Playing inside the box

In the wake of the Judicial Council’s decision tossing out the General Conference’s attempt to get rid of guaranteed appointment, it appears that those who want to both remain within United Methodism and reinvigorate it are going to have to get more familiar with the Restrictive Rules in our Constitution. It was on the basis of these that guaranteed appointment was upheld.

In case you have not read your UMC Constitution recently, these are the Restrictive Rules.

Article I — The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine.

Article II — The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Confession of Faith.

Article III — The General Conference shall not change or alter any part or rule of our government so as to do away with episcopacy or destroy the plan of our itinerant general superintendency.

Article IV — The General Conference shall not do away with the privileges of our clergy of right to trial by a committee and of an appeal; neither shall it do away with the privileges of our members of right to trial before the church, or by a committee, and of an appeal.

Article V — The General Conference shall not revoke or change the General Rules of Our United Societies.

Article VI — The General Conference shall not appropriate the net income of the publishing houses, the book concerns, or the Chartered Fund to any purpose other than for the benefit of retired or disabled preachers, their spouses, widows, or widowers, and children or other beneficiaries of the ministerial pension system.

To change any of these rules requires a three-quarters majority vote of the General Conference and of the members of the annual conferences. This is an impossible hurdle to get over, I suspect.

I am not much of a systems thinker and certainly not an organizational genius, so I pray that someone who is can help us discern our way to be the church of Jesus Christ within the boundaries of these rules.