United Methodists Oppose Restructuring, Opening Membership to 'All'

Early tallies show that United Methodists in the United States are not in favor of restructuring their global body. They're also against opening membership to all persons without regard to sexual orientation.

Most of the 62 U.S. regional bodies of the United Methodist Church have voted on proposed amendments to the church's constitution. And so far, about 60 percent are opposed to making the U.S. church one of several regional bodies around the world, according to the United Methodist News Service.

Votes from member churches in Africa, Europe and the Philippines have not come in and won't be known until next year.

The 2008 General Conference, the top legislative body, had approved 32 amendments, many of which were on reorganizing the 11.5 million-member denomination so it does not appear to be U.S.-centered.

The proposals seek to make the United States, which claims nearly 8 million United Methodist members, a regional conference or regional conferences, similar to the seven conferences outside the country (Africa, Central and Southern Europe, Congo, Germany, Northern Europe, Philippines, and West Africa).

Those seven conferences are currently organized much like the five jurisdictions - Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western - in the United States.

If approved by two-thirds of the voting members worldwide, the reorganization would create a uniform United Methodist church structure, provide a venue for the U.S. members to address issues unique to their nation, and allow more equitable representation from around the globe, proponents say.

But some have expressed concerns that the restructuring proposal comes with no detailed plan in terms of implementation. Also, the creation of a regional conference in the United States may lead to an inward focus and create greater distance in the relationship between the U.S. church and the United Methodist Church in other parts of the world, according to the West Ohio Conference of the UMC.

Members around the world are also considering an amendment that states "all" people, upon declaring a relationship to Jesus Christ, are eligible to become professing members in any local church. In the United States, most have voted against the proposal, fearing that it could be used to overturn the church's positions on homosexual practice.

The current statement in UMC's Book of Discipline describes homosexual practice as "incompatible with Christian teaching" and bans noncelibate gay pastors.

Official results of the votes from conferences worldwide are expected to be announced in May 2010.

Audrey Barrick
Christian Post Reporter