On the Road to General Conference:
Charter for Racial Justice Policies
Before General Conference
by Dana E. Jones
When the United
Conference meets in May, delegates will be
asked to reaffirm the Charter for
Racial Justice Policies. The charter is
among a number of resolutions that will expire if not approved
for continuance by the General Conference.
This years General Conference marks the first
conference impacted by action of the 1988 conference that called
for expiration of resolutions after 12 years unless reaffirmed by
the conference. Known as the "Sunset" measure, the
12-year rule applies this year to resolutions approved in 1988 or
before that have remained in the Book of
The charter, which is at the heart of the Womens
Division racial-justice work, was first approved by the 1980
General Conference. The charter, however, has existed much
longer. The first version was adopted by the Womans
Division of Christian Service of The Methodist Church in 1952.
The Womens Council of the Evangelical United Brethren
Church voted action on racial justice, including a call for
school desegregation, in 1955.
The charter was updated in 1962 and 1978 by the
Womens Division then sent as a resolution to the 1980
General Conference, which adopted it as churchwide policy.
Presentation of the charter to the 2000 General
Conference provides an opportunity for United Methodist Women to
again share its current and historic commitment to racial
The charters roots are in a 1941 policy of the
Womans Division of Christian Service of The Methodist
Church. That policy required "holding meetings only in
places where all members of its groups can be entertained without
any form of racial discrimination."
That policy lead the division to move the 1942
Assembly from St. Louis, Mo., to Columbus, Ohio, because hotels
in St. Louis refused to house African-American women.
The resolution that endorses the charter and is
entitled "A Charter for Racial Justice Policies in an
Interdependent Global Community" is one of 12 resolutions
that was approved before or during 1988 that the General Board of
Global Ministries is asking General Conference to reaffirm. Two
others also address issues of racial justice:
- "Prejudice Against Muslims and Arabs in the
USA," 1988. United Methodists are called to oppose
labeling of Muslims and Arabs negatively; to counter
stereotypical, bigoted statements against Muslims, Islam,
Arabs and Arabic culture; to include Arabs and Muslims in
interfaith and community organizations; and to pray for
community among all peoples.
- "Affirming a Diversity of Language Usage in
the United States and Opposing a Constitutional Amendment
Making English the Official Language," 1988. This
resolution recognizes the right of people to retain and
speak their native languages and the contribution this
makes to the diverse U.S. culture. It includes opposition
to legislation that would make English the official U.S.
language because such measures would make English the
exclusive language thus disenfranchising citizens. The
"We oppose the English-only movement as a
manifestation of the sin of racism."
Three resolutions address concerns of indigenous
peoples in the United States:
- "The United Methodist Church and
Americas Native People," 1980. United
Methodists are called to repent of the churchs role
in seeking to assimilate native peoples into western
culture in ways that have robbed them of land and
resources. United Methodists are directed to study the
issues facing American Indians and Native Alaskans and
Hawaiians, and to support such things as American Indian
nations right to exercise sovereignty, the right of
Alaska Natives to maintain a subsistence land base and
rights to natural resources, and Native Hawaiians
right to a just settlement with the United States to
title to lands and resources.
- "Indian Lands Used by The United Methodist
Church," 1988. This resolution says: "The
General Conference directed that the General Board of
Global Ministries develop a comprehensive study and
report on the use by The United Methodist Church of
American Indian Lands for mission purposes since 1784, in
consultation with the Native American International
Caucus and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference; and
that the board report include the intended disposition of
any unused land."
- "Comity Agreements Affecting Development of
Native American Ministries by The United Methodist
Church," 1980. This resolution prevents The United
Methodist Church from participating in
interdenominational agreements that limit the ability of
annual conferences to develop and resource ministries
among Native American peoples.
Two of the resolutions define denominational stands
related to China:
- "United States-China Political
Relations," 1984. United Methodists are urged to
understand the importance to world peace for the
Peoples Republic of China and the United States to
seek peace and stability in Asia, especially Southeast
Asia. The resolution says the church remains concerned
about human rights of people in China and Taiwan, and
encourages a peaceful approach to relations between those
- "United States Church - China Church
Relations," 1984. This resolution, which outlines
the approach of the United Methodist China Program,
affirms the Chinese churchs declaration that it is
in a "post-denominational era," and calls on
United Methodists to support the Protestant Three-Self
Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council, which
affirm Chinese Christians direction as
self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating.
Other resolutions being resubmitted by the General
Board of Global Ministries include:
- "Organ and Tissue Transplant," 1984.
United Methodists are encouraged to become organ and
tissue donors by signing and carrying cards or
drivers licenses attesting to their commitment to
have their organs donated in the event of their deaths.
- "Nuclear-Free Pacific," 1984. The
United Methodist Church is asked to continue to oppose
and condemn use of the Pacific for nuclear testing,
storage, transportation and waste disposal.
- "Use of Church Facilities by Community
Groups," 1970. Local churches are encouraged to
provide space to community groups and social-service
- "In Support of Self-Determination and
Nonintervention," 1988. This resolution calls for
denominational support of U.N. policies and actions to
assist peoples of the world, particularly developing
nations, to achieve self-determination. It includes such
things as opposition to interventions by powerful nations
against weaker nations, opposition to clandestine
operations, and support of multilateral diplomatic
efforts and increased contacts between peoples of various
nations. It also supports U.N. and regional policies and
actions that isolate and quarantine nations that defy
Book of Resolutions
All resolutions passed by General Conference are
published in the Book of Resolutions,
which is updated following each General Conference. The
resolutions address social-justice issues facing our society,
nationally and internationally, and must be in keeping with the
denominations Social Principles, which are printed in The
United Methodist Book of Discipline and the
Book of Resolutions.
Resolutions are organized by the six categories of the
- The natural world,
- The nurturing community,
- The social community,
- The economic community,
- The political commuity, and
- The world community.
United Methodist Women has long been active in setting
and implementing the social policy of the denomination. Members
are encouraged to follow General Conference action; to be
advocates for resolutions that address the welfare of women,
children and youth; and to design programs that educate and
involve women of the church in working for justice.
Dana E. Jones is editor of Response.