UMNS = FAIL on the Constitutional Amendments

United Methodist News Service = FAIL

This morning I was reading news on the USA Today app on my iPhone when I came across this headline, Methodists defeat gay-related membership policy, with the lead sentence:

United Methodists have defeated amendments that would have made church membership open to all Christians regardless of sexual orientation and furthered the creation of a new, U.S.-only governing body, according to the denomination’s news service.

I was surprised to hear the news on the constitutional amendments first through USA Today and not from any denominational source. I was also surprised that the decision had been made so soon, I was under the impression that it would be several more months until the final tally was known as votes were still taking place around the world.

I found the article from the United Methodist News Service under the headline: U.S. conferences disapprove structure proposal. According to the statistics in this article:

  • 29% of annual conferences in the United States have not reported results of voting.
  • 67% of annual conferences in the denomination have not reported results of voting.

According to the article, “For a proposed amendment to be ratified, two-thirds of the aggregate number of voting annual conference members must approve.” The results from the US don’t matter. What matters is the entirety of votes from across the globe. Two-thirds of annual conferences in the denomination haven’t even reported their votes yet.

You have to be joking. The UMNS really published a story with data this incomplete? Unfortunately, yes.

The United Methodist News Service wrote a story too soon from one side of the story with incomplete data.

United Methodist News Service = FAIL

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25 thoughts on “UMNS = FAIL on the Constitutional Amendments

  1. The handwriting is on the wall though. The vote has been lopsided enough that there is enough data to know the outcome. I’m disappointed that so many of the amendments were politicized rather than truly considered on their merits.

      • Chuck’s messages articulated where I was coming from and the Good News link was my source. i didn’t check the numbers nearly as closely as Chuck did – I was just eyeballing it – but it looked very clear that those amendments were all going down.

  2. The amendments have been defeated. We knew on November 4, 2008 around 10 PM when Barack Obama won enough states to garner 270 electoral votes that he was our next President. We didn’t need to get the final results from Alaska or Hawaii. We didn’t need to wait until the Electoral College officially met or the Congress “opened” the ballots or even for Inauguration Day.

    Looking at the numbers, there is no way for the amendments to be adopted. The next step should be to discern what our next steps should be instead of denying the obvious.

    • Creed – Your example from the presidential elections is true. However 2/3 of annual conferences in the denomination have not reported. Where can I find the data to back up your claim that there is no way for the amendments to be adopted?

  3. Andrew, I love you, but this blog post is FAIL.

    Did you read the UMNS article? It clearly says that while they failed in the USA, the worldwide conferences haven’t voted. Nowhere does it say the amendments have failed in complete totals.

    What was FAIL was the USA Today article which was wrong.

    I blogged about the whole thing here:

    http://blog.hackingchristianity.net/2009/08/no-usa-today-um-amendments-havent-lost.html

    I realize there is no love between pastors and UMNS at times, but really this time the finger is being pointed at the wrong entity.

  4. No time for a long post but here is the deal = Given the numbers from the U.S. it is statistically impossible for any of the Amendments to pass even if the central conferences voted 100% to 0% for them. Given that the majority of the Central Conferences are much more theologically conservative than the denomination in aggregate – its is more likely you will see somethign like an 80-20 vote against most of the amendments coming out of Africa, regardless anyone who looks at the statistics realizes that not only is the handwritting ont he wall, we actually passed a point of statistical possibility once the U.S. Numbers were known. I could go into detail about that if need be but trust me, I ran the numbers very carefully and the USA today story is probably more accurate than the UMMNS story.

    • Theologically conservative they may be, but that doesn’t dictate how they will vote on the worldwide structure amendments. There are plenty who have expressed being sick of USA-centric legislation being always talked about.

      So yes, the inclusiveness amendment will probably fail; however, the worldwide nature is much more nuanced than simply a stance on gay equality.

      • Regardless, the Worldwide Nature amendments have absolutely 0 chance of passing – statistically, provably, irrefutably they cannot and will not come anywhere close to even 50%. There just arent enough votes left on the table for any of the amendments to pass. Its a done deal.

        And I suspect that you will see that the Africans in particular will reject the WWN amendments as well, thought it might be a closer vote – that will be interesting to see but everything I have heard from my friends in Africa suggests they are very opposed to the nature of the World Wide Nature amendments.

      • Chuck,

        Can you point me to the aggregate numbers of all the conference members to support your writings? Please include the unreleased numbers that no one knows and the number of remaining conference members to mathematically support that it is decided already.

      • Well here is my lunch break manifesto 🙂

        As I said i can go into detail, so i guess you want me to. Here goes:

        In 2004 there were a total of 37,000 (Give or take a few hundred) total votes cast across the entire denomination on Constitutional Amendments see this news article for verification http://bit.ly/VxTh3

        In 2000 there were an approximate total of 41,000 total votes across the entire denomination. See news article here http://bit.ly/F5Vv

        The number of total votes decreased by approximately 10 percent between 2000 and 2004 reflecting the overall decline in the church as a whole.

        Lets go out on a limb here and say that this year we will see 50,000 total votes (now I would say this is highly unlikely given the trend but it gives your case the benefit of the doubt). In order to pass any amendment could not get more than 17,000 votes. More than that would be more than the 33 percent no votes needed to defeat the 2/3 supermajority needed for passage.

        Amendment 1 already has 19,349 no votes from numbers that are in the public record – more than 2000 more than are needed to defeat the amendment.

        The WWN amendments all have slightly more than 23,000 no votes recorded in the public record – substantially more than are needed to defeat the amendments.

        Ok so you say well maybe there are 75,000 votes out there (Statistically this would mean an equal number of votes in the us as outside which is certainly not the case) In that case the numbers look like this
        25,500 no votes needed to defeat the amendments.

        Which would mean – we would need to see 37,500 votes come in that have not yet been reported. The votes would need the following percentages in order to avoid defeat:

        Amendment 1: Would need to get no more than 6,000 no votes from the 37,500 or 84 percent

        WWN Amendments would need to get no more than 2,000 votes or 94.5 percent

        So as you can see, the statistical likelihood of any of these amendments passing is infinitesimally small. I would argue that in fact the numbers may reach 50,000 because of greater interest in this debate – but given that number – the remaining votes are not enough to overcome the drastic no votes in the southeastern jurisdictions. Basically the poker term for this is Drawing Dead.

        If you want me to go into the details of why General Conference representation for the central conference is approaching 40 percent but the number of votes they receive on aggregate constitutional amendments is much smaller, I can do that – it would take another very long post however.

        Data aggregation for U.S. voting can be seen at
        http://www.goodnewsmag.org/news/17julyconstitutionalamendments.html

      • Chuck, I appreciate you taking the time to run the numbers. Most of the others just rail about progressives sticking their heads in the sand and not facing reality; instead, you took the request seriously and provided sound backing for your statements, even slanting the numbers towards the other claim.

        All in all, this comment has contributed more to the debate in the past 24 hours than UMNS and USA Today combined. Thank you.

      • (original reply hit the wrong spot, just showing that none of us are perfect) 🙂

        Jeremy, you’re the one who’s been jumping up and down about the “premature” reporting. Take care of your log before you complain about my splinter.

        Seriously, can we now expect a post from you on your blog:

        *recommending that the UMNS article be re-revised to reflect true reality instead of fantasy

        *that the Bishops should not be interfering with the reporting of the news

        *that probably it would be best if the amendments were disposed of this fall rather than waiting until the spring

        or does the “outrage” only go one way?

        Just because a lot of the numbers come from Good News doesn’t mean they’re lies. These numbers have been available for quite a while, by the way.

        Tomorrow only becomes a better day when we move His truth forward.

      • saying that the numbers should be simply kept secret until the special time of unveiling or that the annual conferences in the central conferences should go “first” (as though it is the racist, Euro-centric grand conspiracy that does the scheduling) is just going further afield.

        Reacting to the “premature” disclosure of results by delaying the “official” results doesn’t help anybody. I might have thought that would be an issue for you.

  5. Jeremy, I have to be honest and say that I don’t understand either you or Andrew’s throwing around the word “FAIL”… so I may be missing something.

    But, the UMNS changed its original story after receiving an email from Bishop Palmer. It may have been the original story which USA Today based its story on. Today’s Wesley Report links to a post which compares the original story to the revised version. The original story said: “United Methodists across the United States have defeated 23 proposed amendments…”

    I’m not sure what to do with the fact that they deleted the original story and post-dated the edited version… but that seems to be what happened… I was surprised to read your post and your criticism of Andrew’s post, because I read the original UMNS story and drew the same conclusion that USA Today did… that UMNS was saying they had been defeated.

    • Such is the nature of quick responses is that timelines get blurred. At the time of both Andrew and my writings, it was not readily mentioned that UMNS had changed their article. Andrew seemed to indicate that UMNS had told USA Today secret knowledge and was incensed. I thought USA Today had a wrong interpretation of the revised UMNS article, which was the only one I saw and nothing on that article indicated it was revised.

      So, at the end of the day, UMNS failed us by caving to the Bishops and changing the article without indication. And USA Today’s Religious News Service didn’t link to the article it referenced. And bloggers like me jumped on it without taking time out of our real-life ministry to research it. Sigh.

      By God’s grace, tomorrow will be a better day.

  6. Jeremy, you’re the one who’s been jumping up and down about the “premature” reporting. Take care of your log before you complain about my splinter. 🙂

    Seriously, can we now expect a post from you on your blog:

    *recommending that the UMNS article be re-revised to reflect true reality instead of fantasy

    *that the Bishops should not be interfering with the reporting of the news

    *that probably it would be best if the amendments were disposed of this fall rather than waiting until the spring

    or does the “outrage” only go one way?

    Just because a lot of the numbers come from Good News doesn’t mean they’re lies. These numbers have been available for quite a while, by the way.

    Tomorrow only becomes a better day when we move His truth forward.

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