Five Changes Made to the UB Constitution

The 2007 US National Conference, meeting on June 1 in Huron, Ohio, gave official approval to five changes to the Constitution. All five proposed changes, called referenda, were advanced by the 2005 US National Conference and voted upon by members of all UB churches in the United States during February 2007.

Each referendum received at least 90% of the votes cast. Here are the complete results:

Votes Cast Yes No % Yes
Referendum 1: Preamble 5,599 5,227 373 93%
Referendum 2: Delegates 5,611 5,046 565 90%
Referendum 3: Duties 5,604 5,110 494 91%
Referendum 4: Election of Bishop 5,604 5,142 462 92%
Referendum 5: Amendments 5,586 5,219 367 93%

The delegates responded by giving their assent with comparable percentages (a two-thirds vote is needed to make a referendum official).

The ramifications of these referenda are:

1. Referendum 1 removed some language from the preamble which the new structure adopted in 2005 makes obsolete (specifically, reference to annual conferences).

2. Referendum 2 gives voting status to all national conference ministers, whether they are actively serving or not (this year, only ministers who were “active”–which was interpreted as “employed as UB ministers”–could be voting delegates). It also removed the requirement that a lay delegate be a UB members for at least five years, and that they be elected as lay delegates. That presented a problem for churches which are newly organized (they wouldn’t be able to send lay delegates), and for churches which would prefer to appoint lay delegates, rather than have an election.

So in 2009, any minister currently holding a national conference license (which includes the specialized ministries license) can come as a voting delegate, whether or not that person is actively serving (or even attending) a United Brethren church. And churches will be able to select lay delegates in any way they choose.

3. Referendum 3 removed three “Duties” of the US National Conference which, under our structure which no longer has annual conferences, have become obsolete–setting the boundaries of annual conferences, how business in annual conferences is conducted, and voting rights of ministers in annual conferences. The three duties being removed are:

  • The national conference shall define the boundaries of the annual conferences.
  • The business of each annual conference shall be done strictly according to Discipline; and any conference acting contrary there unto shall, by impeachment, be tried by the national conference.
  • There shall no rule be made that will deprive local ministers of their votes in the annual conferences to which they severally belong.

4. Referendum 4 removes the requirement that each national conference elect a bishop. Now, bishops will be elected to four-year terms. The line says: “The national conference shall elect one or more bishops from among the elders throughout the church who have stood six years in that capacity.” The four-year term provision was added in the bylaws, which can be changed without a vote of the entire constituency.

5. Referendum 5 deals with how we make amendments to the Constitution. The previous wording required that voting for delegates and referenda occur at the same time. But since ministers are automatically delegates, and since churches have the option of choosing lay delegates, this item is out of date. And so, the new wording merely requires that referenda be voted on by “all members of US National Conference churches,” and then passed along to the conference delegates for final approval. So we keep the same basic system, but remove one major conflict.

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