Church & Society

Church and Society Board recommends major revision of United Methodist Social Principles

Consultations among United Methodists in settings around the world contributed to the proposed revised Social Principles being sent to General Conference 2020 by the General Board of Church and Society. Photo by Jay Malin, UMNS
Consultations among United Methodists in settings around the world contributed to the proposed revised Social Principles being sent to General Conference 2020 by the General Board of Church and Society. Photo by Jay Malin, UMNS

WASHINGTON — The board of directors of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church recommended Friday a new version of the Social Principles to the 2020 General Conference.

This vote was the culmination of seven years of work.

General Secretary Susan Henry-Crowe said, “I am incredibly pleased that the culmination of two quadrennia of work is finally accomplished. We, as Christians, believe that Christ calls us to live out our faith in the world by seeking justice and pursuing peace. The Social Principles have long been a part of how we as United Methodists express that deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ.”

The 2012 General Conference requested Church and Society research how the Social Principles are used throughout the denomination. Drawing from that research, the 2016 General Conference called on Church and Society to rewrite the Social Principles.

Three of the main goals of the revision were to craft a version of the Social Principles that is more deeply theologically rooted, more succinct and more globally relevant.

To that end, nearly 100 people have served on the Social Principles Task Force, six writing teams and an editorial team. Each of these people brought unique and diverse perspectives. Members of the writing teams were selected to ensure geographic, theological, political, and life experience diversity.

The Rev. Dr. Mary Elizabeth Moore, dean of the Boston University School of Theology and the chair of the editorial team, said, “This is the most comprehensive effort to listen to the church across the globe and to wrestle with challenging, prophetic issues that I have every witnessed. All of the teams engaged in an impressive amount of holy conferencing. Each of us shared experiences in our lives and contexts to explain our diverse views. We listened deeply, and we laughed and cried with one another. We struggled to discern how God is calling us to be in the world today, to witness and work toward compassion, justice and peace. God was present, and it is was a truly holy experience.”

In addition to the nearly 100 people who helped to write and edit the new draft, listening sessions were held in annual conferences, theological schools and regional gatherings throughout The United Methodist Church. More than 1,500 people participated in these public conversations. Church and society also conducted an open online survey to collect responses to an earlier draft. More than 3,000 people responded to that survey.

Dr. Randal Miller, vice president of Church and Society’s board, chaired the task force. He said, “With 12 million members around the world, it would be impossible to write a document with which every single member of the denomination agreed. One of the great joys of this process, however, was working through our differences and finding common ground. We waded through the comments and the responses and tried our best to find language that truly reflected the diversity of belief and experience within The United Methodist Church.”

The task force’s role was to oversee the writing and editorial process and to make final edits before presenting the draft to Church and Society’s board.

The revised Social Principles now contain four main sections:
— The Community of All Creation
— The Economic Community
— The Social Community
— The Political Community

Church and Society will release the proposed Social Principles in the coming weeks after it has been translated into multiple languages. The proposal then goes to the 2020 General Conference for consideration.

Originally published by Church and Society April 26, 2019. Warren Gill is the Interim Director of Communication for Church and Society.