Submitted by Diane Degnan
Director of Public Relations, United Methodist Communications
Des Moines, Iowa: The Rev. Gary W. Graves, Secretary of the General Conference, announced that an error was made in the text of a proposed Constitutional amendment as it was presented for voting, and which subsequently failed to pass. Amendment #1 of the five constitutional amendments that were approved by the 2016 General Conference--and which narrowly failed to be ratified--included a sentence which had been removed by the legislative body.
Graves, who became secretary on December 1, 2016, said he was made aware of the error today and immediately began to take corrective action. Graves expressed regret that the mistake occurred and said it was simply a matter of human error. “A new ballot is being prepared for voting by annual conferences at their next meeting; however, some conferences will not meet again until 2019,” said Graves.
The proposed amendments were sent via email to bishops and annual conference secretaries by the former secretary of the General Conference, the Rev. Gere Reist, who also voiced his apologies.
The sentence that should not have been included in the amendment was removed by a vote of 746-56, but was inadvertently included in the version that was distributed. That sentence reads as follows: "The United Methodist Church recognizes it is contrary to Scripture and to logic to say that God is male or female, as maleness and femaleness are characteristics of human bodies and cultures, not characteristics of the divine."
The text as approved by the General Conference should have read: “As the Holy Scripture reveals, both men and women are made in the image of God and, therefore, men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God. The United Methodist Church acknowledges the long history of discrimination against women and girls. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of women’s and girl's equality and well-being.”
The proposed Constitutional amendment, which would have created a new paragraph focused on gender justice, was approved by 31,304 voters (66.5%), as opposed to 15,753 "no" votes. A two-thirds majority is required for passage.