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United Methodists head to the polls

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United Methodists should review what General Conference has said in the Book of Resolutions as they reflect on the issues facing our state and nation and the candidates who run for office.

Michigan Conference Communications

When was the last time you read the Book of Resolutions? Most United Methodists hardly know it exists; in fact, the Book of Resolutions acknowledges that “it is not a book that you will sit down to read from cover to cover.” But an election season might be a good time to consult the book.

The Book of Resolutions (BOR) includes the official statements of The United Methodist Church on over 200 topics. It is the voice of General Conference, the only body which can truly speak for the denomination. It is not church law, but it provides “guides and models for helping United Methodist members and groups relate a lively biblical faith to action in daily life . . . [and resource] materials . . . about United Methodist concerns on current social issues” (BOR—2016, p. 21).

So what does this have to do with the polls?

Since United Methodist membership includes a broad diversity of thought and experience, General Conference and the Book of Resolutions do not tell United Methodists how to vote. However, the church does believe that “the church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust” (BOR—2016, p. 472).

The Book of Resolutions goes on to say, “We recognize that churches exist within the body politic . . . . [Their] existence affects, and is affected by, governments. We believe that churches have the right and the duty to speak and act corporately on those matters of public policy that involve basic moral or ethical issues and questions” (BOR—2016, p. 486). In that light, United Methodists may want to consider what General Conference has said as they reflect on the issues before the nation and the candidates who run for office. Here are a few of the resolutions addressing critical issues facing our nation as United Methodists go to the polls here in Michigan.


“Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers. . . . We oppose the use of late-term abortion . . . except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. . . . The Church shall offer ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies. . . . We mourn and are committed to promoting the diminishment of high abortion rates. . . . Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved” (BOR—2016, pp. 87-88).

Global Climate Stewardship

“We acknowledge the global impact of humanity’s disregard for God’s creation. Rampant industrialization and the corresponding increase in the use of fossil fuels have led to a buildup of pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere. These ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions threaten to alter dramatically the earth’s climate for generations to come . . . . We therefore support efforts of all governments to require mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and call on individuals, congregations, businesses, industries, and communities to reduce their emissions” (BOR—2016, p. 41).

Health Care for All

“The United Methodist Church is committed to health care for all in the United States, and therefore advocates for a comprehensive health-care delivery system that includes access for all, quality care, and effective management of costs” (BOR—2016, p. 242).

Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S.

“The United Methodist Church understands that at the center of Christian faithfulness to Scripture is the call we have been given to love and welcome the sojourner. We call upon all United Methodist churches to welcome newly arriving migrants in their communities, to love them as we do ourselves . . .  and to show hospitality to migrants in our midst, believing that through their presence we are receiving the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . The United Methodist Church is urged to advocate for the comprehensive reform of the US immigration system” (BOR—2016, pp. 287, 291).

Call to End Gun Violence

“As followers of Jesus . . . we must address the epidemic of gun violence . . . . Therefore, we call upon United Methodists to prayerfully address gun violence in their local context. . . . United Methodist congregations [should] advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence. Some of those measures include: Universal background checks on all gun purchases . . . Prohibiting individuals convicted of violent crimes from purchasing a gun for a fixed time period . . .  Prohibiting individuals under restraining order due to threat of violence from purchasing a gun . . . Prohibiting individuals with serious mental illness, who pose a danger to themselves and their communities, from purchasing a gun . . . Banning large-capacity ammunition magazines and weapons designed to fire multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled . . . Promoting new technologies to aid law-enforcement agencies to trace crime guns and promote public safety” (BOR—2016, pp. 394-395).

Basic Freedoms and Human Rights

“We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to free and fair elections and to the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, communications media, and petition for redress of grievances without fear of reprisal” (BOR—2016, p. 471).

All United Methodists will not agree on every issue. Still, all United Methodists can agree that candidates should exhibit personal integrity and model the values that reflect our nation’s best. Truth-telling, character, and personal morality are essential attributes of a healthy society, including those who seek public office. United Methodists may differ on political parties, but all can agree that hate speech and mean-spirited rhetoric undermine the call of Jesus to love our neighbor.

In 1750, John Wesley recognized the diversity of thought among Christians and offered the call to “unite in love.” In his sermon “Catholic Spirit,” he said, “And it is certain, so long as we know but in part, that all men will not see all things alike. . . . Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question, ‘Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?’”

Or, in the words of the great Methodist missionary-evangelist of the previous century, E. Stanley Jones, “Here we enter a fellowship. Sometimes we will agree to differ; always we will resolve to love and unite to serve.” May it be true among United Methodists as we go to the polls this fall.

Editorial note: Quotations from the Book of Resolutions are abbreviated. Copies in digital and print forms are available from www.cokesbury.com.

Last Updated on November 2, 2022

The Michigan Conference