The Rev. Gary Graves of the Kentucky Conference, and his wife Jennifer, are recognized following his election as the incoming Secretary of the General Conference at the United Methodist 2016 General Conference in Portland, Ore.

Error forces revote on failed constitutional amendment

By John W. Coleman

(Adapted from two UM News Services stories)

Annual Conference voters around the globe will have to revote on one of two failed constitutional amendments that deal with women’s equality. The revote was announced Thursday after UM Communications learned of a content error and reported it to the Rev. Gary Graves, newly elected secretary of General Conference.

The Council of Bishops announced the vote outcomes on Monday, May 7.  The two failed constitutional amendments, approved by the 2016 General Conference but not by the required two-thirds of the aggregate votes of all annual conferences, both dealt with how the denomination understands and reflects equality and equal treatment of all in the church, especially women. Both failed by slim margins.

In reaction to the results, the Council of Bishops expressed dismay that proposed amendments I and II had failed. “While we are not completely clear concerning the motivation that caused them to miss the two-thirds required majority by slim margins, we want to be clear that we are unequivocal in our commitment to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church,” said the Council statement.

Read the statement from the Council of Bishops.

Amendment 1, which must be corrected and reconsidered, specifically addresses gender justice and equality of women in Scriptures and the church. The Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference voted 324 Yes, and 223 No, which is less than the two-thirds Yes votes needed by all annual conferences in total to sustain the amendment. Conference members voted affirmatively on the other amendments by large margins.

At the 2016 General Conference, when the Independent Commission Committee considered that amendment, it deleted the sentence, “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.” The amended copy also changed the last sentence to “The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten women’s and girls’ equality and well-being.”

“As the petition was processed and then the constitutional amendments were prepared to go out to annual conferences, it appears that ‘delete the second sentence in its entirety’ was missed,” Graves said. “So the words that went to annual conferences contained text that should have been stricken before it went out.”

The amendments were originally sent to bishops and annual conference secretaries in late 2016 by the former secretary of the General Conference, the Rev. Gere Reist. Both Reist and Graves apologized for the error.

The correct wording of the amendment will be sent to the conferences next week. Since some annual and central conferences have already held their sessions this year, their revoting will take place next year.

Read the full UM News Service story

Read the original “Annual Conferences OK 3 of 5 constitutional amendments” UMNS story

Here are the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference vote totals on the five UMC constitutional amendments:

  • Amendment I– Yes: 324; No: 223.
  • Amendment II– Yes: 455; No: 92.
  • Amendment III– Yes 526; No: 21.
  • Amendment IV– Yes: 540; No: 7.
  • Amendment V—Yes: 466; No: 81.

See the Full report on all Annual Conference votes.