People who join United Methodist churches henceforth will promise to be faithful in "their witness" as well as in their "prayers, their presence, their gifts and their service."
The 2008 United Methodist General Conference voted April 30 to add the witness phrase to the liturgy the church uses when a person makes a profession of membership.
The new phrase highlights the mission and evangelistic responsibility of church membership.
The promise to support the church by prayer, presence, gifts and service was not part of the formal baptismal vows of admission to the church, but a pledge used historically in affiliating with a United Methodist congregation.
The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, said the phrase had remained the same since 1932.
There was no debate on the assembly floor on the addition of the "witness" phrase. It was reported to the full conference by a legislative committee on a consent calendar. This means there was strong support in committee and the addition was not discussed specifically by the full body of the conference.
Jay Brim, a lay delegate from Southwest Texas, called adoption of the petition to the conference's attention.
The printed rationale for the addition says:
Membership vows of The United Methodist Church do not include witness, an integral part of laity's role from earliest Methodism, in members' participation in the church's life. Because congregations repeat these vows along with new members, a pledge to "witness" will remind members to be witnesses in the community.
*Wright is the public information officer for the Board of Global Ministries.
News media contact:Linda Bloom,e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470.