The May 5th agenda of the United Methodist General Conference ended with votes over the organizational structure and budgets of mission programs in the denomination. The delegates also amended a passage in the Book of Discipline to clarify language on a list of offenses that could result in a church trial.
The new paragraph listed several chargeable offenses:
a) immorality, including, but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not being faithful in a heterosexual marriage;
b) practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including, but not limited to, being a self-avowed practicing homosexual, or conducting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions, or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.
The delegates also adopted a new organizational model, dubbed, “The Connectional Table.” This new structure, developed by the General Administration legislative committee, was similar to the one proposed by the General Council on Ministries last week, but was “less costly and smaller than that offered by the council.” The new Table will begin operating Jan. 1, and will replace the current Council on Ministries.
The denomination also voted to expand its media efforts by means of TV advertising. The delegates ambitiously called for 18 additional airings of the advertisement – “Open Minds. Open Doors,” – but cut the proposed funding by a third. While the general ad campaign funds were cut from $33.5 million to $22 million, the youth proposal increased to $5.4 million. Earlier in the week, delegates approved another $2.3 million for a plan submitted by United Methodist Communications to improve communications for church members in countries outside the United States.
According to the UMC news service, the General Conference delegates also conducted many other votes. The following is the list of events that occurred May 5 as released by the UMNS:
· Approved a special United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, with $3 million to be raised through apportionments and an additional $5 million to be raised through the Advance giving program.
· Agreed to continue the Korean American National Plan, the Asian American Language Ministry Study and the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry. Funds for the plans are included in the budget of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
· Endorsed two special mission programs, “Holistic Strategy on Africa” and “Holistic Strategy on Latin America and the Caribbean,” to be funded and coordinated through the Board of Global Ministries. Delegates also agreed to mandate a study on the relationship between the United Methodist Church and autonomous Methodist churches in Latin America and the Caribbean.
· Voted to continue the denomination’s initiative on “Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century.”
· Established an office of service for laymen, called “home missioners,” that parallels the historic office of deaconess for lay women.
· Adopted a resolution on “charitable choice,” or the use of public funds for church-related social services and community development programs, which encourages separate nonprofit incorporation for those groups receiving the funds.