General Conference Approves Key Elements of Worldwide UMC Study Committee’s Proposal

TAMPA May 1, 2012 – The 2012 General Conference overwhelmingly adopted the two key proposals submitted by the Study Committee on the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church.

A “Covenant for a Worldwide United Methodist Church” will be placed in the denomination’s upcoming new Book of Discipline. It includes a litany that can be used in gatherings to help build greater mutual respect and understanding among various geographic regions of the church.

The committee also proposed a step towards a new global Book of Discipline by making clear which parts of the book of church law can be adapted by Central Conferences outside the United States and which are not open to adaptation.

Bishop Christian Alsted of the Baltic and Nordic Area praised the adoption of the covenant by the General Conference.

“We need to learn from each other. We cannot exist in a meaningful way in Northern Europe if we don’t have a clear perception of being part of something worldwide,” he said.

“We have so many things in common including a common mission. We need to listen to each other and respect each other. The covenant will help to shape our hearts and minds to do that better.”

The Legislative Committee on Faith and Order considered the text offered by the study committee and made changes before approving it.

It begins with the words “United Methodists throughout the world are bound together in a connectional covenant in which we support and hold each other accountable for faithful discipleship and mission.” In the final version the litany affirms the church’s unity in Christ and promises to cross boundaries of language, culture, and social or economic status.

The action approving the global Book of Discipline concept lists the sections of the current Book of Discipline that cannot be adapted by Central Conferences. That makes these areas binding worldwide.

The list includes first four parts of the Discipline, from the Constitution through the Social Principles.

The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, in consultation with the Committee on Faith and Order, is charged with bringing a recommendation about sections dealing with the program and administrative agencies of the general church to the 2016 General Conference.

Bishop Scott Jones, chair of the study committee, said the General Conference’s actions represent important steps forward, but show more conversation is needed during the next four years.

“The action to clarify what Central Conferences can and cannot adapt will help us think about global models for the future. We must keep the conversation moving forward during the next four years,” Jones added.

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