Paragraph 4, Article 4: A pastor and a mother shares her passion about an amendment to the UMC Constitution

It was September of 2002, I was so excited I was having a baby – a New Year’s baby, just having learned it was a boy. We were so excited!

Then reality hit, and it hit hard. At just 23 weeks into my pregnancy my body began to give birth, thankfully my doctors held it off for eight days. At just 24 weeks (16 weeks premature) my son, Jacob, was born. He weighed in at 645 grams.

A long hard road was before us. Ninety-five days later, just days before his actual due date, Jacob came home. Yet the road was not over. Now 14+ years later I am still on that journey. Jacob is not a “normal” kid; he has Cerebral Palsy and is on the autism spectrum. Yet the joy and faith that Jacob has encourage me every day!

Why do I tell you all this? Because we have the opportunity this year at Annual Conference to make sure that no pastor can tell Jacob that he cannot be a member of a United Methodist congregation.

How can we do this? Finally, after years of trying, at the 2016 General Conference, a change was approved for the Constitution of The United Methodist Church in Paragraph 4, Article IV. Now all Annual Conferences of the denomination, including Detroit and West Michigan, must vote on that change. Every amendment to the UMC Constitution must be approved by 2/3 of all votes cast at Annual and Central Conferences around the world.

I faithfully serve as pastor at Hope UMC in Flint and I serve on the Detroit Conference Board of Justice, Advocacy and Equity, which includes Church and Society, Disability Concerns and Status and Role of Women. In November of 2016, I had the privilege of representing both Detroit and West Michigan at the quadrennial planning meeting for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW). Much of the focus of that meeting was the hoped-for passage of Paragraph 4, Article IV.

I am writing today to encourage you to learn about and vote in favor of the change to Paragraph 4, Article IV and to encourage others to do so as well. There is a simple one-page information sheet that I invite every lay and clergy member to look at and study. Click here to find it. Also, I hope you will view and share the video produced by GCSRW, UMW and others to help us understand the amendment.

At General Conference, the words of ability, gender, age, and marital status were added to the list of protected status for membership.

Without the protection such an amendment would afford, a church could bar Jacob from membership, just because he is disabled. Or a conference could be created that says you must have a certain marital status, or a board could be formed that barred woman from serving. While most of us cannot imagine any of these things happening, we need to take this step to assure that they cannot.

Please join me in protecting Jacob and others from discrimination within our church structure. Please note that all of these words are the language that is consistent with the rest of The Book of Discipline.

While we gather together for the vote on June 3, I hope Detroit and West Michigan will pass Paragraph 4, Article IV unanimously.

This blog post originally was shared on the Michigan Area Annual Conference's blog. It is being shared with permission. To view the original post, please click here.

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