Dec. 9, 2004
|A UMNS file photo by John Goodwin
Delegates to the United Methodist Church's 2004 General Conference join together in song.
A UMNS Report
By Joretta Purdue*
for the United Methodist Church in 2004 assumed several forms: the
orderliness in electing new bishops, the sweep of natural disasters,
most notably by a relentless hurricane season in the United States and
Caribbean, and evidence of evil at work in places like the Sudan.
has been an extraordinary year in the life of the church, primarily
because of some things that happened at General Conference," declared
the Rev. Charles Yrigoyen Jr., who leads the staff of the denomination’s
history and heritage agency.
The 2004 United Methodist General Conference, the church’s top legislative body, met April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.
Conference was a highlight for me and probably the most important event
in 2004 for the church," said Yrigoyen, who is retiring at the end of
2005. He was particularly moved by the celebration of the
African-Americans who, despite discrimination and segregation, chose not
to leave the United Methodist Church and its predecessors.
issues persisted in garnering attention, but United Methodists, acting
through their nearly 1,000 delegates at the church’s quadrennial
legislative assembly, reaffirmed the denomination’s unity.
unity resolution on the conference’s final day followed informal
proposals by conservatives to form a task force to study splitting the
denomination. That idea was not debated by the conference but circulated
in hallways and unofficial publications until the Rev. John Schol of
the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference offered a
resolution that said, "As United Methodists we remain in covenant with
one another even in the midst of disagreement, and affirm our commitment
to work together for our common mission of making disciples throughout
the world." It was adopted by a vote of 869-41 with 8 abstentions. Schol
was elected a bishop by the denomination’s Northeastern Jurisdiction in
is a lightning rod issue," Yrigoyen said, but added that he believes
several other issues are part of the differences within the church. Not
enough attention has been paid to the issue of "God language," he
observed, explaining that trinitarian language carries theological
content about the nature of God. Other issues like abortion and the
nature and authority of Scripture are important, too.
voted to change the structure of the church by eliminating the General
Council of Ministries, creating the Connectional Table, and establishing
a Division on Ministries with Young People within the United Methodist
Board of Discipleship. The new division ends previous organizations in
this area and enfolds the Shared Mission Focus on Young People.
the final day of the General Conference, delegates engaged in a
three-hour discussion before passing a $612.5 million budget for
worldwide ministries in 2005-2009 -- a 12.2 percent increase over the
present four-year budget.
Protestant Methodist Church of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) was accepted
into full membership, creating the first major growth spurt in the
denomination since the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren
churches merged in 1968. The denomination numbered about 10.2 million
worldwide before the influx. U.S. membership accounts for the majority,
approximately 8.3 million.
|A UMNS file photo by MikeDuBose
Rev. Benjamin Boni (right) and the Rev. Randy Day announce that the
million-member Protestant Methodist Church of Cote d'Ivoire is joining
the United Methodist Church.
the issue of homosexuality, the phrase declaring homosexual practice
"incompatible with Christian teaching" was retained in the Social
Principles by the delegates. An attempt to add a statement acknowledging
that Christians disagree on the homosexuality issue was defeated.
against the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals continues
to be church policy. In addition, the list of chargeable offenses that
could bring bishops, pastors and diaconal ministers to trial was amended
to include not being celibate in singleness or being unfaithful in a
heterosexual marriage. Chargeable offenses also include being a
self-avowed practicing homosexual, conducting ceremonies that celebrate
homosexual unions and performing same-sex weddings.
gay marriage issue was prominent nationally and within the United
Methodist Church. General Conference delegates approved a petition
recognizing marriage as only between a man and woman by a vote of
624-184 with little discussion. The petition added language to the
church’s Social Principles supporting "laws in civil society that define
marriage as the union of one man and one woman." However, the assembly
did not approve a petition supporting a federal marriage amendment.
Conference, as the only body that makes policy for and speaks for the
denomination, also weighed in on a number of topics from war and
terrorism to coffee and tacos.
replaced a previous resolution on terrorism with one that condemns all
acts of terror but also opposes the use of indiscriminate military force
to combat terrorism and policies that violate civil and human rights
while claiming to combat terrorism.
new resolution opposes all unilateral first-strike actions and calls on
the U.S. president and Congress to collaborate with the United Nations.
Another notes that reaction to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001,
have led to unjust treatment of some immigrants and kept some visitors
from entering the United States. Delegates were aware that some United
Methodists were unable to attend General Conference because they were
resolutions call for full investigation of alleged abuses of Iraqi
prisoners by the U.S. military, urges the U.S. government to develop a
Department of Peace, expresses concern for 5 million displaced people in
the Sudan and condemns the government-sponsored violence there that has
killed an estimated 2 million people.
the subject of abortion, delegates retained a resolution supporting the
legal right to abortion. Language in the Social Principles was amended
to include encouraging adoption. A new resolution advocates church
support for those with "post-abortion stress."
committed the denomination to joining with the National Council of
Churches in a boycott of Taco Bell, urging the fast food chain to
convene talks with tomato suppliers and their workers about labor
practices. By a close vote, the conference also decided to join in a
boycott of Mount Olive Pickle Co., pending an agreement on collective
bargaining, but the problem was settled before the boycott really began.
resolutions urge purchasing coffee through fair trade partners, ending
the economic embargo against Cuba and withdrawing the U.S. military from
the end of the nearly two-week meeting, delegates working in 11
legislative committees had processed a multitude of petitions and had
shaped, through debates and votes, the legislation that is printed in
the 2004 Book of Discipline and the 2004 Book of Resolutions. Together the two books express the denomination’s laws, rules, social principles and policies for justice.
creating the Connectional Table to guide the work of the denomination’s
general agencies, the General Conference also eliminated the General
Council of Ministries, which had been a part of the structure created by
the church union in 1968. The delegates chose a legislative committee
proposal over one that had been developed by the council. The result is a
smaller body -- 47 members rather than about 130 -- and an accelerated
timetable. The General Council on Ministries no longer exists after the
end of 2004 and the Connectional Table begins Jan. 1, 2005, two years
earlier than the GCOM plan designated.
United Methodist Church had national distinction this election year,
with three of the four Presidential and vice presidential candidates
among its ranks -- Republican President George W. Bush, Vice-President
Dick Cheney and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards.
and politics exploded as the focal point of the 2004 presidential
elections, with competing liberal and conservative views on faith,
family, and the human body.
millions of American voters who went to the polls defined marriage as a
union between one man and one woman and gave views on other "moral
values" including a statement on same-sex marriage. Many of America’s
voters were first timers who saw this election, according to numerous
media reports, as an attack on a key facet of faith and family.
|A UMNS photo by Greg Nelson
Newly-elected United Methodist Bishops Minerva Carca�o (left) and Robert Hoshibata prepare for their service of consecration.
delegates to General Conference reassembled with an equal number of
other lay and clergy delegates to form the five jurisdictional
conferences, which met simultaneously in mid-July. The main business
before each of the jurisdictions, which also meet once every four years,
was the election of new bishops to fill vacancies in the jurisdiction.
The five jurisdictions elected 21 bishops. Of these was Bishop Minerva
Carcano, the first Hispanic female elected to the episcopacy. Also
elected was Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, who was born in India; Bishops
Jeremiah Park and Hee-Soo Jung, who are Korean-Americans; and Bishop
Robert Hoshibata, a Japanese-American.
issues were central to two church trials of clergy. In March, the Rev.
Karen Dammann, a Seattle clergywoman, was found not guilty by a Pacific
Northwest Annual Conference trial court of the charge of engaging in
"practices incompatible with Christian teaching" even though she openly
admitted to being a practicing homosexual.
May, the denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council, ruled that it
did not have the authority to review the findings of the Dammann trial
court, but did reaffirm that a bishop may not appoint a pastor who has
been found by a trial court to be a "self-avowed practicing homosexual."
On Dec. 2, an Eastern
Pennsylvania Annual Conference trial court found the Rev. Irene
Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud, a Philadelphia clergywoman, guilty of being a
self-avowed practicing homosexual. The former associate pastor of the
First United Methodist Church of Germantown was stripped of her
ministerial credentials by the trial court, but she is remaining on the
church staff as a lay person.
|A UMNS file photo by Les Fetchko
Rev. Karen Dammann (left) and her partner, Meredith Savage, listen to
the verdict finding Dammann not guilty of breaking church law.
complaint against the Rev. Karen Oliveto of San Francisco for
performing a gay marriage ceremony was resolved before going to trial.
Oliveto officiated at a Feb. 15 ceremony for two church members after
they received a marriage license at San Francisco City Hall during a
wave of couples receiving same-sex marriage licenses. The California
State Supreme Court voided the licenses in August. Oliveto left her
pastorate to become assistant dean for academic affairs and director of
contextual education at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif.
courts in California ruled against the California-Nevada Annual
Conference in its assertion of the denomination’s trust clause. The
clause, a part of Methodist tradition and discipline that dates back 250
years to John Wesley, states that all congregational church property is
held in trust for the denomination. St. Luke’s United Methodist Church
in Fresno, Calif., had left the denomination but retained control of the
church building. In August, the 5th District Court of Appeals ruled
that the facility is not the property of the denomination, and in
December the California State Supreme Court denied a petition to review
Hurricanes hammer Southeast
which played unwilling host to Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and
Jeanne plus other storms, is still reeling from the effects of the
multiple onslaughts. Combined damage exceeded that of the devastating
Hurricane Andrew, which roared across the peninsula in 1992.
like Simpson Memorial United Methodist in Riviera Beach, Fla., were
among the casualties. "The wind flipped half of our roof off and put it
on top of the other half," the Rev. Cleveland English told United
Methodist News Service about damage from Hurricane Frances.
mid-September, Linda Beher, communications director for the United
Methodist Committee on Relief, said that the denomination had given aid
to more than 80,000 Floridians and that nearly 30 percent of the
denomination’s buildings in the state had been damaged. However,
Hurricane Jeanne had not yet arrived.
By early November,
volunteers had worked more than a million hours in recovery projects
related to the hurricanes and tropical storms that affected parts of the
eastern United States as far north as Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Just
as serious flooding in Georgia accompanied Hurricane Frances’ northern
progress, heavy flooding followed more than one hurricane through
western North Carolina.
|A UMNS file photo courtesy of Tom Hazelwood
Members of many Florida churches offered hurricane victims ice, water and hot meals.
provided grants to United Methodist conferences in Florida, Alabama,
Western North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said the Rev. Tom
Hazelwood, UMCOR domestic disaster coordinator. How much assistance the
agency provides especially for long-term recovery depends on the
donations UMCOR receives.
of the hurricanes and tropical storms had hit islands in the Caribbean
before they came ashore in the United States. The Bahamas, Haiti and
Grenada were particularly hard hit. In these countries, UMCOR channeled
aid through ecumenical partners. UMCOR officials are speaking of at
least three to five years of long-term aid in these countries and
agency never stopped asking for more "flood buckets" during the
hurricane season, which ended Nov. 30, and continues to seek donations
for the work of rebuilding and restoration.
Ministry took on new forms as well appearing in familiar modes.
Tuscaloosa, Ala., Jan Porter, a former missionary, organized teens to
mow lawns for the elderly and disabled who have a limited income. In
Montgomery, Ala., volunteers run a clothing boutique for women prisoners
to give them hope for the future and the possibilities of a better
of McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church in Powder Springs, Ga.,
repair vehicles of low-income and elderly people one Saturday a month.
Their "car care ministry" is one of many such missions performed by
United Methodist churches.
junked by government agencies and schools are being saved from the
scrap yard and helping hundreds of students, thanks to a dedicated group
of retirees from Cedar Street United Methodist Church in Tyler, Texas.
The group repairs the discarded computers and gives them to students in
the downtown community, who would not otherwise have much access to such
had an opportunity to pick up some salvage computers," says the Rev.
Karen Morris, pastor of the northeast Texas church, "and we have always
been a group of people that didn’t like to see anything go to waste."
United Methodist Endorsing Agency has sponsored a campaign to send
phone cards to people serving in the U.S. military all over the world
since Veterans Day 2003. More than 3 million minutes have been placed in
the hands of young men and women so they can call their loved ones
without adding to their financial burden. Churches both large and small,
Sunday school classes, Bible study groups and individuals have joined
in this campaign to connect military personnel with their families.
August, the endorsing agency started sending packages of phone cards
with a message from the United Methodist Church. The special cards
feature the United Methodist Cross and Flame and include a recorded
prayer: "The people of the United Methodist Church are praying for your
safety and sense of peace. Our hearts, our minds and our doors are
always open to you."
1939, the Methodist Church told blacks they were not welcome in the
same church pews as whites. The Central Jurisdiction was formed as a
racial compromise. African-American United Methodists from across the
country gathered Aug. 27-29 in Atlanta to remember, reflect, and
redirect their efforts regarding the history, problems and circumstances
of the forced separation.
church’s Council of Bishops opened an international headquarters office
in the historic United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington
this year. Retired Bishop Roy I. Sano, the council’s executive
secretary, staffs the office.
Rev. Larry Pickens became the chief executive of the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns July 1. He
followed the Rev. Bruce Robbins, who went to a pastorate after 13 years
of service with the commission. Retired Bishop Melvin Talbert, former
ecumenical officer of the Council of Bishops, served the agency in the
interim and is now heading the church’s Black Methodists for Church
Jan Love was named head of the Women’s Division staff at the Board of Global Ministries. She replaces Joyce Sohl, who retired.
United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women named M.
Garlinda Burton as chief executive, effective Jan. 1, 2005. She has held
that office on an interim basis for the past year. Previously she had
been an executive and a staff writer for United Methodist
United Methodist Church participates in and gives support to the World
Methodist Council, which adopted a statement on unity at its executive
committee meeting in mid September that warned if the church fails to
look at the issue of homosexuality now, the unity of the church will
suffer. The council also awarded the 2004 World Methodist Peace Award
Dec. 8 to Millard Fuller, president and founder of Habitat for Humanity.
The council links churches in the Methodist and Wesleyan tradition in
University, the only United Methodist-related university on the
continent, dedicated its new Faculty of Health Sciences building Dec. 1.
The $1.8 million facility is the fourth building on the campus that has
been constructed with funds from USAID. The Faculty of Health Sciences
is the sixth of seven faculties slated for development on Africa
University’s master plan. The university already offers undergraduate
and post-graduate programs in agriculture and natural resources,
education, humanities and social sciences, management and
administration, and theology.
Rev. James Floyd White, 72, of Granger, Ind., the principal writer of
the United Methodist Eucharistic rite, died Oct. 31 at Memorial
Hospital, South Bend, Ind. He co-authored "The New Handbook of the
Christian Year" and wrote several texts that were widely studied by
United Methodists in seminaries and elsewhere. He taught at Perkins
School of Theology and at the University of Notre Dame for many years
and held the Bard Thompson Chair of Liturgical Studies at Drew
L. Scott Allen, 86, the last bishop elected in the former Methodist
Church -- now part of the United Methodist Church -- died Sept. 18 at
Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta of complications from pneumonia.
Rev. J. Robert Nelson, 83, a renowned United Methodist ecumenist,
theologian and bioethicist, died of cancer July 6 in Houston. Nelson
worked for the World Council of Churches before becoming dean of the
Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn. In 1960 he resigned in
protest over the dismissal of student James Lawson for his participation
in civil rights demonstrations. Nelson subsequently taught at the
Boston University School of Theology and later became director of the
Institute on Religion in the Texas Medical Center in Houston.
M. Dolliver, 80, a lay leader and retired Washington State Supreme
Court justice, died in Olympia, Wash., Nov. 23 of complications from a
stroke. He served on the General Council of Ministries and of the Board
of Church and Society before being elected to the Judicial Council.
Rev. Marcus J. Blaising, who retired in 1994 after 42 years of service
to Methodism, died Oct. 24 at his home in Fishers, Ind. Blaising was a
pastor, district superintendent and assistant to the bishop during his
career. He was chairman of the denomination’s General Council on Finance
and Administration and served on the church’s Board of Pension and
Townsend, 73, a retired Air Force chaplain, died Nov. 16 in Nashville,
Tenn. He was instrumental in establishing the first endowed
professorship for pastoral care at United Methodist related Africa
University in Zimbabwe.
Long Rogers, 83, a powerful influence upon the United Methodist
educational system through the students she taught, died Sept. 26 from
complications caused by a stroke. Rogers, professor emirita at Peabody
College at Vanderbilt University and 50-year member of Belmont United
Methodist Church, Nashville, Tenn., was the instructor of many current
presidents of United Methodist-related institutions.
*Purdue is a retired staff writer of United Methodist News Service.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.