A UMC Proposal on Inclusive Language: What Happened, What It Means

Some confusing things have happened in the greater United Methodist Church in the past couple of weeks. A year ago, all Annual Conferences were asked to vote on 5 constitutional amendments. To pass, and be put in the “constitution” section of our church laws, a 2/3 majority is required.

Curiously, a clerical error left in a sentence that had been heavily debated and deleted from what was supposed the final proposal for a section on gender justice. This wasn't discovered until the confusing results were finalized a few weeks ago. It turns out that we all voted on a matter of inclusive language, which wasn't even supposed to be the question.

Here is the sentence that caused people to vote against this proposal: "The United Methodist Church recognizes it is contrary to Scripture and to logic to say that God is male or female, as maleness and femaleness are characteristics of human bodies and cultures, not characteristics of the divine."

So, the amendment failed to reach the 2/3 majority by 100 votes. Amazingly, all jurisdictions of the United States, Europe, and the Philippines passed this accidental referendum on inclusive terms for God, well beyond the needed 2/3 votes. The Conferences of the continent of Africa, however, voted against it 2912 to 6192. Eleven Conferences there voted unanimously against it.
We are all aware of conservative views of many of the African conferences, particularly in regard to gender equity. With that in mind, it is particularly stunning that an unintended referendum on inclusive divine language nearly passed, and did have a 66.5% majority worldwide. (31,304 yes votes to 15,753 no votes.)

Still some say that their gender-specific language really is meant in an inclusive way. But this vote shows that words do matter, that they elicit emotional responses in people. It highlights that different cultures, even those that share the same language, hear words very differently.
Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through. Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

This year at the meetings of all of the Annual Conferences, we will have a do-over. Of course.

osBlessings to all..................... Jeannie