It’s a bit anticlimactic this far removed from the actual vote, but the final tally is in on all the Constitutional Amendments we voted on last summer in the 2009 Annual Conference. You can find the UM News report here and a tally of the results for each amendment here.
The final results are pretty much what we thought they’d be based on initial voting tallies. As a church, we voted not to reorganize into regional conferences. We also rejected an amendment which would have purportedly made church membership more inclusive.
For a Constitutional Amendment to pass it had to receive a two-thirds majority vote as a whole. Most of the contested amendments didn’t even come close. In fact, many didn’t even garner a 50% ‘yes’ vote. That’s pretty significant for something that was passed so easily through the General Conference.
Of course, all of that raises the question as to what this means. Were we really rejecting the idea of organizing into ‘regional conferences,’ or was there something else going on? Already, some are clamoring about ‘colonialism,’ which is a barely-hidden accusation of racism.
Still, it’s interesting to note from the article that the Central Conferences were often the biggest opponents of these amendments supporting reorganization into regional conferences:
In looking at preliminary figures broken down by conference, voters from the central conferences in Africa were the strongest opponents to the proposed changes, rejecting the amendments on restructuring by as many as 4,900 votes out of 5,165 votes cast. European voters, in contrast, overwhelmingly supported the amendments.
In the United States, the proposed changes were most strongly supported in the Western Jurisdiction and soundly defeated in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
I find that fascinating. Europe and the Western Jurisdiction were for the amendments. Africa and the Southeastern Jurisdiction were against them. That speaks volumes. It is no secret that the Southeastern Jurisdiction is the most theologically conservative in the US while the Western Jurisdiction is by far the most liberal.
So was this merely about reorganization and recognizing the growing influence of the non-US territories? Or was this a theological battle between the liberal and conservative factions of the US thinly disguised as a concern for the “rest of the church”?
Clearly, I tend to think it’s the latter. From the sneaky way that these amendments were rushed through General Conference to the utter lack of information about how they’d be implemented, it was obvious something wasn’t right here. Something else was going on.
When people stand up front at the podium and plead, “Trust us, we’ll work out all the details for the best later on,” you know to be very concerned and read the fine print twice. I think that’s what happened here. And the majority clearly voted “No, we won’t just trust you on it. Clarify all of the implications and come back again with a better plan in four years.”
Perhaps in the future we will ratify a change to regional bodies. However, if we do, it will be because it was clearly and coherently presented without any hidden ulterior motives. It will be because it actually makes us better, not just facilitates a theological divide.