A question about the current Discipline’s “Historical Statement”

In some ways today is especially appropriate to ask a question about the current Discipline‘s “Historical Statement”. (In remembering Pearl Harbor, we also need to remember that the conflicts leading to the Second World War started before the United States entered the war.)

My question in this post is simple, but it requires a little background.

The General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) has on its website this page, which contains material “reprinted from an out-of-print book, A Brief History of The United Methodist Church, published in 1999″. The page states, “The text of the ‘Historical Statement’ is from The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2008, pages 9-20. Copyright © 1996 The United Methodist Publishing House. All rights reserved. Used by permission.”

I just noticed that the “Historical Statement” contained is not the Historical Statement from the 2008 Discipline. The difference I just noticed is understandable. The section “Developments and Changes Since 1968” in the 2008 Discipline contains an additional sentence after “A Spanish language hymnal, Mil Voces Para Celebrar, was published in 1996.” The additional sentence in the 2008 Discipline is, “A Korean language hymnal, Come, Let Us Worship: The Korean-English United Methodist Hymnal, was published in 2000.” This additional sentence obviously couldn’t have been included in the 1996 Discipline. It would have been describing a future event. I could raise questions based solely on this additional sentence, but I won’t because there’s a more basic question I want to ask.

The material at GBOD says that the Historical Statement from the Discipline was approved by the 1996 General Conference. It also says that the last major revision of the “Historical Statement” was approved in 1992.

My question is simple: where in the 1992 Journal and/or the 1996 Journal did the General Conference approve the “Historical Statement”? For convenience, I link to both journals below:

1992 ADCA: https://archive.org/details/journallouisville01unit

1992 DCA: https://archive.org/details/journallouisville02unit

1996 ADCA: https://archive.org/details/journaldenver01unit

1996 DCA: https://archive.org/details/journaldenver02unit

I can’t answer this question because I can’t find any place in either journal where the General Conference approved the revised Historical Statement. It is certainly possible that I can’t find this approval because I’ve been searching for the wrong term.

That’s the basic question. More background is “below the fold.”

Page 3050 of the Journal of the 1964 General Conference volume 3 indicates that the Plan of Union included a Historical Statement. A screenshot:

1964 Journal vol. 3, page 3050

1964 Journal vol. 3, page 3050

Since the Historical Statement in the 1968 Discipline was part of the Plan of Union, I will just assume that changes to the Historical Statement require action of the General Conference.

(Currently I only have access to The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church for 2008 and 2012. This is why the following is long on memory and short on documentation from the Discipline.)

I first really noticed The United Methodist Church’s Historical Statement while leafing through a copy of the Discipline from the nineteen-eighties. What caught my eye was the title of a section regarding “Black Methodists”. From what I remember, the title of the section was still present in the 1992 Discipline, but the 1996 Discipline had a completely different Historical Statement.

Earlier this year I wondered, who wrote the title of that section? I was able to find a reference in the 1976 Journal to the Historical Statement. I will quote the “Resolved” section of Report 4 from the Standing Legislative Committee on Independent Commissions (page 1830 of the 1976 Journal (vol. 2)):

Therefore Be It Resolved that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church set the historical record involving Black Methodists in proper order and see that it is placed in its proper place in the historical section of the Discipline.

(I include the entire text of Report 4 at the end of this post.)

Page 325 of the 1976 Journal (vol. 1) describes the adoption of Report 4 this way:

Mr. Hodapp presented Hector Navas (Florida), chairman of the committee. Mr. Navas presented the report, explaining that it called for an addition to the Historical Statement in the Book of Discipline. The report was adopted (see page 1829). Emory S. Bucke (Editor, Book of Discipline) asked for further guidance and information as to how this statement was to be presented and whether it would be completed in time to meet publication deadlines. Mr. Navas asked Woodie W. White (Detroit) to respond. Mr. White stated that Dr. John Graham had agreed to write a statement on the history of black Methodists in The United Methodist Church, including an historical statement on the Central Jurisdiction.

From a strictly procedural standpoint, I have doubts about the above addition. My doubts stem from the apparent fact that the General Conference did not approve the exact amended language. However, the 1976 General Conference did approve in principle an amendment to the Historical Statement. Regardless of the legality of the 1976 amendment to the Historical Statement, that amendment was completely replaced in 1996. I cannot find any General Conference approval for the action of 1996.

I’ve thought that maybe Independent Commissions would be the relevant legislative committee again. After all, this committee handled petitions, resolutions, etc. relating to Archives and History. (See 1992 ADCA pp. 91-92 and 1996 ADCA pp. 96-97). There are no petitions or resolutions in either General Conference before this committee that directly referenced the Historical Statement (1992 ADCA pp. 809-827 and 1996 ADCA pp. 901-940). The reports of the legislative committee contain no indication either. 1992 DCA: vol. 4 no. 3 p. 132, vol. 4 no. 4 p. 157-158, vol. 4 no. 5 p. 205, vol. 4 no. 6 p. 260-2601. 1996 DCA: vol. 3 no. 3 p. 66, vol. 3 no. 4 p. 91, vol. 3 no. 5 p. 127, vol. 3 no. 5 p. 199.

Text-based searches for the phrase “historical statement” do not yield much better results. 1992 ADCA has two mentions: petition 10823 on page 284 (DCA vol. 4, no. 5 p. 283 Calendar Item 521: nonconcurrence) and petition 10886 on page 238 (DCA vol. 4, no. 5 p. 238 Calendar Item 224: concurrence). 1996 ADCA has one mention: petition 21355 on page 811 (DCA vol. 3, no. 6 pp. 217-218 Calendar Item 581: concurrence). None of these three mentions is relevant. “Historical statement” does not appear in either index, but it didn’t appear in the index for the 1976 Journal either.

I searched on “Marjorie” (for Bishop Marjorie Matthews), and I found only two total mentions. One is in a resolution proclaiming “Anna Howard Shaw Day”, petition 10619 on page 680 of the 1992 ADCA (DCA vol. 4 no. 4 p. 236 Calendar Item 194 concurrence as amended; vol. 4 no. 10 p. 610 passed on Special Consent Calendar A). The other reference to Bishop Matthews is in the 1996 DCA vol. 5 no. 1 p. 8, a description of Bishop Craig’s consecration.

It’s possible that I just haven’t found the General Conference approval yet. I’ve definitely tried to find one. There’s only so much searching I can do.

Whatever the status of the current Historical Statement, the 2016 Discipline will have to include a new one anyway.  The current Historical Statement begins in the United Kingdom and then focuses exclusively on the United States.

From the Journal of the 1976 General Conference, pages 1829-1830 (A Report of the Standing Legislative Committee on Independent Commissions):

Report No. 4

Subject: History of Central Jurisdiction in Discipline, Historical Statement.

Date: April 29, 1976.

Petitions: J-1004-1007.

Membership 79; Present 72; For 72; Against 0; Not Voting 0.

Calendar No. 17, Adopted May 3, 1976, Journal page 325.

The committee recommends an addition to the Historical Statement in the Book of Discipline, p. 7 ff.

Whereas, Black people have been an important entity of The Methodist Church, and

Whereas, Black Methodists played an important role in the Plan of Union on May 10, 1939, and

Whereas, The Heritage for the Black Methodist church, i.e., the Central Jurisdiction, the Lexington Conference and other Conferences of the Central Jurisdiction is not recorded anywhere in the historical annals of The United Methodist Church Discipline, and

Whereas, All other facets, denominations, and ethnic groups have their history and contribution recorded as a strain of the “united” church, and

Whereas, The merger of the Lexington Conference is adequately recorded in the 1964 Official Journal of the North Indiana Conference as the unanimous vote of approval of this body, and

Whereas, In 1967 the Central Jurisdiction was dissolved and became another entity in the procreation, the establishment of The United Methodist Church, and

Whereas, Black Methodists have been Christian and faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and His mission:

Therefore Be It Resolved that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church set the historical record involving Black Methodists in proper order and see that it is placed in its proper place in the historical section of the Discipline.


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