|United Methodists Will Now Promise To "Witness" When Becoming Members|
by Elliott Wright*
Fort Worth, TX, April 30, 2008--Persons joining United Methodist churches in the future will promise to be faithful in "their witness" as well as their "prayers, their presence, their gifts, and their service."
The witness phrase, which highlights the mission and evangelistic responsibility of church membership, was added to the part of the liturgy used when individuals make their professions of membership. The addition was made by the United Methodist General Conference, which meets every four years to conduct the business of the denomination.
The phrase promising to support the church by prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness is not part of the formal baptismal vows of admission to the church, but is a historical pledge in affiliation with a United Methodist congregation.
Dr. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources for the General Board of Discipleship, said that this phrase had remained the same since 1932.
United Methodist liturgies are not usually revised in a piecemeal manner on the floor of General Conference. Historically, liturgical changes are made by commissions or other units that present carefully considered drafts for study and eventual adoption.
There was no debate in the plenary session about the "witness" phrase. It was reported to the full conference by a legislative committee on a consent calendar, which means there was strong support in the committee and the addition was not discussed specifically by the full body of the conference.
A lay delegate rose as a matter of personal privilege to call attention to the petition.
The printed rationale for the addition stated:
*Elliott Wright is the public information officer of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: May 01, 2008