I know the debate on changing paragraph 4 of the Book of Discipline.
But I was reading my 2004 Book of Discipline this evening and found paragraph 214, which is about eligibility for church membership. Here is what its says: “All people may attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacrements and become members in any local church in the connection.”
Paragraph 215 explains that to become a member you have to be baptized and profess your faith. Later paragraphs explain means of accountabilty for members who do not live in accord with their vows.
You will notice that the pernicious langauge of “all” without modifiers is already there in the Book of Discipline in paragraph 214.
So, what gives here? Is the key issue not the language about membership? It seems the BOD already has very broad language about who can become members.
Is the real debate about the last sentence in paragrph 4? It is there – it seems – that the change in language changes the meaning.
Here is the current last sentence of paragraph 4.
In the United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constiuent body of the Church because of race, color, national orign, status or economic condition.
Here is the sentence if amended.
In the United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body.
By dropping the last clause, you do seem to change significantly the meaning of the entire sentence. The first version is designed to protect certain classes of people. The second sentence say no “member” can be excluded. Each individual member suddenly becomes a protected class that cannot by excluded by “the structure” of any organizational unit of the UMC.
That does seem rather broad and open to some unforseen consequences. As a member, I want to serve on an annual conference commitee. If I am told I cannot because there are only 12 seats on that committee, does the new language of paragraph 4 give me a right to appeal?
We already have lots of contending sides politicking and campaigning. I’d be interested in some dispassionate and objective legal advice. What does the new language really mean? What might it lead to? I’m not really interested in the RMN and Confessing take on these questions. I’m looking for what I’m told we should have – infromation.