By Rev. Leigh Goodrich
Our most recent attempt was an amendment to ¶4, Article 4 which guaranteed membership in the Church regardless of whether a person is male or female, married or single, young or old, or a person with a disability. The amendment was presented at General Conference 2016 and passed with a two-thirds majority. Then, it was brought to the Annual Conferences for ratification during the following 12-month period. The amendment failed to be ratified. Since the Council of Bishops’ announcement that the amendment did not pass, GCSRW has received requests for more information. This “Women by the Numbers” looks at the ratification process, the votes by Annual Conference, Jurisdictions and in Central Conferences.
According to “The United Methodist Constitution” found in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, “amendments to the Constitution shall be made upon a two-thirds majority of the General Conference present and voting and a two-thirds affirmative vote of the aggregate number of members of the several annual conferences present and voting…”(¶59). This makes the process democratic and emphasizes the importance of every member’s vote.
Below is the breakdown of the votes by annual conference as reported by the Council of Bishops. We have taken the liberty of highlighting those annual conferences in which the amendment to The United Methodist Constitution to ensure that women, like men, are ensured membership in The United Methodist Church, passed. Importantly, the ratification process by the Annual Conference requires counting each and every vote cast by the members of the Annual Conference passed by the requisite 66 2/3% in the particular annual conference. The aggregate vote received 61% instead of the needed 66 2/3%.
Jesus tells a parable about a widow who goes before a judge repeatedly and is consistently turned away empty handed. She does not let his rejection dissuade her, but continually returns until eventually, the judge grants her justice, thinking, “because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she will not wear me out by continually coming.”
In a world in which #MeToo is worldwide phenomenon; in a world in which women continue to make significantly less for doing the same work as men; in a world in which women are bullied on the streets and in churches, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women will seek to provide protection for women worldwide who seek membership in The United Methodist Church. The outcome of the ratification of this amendment has not dissuaded, but rather, energized members of annual conferences to take action on women’s equality issues. It is with that energy that we still work for the full and equal participation of women in The United Methodist Church
Luke 18:5, The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version