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May 6, 2000 GC-030

General Conference delegates begin voting on legislation

CLEVELAND (UMNS) – In their first opportunity to vote on proposed changes in church policies and practices, three-fourths of the nearly 1,000 delegates at the United Methodist General Conference favored lifting sanctions against Iraq.

On the fifth day of the conference, which began May 2, the chairperson of the global ministries legislative committee urged this action as a justice issue for the Iraqi women and children who are suffering the most under the sanctions.

Several other items were also dealt with in the quadrennial revision of the church’s Book of Discipline. One item, having to do with membership language, would have begun the process of changing the church’s constitution. It was tabled until other parts of the same constitutional issue could catch up during the remaining week of the conference.

A term limit for bishops was rejected by 80 percent of the voting delegates. Currently, United Methodist bishops are elected for life and must retire between ages 66 and 70, depending on when their birthday falls relative to completion of a four-year assignment.

The delegates overwhelmingly supported holding meetings at all levels of the church in facilities that are accessible to people with disabilities, even if this means using non-church buildings or campuses.

Almost 90 percent of the delegates agreed not to raise the minimum number of clergy an area needs to form a provisional conference, a basic regional unit in the development of church structure.

A measure to ensure that the committee that develops the denomination’s church school curriculum adheres to the church’s doctrinal standards was adopted with a positive vote by 89.7 percent of the delegates.

They also dealt with several other items – mostly by accepting or rejecting them on the recommendation of the committee that was presenting the topic.

All changes in the denomination’s Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions begin as petitions to the General Conference, which meets every four years. Any United Methodist individual or organization of United Methodists may submit a petition for consideration. About 14,000 separate petitions were received, but after duplicate items were combined, proposals for almost 2,000 changes in the Discipline were assigned tracking numbers and given to 10 legislative committees. The committees will sift through all the proposals and present them to the delegates in their business session.

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-- Joretta Purdue

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