At this General Conference, the need for more change about our worldwide nature has become very apparent to more and more people. The increased number of Central Conference delegates and their desire for greater inclusion is the way of the future. We can no longer behave like we are a United States Church with a few, small foreign outposts. Until we make some significant adjustments, we will be faced with confusion and difficulties. That has become more apparent this time.
I am still convinced that the constitutional amendments defeated in 2010 are the right way forward. Several delegates who opposed their approval have come to me this week and said they have changed their minds. They now see the wisdom of the way forward proposed by the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table.
This General Conference has approved two small but significant steps forward and received a global model for conversation.
The first step is the adoption of a Covenant. The Study Committee hopes this covenant will shape our hearts and minds and will bring greater mutual understanding and respect. There is a litany that can be used in annual conferences, central conferences, jurisdictional conferences and local churches. The more we ponder these words, the more our awareness will be raised.
The second step was the adoption of a proposal that has been called a Global Book of Discipline. Petition 20407 is actually a first step toward that goal. As amended, it says that parts I-IV are not subject to adaptation by Central Conferences. The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, in consultation with the Committee on Faith and Order, will bring suggestions about which paragraphs of part V are to be listed here. Once that list is complete, it would be possible to publish a global Book of Discipline. It is also possible that Parts I-IV could be published in other languages immediately, and I have heard some ideas floated for that purpose.
Part I is the Constitution. Part II is Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task. Part III is the Ministry of All Christians. Part IV is the Social Principles.
The third step is contained in our report on pages 1276-77 of the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate, volume 2 section 2. It is a global model for the future. The Study Committee believes that it is premature to act on this model, but we hope that the Global Book of Discipline and more conversation will prepare the way for action in 2016.