the same manner for central conferences as in jurisdictions. And Amendment V adds a new sentence to the end of Para. 50, Article VI, of the Discipline enabling the COB to hold its individual members accountable for their work.
Amendment II failed; that amendment would have changed Para. 4, Article IV, of the Discipline to modify gender equity language. If it were ratified, the proposed amendment would have added “gender,” “ability,” “age” and “marital status” to the protected membership groups.
Amendment II garnered just 61.3 percent of votes worldwide—5.2 percentage points from the required two-thirds (66.5 percent).
Worldwide, Amendment III garnered 90.2 percent of the needed votes, Amendment IV garnered 92.9 percent and Amendment V garnered 81.2 percent.
In South Carolina, Amendment II garnered 50.9 percent of the needed votes, Amendment III garnered 94.3 percent, Amendment IV garnered 97.2 percent and Amendment V garnered 94.9 percent.
‘We weep with you’
On May 7, the female bishops of the Council of Bishops issued a pastoral letter expressing grief and dismay about the failure of the amendments I and II, which they noted have to do with the right of girls, women and other vulnerable groups to full access to a meaningful life. The letter has been unanimously affirmed by the entire Council of Bishops.
“Like Rachel weeping for her children, so we as episcopal leaders weep for our church,” the letter reads. “We weep for the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harm that is inflicted upon women and girls because of this action. We weep for those who are denied the ability to use their gifts to make a difference in the world. We also weep for those who are not protected from exclusion in the church because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition.
“We see you. We weep with you. We seek your healing. We work for the healing of our church. We strive for a church and world that honors every person as a beloved child of God, made in the image of our Creator.”
Both letters are available on the Council of Bishops’ website, here.
Similarly, United Methodist clergywomen have issued a letter signed by more than 900 (the number continues to grow), including many in South Carolina, calling for every United Methodist in every Annual Conference to participate in stopping the cycle of gender inequity in 2020.
“To stop the cycle means teaching and preaching about the God who is beyond gender,” the letter says, also challenging people to “study, internalize, and act according to ‘Every Barrier Down: Toward Full Embrace of All Women in Church and Society’ (2016 Book of Resolutions, Para. 3442).”
Read their full letter at https://tinyurl.com/y8w9j6pw.