GC2016 rejects Rule 44 after long debate

The Rev. Patricia Farris, a clergy delegate from the California-Pacific annual conference, speaks to the United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore., on May 12. Farris spoke against adoption of Rule 44, which would have introduced small group discussions for sensitive issues. The proposed rule was not approved. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

The Rev. Patricia Farris, a clergy delegate from the California-Pacific annual conference, speaks to the United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore., on May 12. Farris spoke against adoption of Rule 44, which would have introduced small group discussions for sensitive issues. The proposed rule was not approved.

In the wake of a tense meeting filled with much rancor, the 2012 General Conference of the UMC (meeting in Tampa, FL) directed the Commission on General Conference (CGC) to come up with another means of conferencing. Many felt that the conference long-standing parliamentary procedure based largely on Roberts Rules of Order simply wasn’t working. There was a desire to develop an alternative discernment process, although no one exactly knew what that process might look like. So the conference directed the Commission to study the issue and bring a proposal back to the 2016 conference, scheduled to meet in Portland, OR.

That proposal would ultimately become known as Rule 44 — simply because that was the next number in line following the 43 other rules of the conference. And today, four years after the Tampa conference asked for it; the 2016 General Conference rejected it by a 122 vote margin.

The road to rejection was rocky, taking many hours over the first three days of the conference. The concerns were many. For some, the worry was that the Rule 44 process (which involved a small group discussion format) might not be a safe place for open and honest sharing. For others, there was a feeling that the process put the ultimate decision-making process in the hands of too few participants, and that the process could be used to undermine traditional legislative procedures.

CGC chair Judi Kenaston continued to remind delegates that the rule could be applied to ANY legislation. But, the Commission’s announced intention – asking the General Conference to use Rule 44 for consideration of human sexuality related petitions – led many delegates to interpret Rule 44 as ultimately being created for that work alone, placing them outside the normal process. Ultimately the concerns were too great for the majority, and they voted to cast aside the proposal.

There were signs of the outcome early on. An initial challenge was whether the vote on Rule 44 would be subject to the provisions of Rule 42, which says that amendments or changes to the rule require three-quarters of the delegate votes, or whether it was part of the original rules report and subject to an easier majority vote. Presiding Bishop Hope Morgan Ward told the conference that her interpretation was the latter, but her decision was challenged by Ed Tomlinson of the North Georgia Annual Conference. The body agreed with Tomlinson and voted that the requirement for passage would be a three-quarter majority.

Later the Rev. Patricia Farris of the Cal-Pac Annual Conference made a motion to refer Rule 44 back to the Commission for further work with the hopes of bringing it to the 2020 General Conference. A heated debate ensued, with some suggesting that the current rules of order were dysfunctional and unhelpful to the Conference, while others said the Rule 44 process simply wasn’t ready for prime-time. 363 votes rejected the proposal to refer.

The debate was made more difficult by a new system for queuing persons wishing to speak which more often than not seemed to confuse the process rather than enhance it.

In the end, it seems that the first three days of General Conference have revealed the deep divide in the United Methodist Church. The days ahead will be interesting indeed.


Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and MethoBlog.com. Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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10 Comments on "GC2016 rejects Rule 44 after long debate"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Paul W.
Jay, this is an open letter to your team covering GC: I know you all are working long hours and your sentiments are firmly on the progressive side, but please realize that this is being reflected loud and clear in both your reporting and commentaries. As of now, I’ve learned nothing more from UMR than what is being covered both in more detail and with much less bias on the UMC site. I know your team can do better and desires to do better. Examples: 1) Your Rule 44 debate coverage didn’t even touch on the details and issues that… Read more »

Liberal bias has always been a problem here. It’s no less infuriating, but it’s something I’ve gotten used to.

Eric Pone
Look you are just spinning to cast the ultra right conservatives in a better light. I feel like I am being held hostage by folks fignting over whether I will be forced to adhere to a rigid value system.(by both the right and the left) The ultra right has won and we can expect a lot of pastors and congregations to leave. I just get tired of each side (left and right) writing in to justify conscious organized disunity excercises and accusing people who are just trying to report the news as biased. Writing is a biased art, which is… Read more »
Charles Harrison

Paul W.,

Respectfully we stand by our coverage and what we have produced. There are many many sides and we are inviting many folks from various sides to express opinions through the various formats. Your statements are somewhat less than factual of our coverage and your assumption seems to be that everyone will respond with statements from their side of any particular issue.

If our site fails to meet your needs, we encourage you to stick with those other sites that meet your needs.


I watched the proceedings, There was not so much a divide, as there was homosexuals trying to “muscle” their way into recognition. And I speak as a former gay who Jesus saved from such a sinful life.

Eric Pone

I just want to make sure that Alchohol consumers and smokers are the next folks to be persecuted by the church as well. I just to ensure that we completely enforce the book of discipline on all. So anyone that drinks or smokes should be the next on the list to persecute and strip of orders.

Richard F Hicks

The Rule 44 change was a cowards way out. It is like the US Congress having voice votes. Both set of elected folks were sent to make the tough choices – even if it ends their respective political careers. If you can’t vote with the big dogs, stay under the porch. Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

Eric Pone

Well folks this is the end of the UMC. IT will split by liberal conservative or the the conservatives will simply force the liberals to buy in or leave which they will do. I don’t see a path to unity at this point. Shame. It was a good run.

Joe Openshaw
Jay, the UMC at GC2016 is doing everything it can to push me out of the United Methodist Church. From the tone of this debate, to the refusal to allow Vicki Flippin to deliver her opening welcome because she wanted to welcome the LGBT community, to a rejection of a petition about bullying in sub committee (that is identical to one passed here in North Alabama, a very conservative Annual Conference), they are sending a very clear message that LGBT persons are not welcome, we are not cared about, that families can reject and bully their gay children, and that… Read more »
Eric Pone

Joe the decisions have already been made. It is just being formally adopted at GC. This was never about conferencing but about reinforcing order to keep the larger conservative congregations in the US and the African churches from leaving thus messing with the Budget and this is what it comes down to.This isn’t about God or Jesus but money plain and simple.

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