Contrary to widespread beliefs and practice, the text of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church, illuminated by the well-documented intent of its framers, establishes that the denomination’s General Conference lacks authority to make binding declarations of church doctrine. Resolute adherence to the constitutional provisions that bar the General Conference from defining church doctrine continued until in 1968, when the General Conference authorized appointment of a Theological Study Commission to review and report on the church’s doctrinal statements. Thereafter, in two subsequent General Conferences (1972 and 1988), the delegates voted to include expansive narratives on church doctrine in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, effectively normalizing the Conference’s unconstitutional intrusion into doctrinal matters, including its relatively recent votes to make it a “chargeable offense” to engage in conduct the General Conference has “declared” to be “incompatible with Christian teachings.”

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