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Liberals on United Methodist Judicial Council Disenfranchise African Churches

"The decision to under-represent the Ivory Coast during General Conference 2008 shows bias against the fast-growing African churches' conservative stances." --IRD Director of UM Action Mark Tooley


Contact: Loralei Coyle 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, lcoyle@ird-renew.org; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton, jwalton@ird-renew.org; both with The Institute on Religion and Democracy


WASHINGTON, May 4 /Christian Newswire/ -- The at least 600,000 member Ivory Coast United Methodist conference will be permitted only two delegates to the United Methodist Church's governing General Conference in 2008, due to a ruling this week from United Methodism's highest court.


United Methodism's prohibitions against actively homosexual clergy and same-sex unions have been vigorously enforced by the Judicial Council's conservative majority, most of whom are up for reelection in 2008. African United Methodism strongly support those prohibitions. There are under 8 million United Methodists in the U.S. and over 2 million in Africa.


Five of the Judicial Council's conservative members voted for Ivory Coast, while the three liberals voted against. A two-thirds majority of six was needed. But the council's one African member was unable to attend. As an elected official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he was prohibited from traveling at the time.


With full representation, Ivory Coast United Methodists would have gotten up to 80 delegates to the 2008 General Conference. There are nearly 1,000 delegates representing 11 million United Methodists around the world. The Ivory Coast will not get full representation until the 2012 General Conference.


The previously autonomous, and British-founded, Ivory Coast Methodist Church was accepted into the U.S.-based United Methodist Church at the 2004 General Conference. This is the second time that the Judicial Council has examined whether the church's constitution allows denying Ivory Coast its full delegate strength. At their Fall 2006 meeting, four conservatives voted for Ivory Coast, while three liberals voted against it. The reconsideration at the Spring meeting occurred to allow the previously absent members to vote. But the African member once again was unable to attend, and no alternate was available.


IRD Director of UM Action Mark Tooley commented,


"The three liberals on the Judicial Council that voted against Ivory Coast are the same three who have opposed enforcement of the church's teachings about marriage and homosexuality. They well know that delegates from the Ivory Coast will vote against the liberal agenda on sexuality issues.


"An increase in delegates from the Ivory Coast would correspond with a further decrease in delegates from other conferences – mostly the liberal areas whose memberships are plunging. The liberal members on the Judicial Council refused to let that happen.


"United Methodism's almost only growth has come from the evangelistic zeal of African churches. These African churches are entitled to full representation within the church's governing bodies.


"The decision to under-represent the Ivory Coast during General Conference 2008 results results from bias against the fast-growing African church's conservative stances."