The 2016 General Conference passed the proposed constitutional amendment to Paragraph 4, Article IV which adds 'gender', 'age', 'marital status', and 'ability' to the non-discriminatory clause in the membership section of The United Methodist Church's constitution. The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) submitted the legislation to add 'gender' and 'age' to the paragraph. 'Marital status' and 'ability' were added into the proposed amendment during legislative committees.
For the amendment to be adopted, 2/3 of voting United Methodist annual conference members must pass the legislation. Annual conferences will vote on this proposed constitutional amendment starting Spring 2017.
Senior Director of Education and Leadership, Rev. Leigh Goodrich, points to how this amendment protects individuals from being discriminated against in membership from a local church based on their gender, marital status, age and ability. "Once an individual becomes a member, they are welcome to participate in the life, worship and governance of the church," Goodrich stated. "That means that a member of the church may attend the church picnic, participate in Sunday morning worship, or be a member of the Staff Parish Relations Committee."
"At the same time," Goodrich continued, "the amendment is written to continue to allow special interest groups in the Church structure that minister to the unique needs of men, women, youth, singles, couples, and other groups."
The term 'gender' is used in The United Methodist Book of Discipline over 70 times and in the Book of Resolutions 130 times. Each time, 'gender' refers to the fair treatment of men and women in the Church. "It is used in the same way in this legislation, to prohibit discriminating against a man or woman who would like to become a member of The United Methodist Church," said Goodrich.
During their October organizing meeting, GCSRW's Board of Directors put their support behind Paragraph 4, Article IV. The board members developed strategies for annual conferences with the goal of passing the constitutional amendment.
"The new language for Paragraph 4, Article IV brings our United Methodist Constitution and the life of the Church closer to the values of the Kingdom of God expressed in Scripture," GCSRW board member Rev. Bob Zilhaver stated. "Namely, that both genders bear the image of God, 'So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.' (Genesis 1:27 NRSV) In the Kingdom of God, all are equally children of God and heirs of the promise."
"One of the things that I love about being United Methodist is that we are a Church that values people," GCSRW board member Rev. Mark Norman of Arkansas stated. "Our Church is intentionally mindful of being the ministry with diverse groups of individuals. I support Paragraph 4, Article IV because it highlights our rich Methodist heritage-a legacy filled with the ministry that uplifts all of God's diverse creation."
Paragraph 4, Article IV has its own section on GCSRW's website, providing fact sheets, strategies and a promotional video to be utilized by individuals to promote the amendment's passing in annual conferences. To learn more information about Paragraph 4, Article IV and to access these resources, please visit our Paragraph 4 webpage.
GCSRW also will hold a webinar on the proposed amendment at 2 p.m. CST on Tuesday, April 4. To join the meeting, click this link. If you are unable to attend this webinar, we will be recording it and sharing it on our YouTube channel.
Jenn Meadows serves as communications director for the General Commission on Status and Role of Women.