Original Posting At http://extremecenter.com/blog/worldwide-nature-united-methodist-church/
Worldwide Nature of the United Methodist Church
Scott J. Jones | October 25, 2014
I have now posted a video which gives my perspective on the worldwide nature of the United Methodist Church. I did this because, in coming weeks, there will be some discussion about the worldwide nature of the United Methodist Church and what next steps are appropriate. The Council of Bishops and the Connectional Table will discuss it during the first week of November this year. The closer we get to May of 2016 the more discussion there will be. You can view the video by clicking here, or going to the video tab above.
I continue to believe that the United Methodist Church has a distinctive and important calling as part of the body of Christ. We need to remain a worldwide church united by our doctrine, discipline and mission (see Book of Discipline, 2012 ¶101). We need to live more fully into our worldwide nature, and the connectional covenant in ¶ 125 lifts up many of our core values and identifies some of our problematic issues.
We have been working on how best to organize our worldwide nature for more than 100 years, and the issues will not be resolved in the near future. We can make progress, however.
We need clarity about the commitments that unite us. Our doctrine includes our doctrinal standards (Articles of Religion, Confession of Faith, Wesley’s Sermons and Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament), our Social Principles, the General Rules, and our constitution. Our mission statement in paragraphs 120-122 bind us together. Our core disciplines including episcopacy, conferencing, itinerancy and connectionalism are essential to our unity.
At the same time, we know that different contexts require the freedom for adaptation. Local churches within annual conferences adopt different approaches to ministry in their areas. Annual conferences adopt structures that differ from others within their jurisdiction or central conference. And different central conferences should be able to adapt things like term episcopacy.
Two key issues lie before us. The first is an answer to the question, “what things are binding on all United Methodists globally, and what should be adaptable regionally?” The 2012 General Conference took important steps toward an answer by stating that Parts 1 through 5 of the Book of Discipline are globally binding. ¶101 gives the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters and the Committee on Faith and Order the responsibility for determining which paragraphs in Part VI “Administrative Order” should be included in the Global Book of Discipline.
The second key issue is how American United Methodists will have a forum for voting on matters (such as the pension plan) that apply only to them. The constitutional amendments rejected in 2010 were one answer to that. The increasingly large percentage of General Conference delegates voting on purely US matters will bring more pressure to bear on this issue. The amendments were defeated because many presumed that issues of human sexuality would be taken away from the General Conference and given to a US Regional Conference. It is now clear that those issues will always remain a question for the global church to decide. Other issues such as a hymnal, pensions, and church planting strategies should be decided by a US group acting together.
I hope that the discussion around our global nature is carried out at a high level with deep knowledge about our history and our current realities. Toward that end, my video may be useful. I pray so.