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Delegates vote to end use of 'minority' in church language (May 6, 2004)

Delegates vote to end use of 'minority' in church language (May 6, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Delegates vote to end use of 'minority' in church language

May 6, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0070}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

PITTSBURGH - Delegates to the 2004 General Conference here voted Monday night to omit the word minority from all church language.

Petition Number 41445 proposed changing the term "ethnic minority" to "ethnic persons" in all church language. The vote was 534-380 in favor of changing the term. Seven people abstained.

Beverly Wilkes of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference and author of the petition said the word minority is considered to be negative by some.

"Minority is for people of color, considered to be a racist classification of the majority of the people in the world," she said, addressing the delegation on the floor of General Conference. "And so, when we say minority as it relates to racial ethnics, what we're actually saying is less than, rather than equal to. And this is a global church and we would call this body to recognize that The United Methodist Church is global and that it is more hospitable to use the term ethnic persons when it is not feasible to use particular ethnic groups.

Wilkes urged delegates to consider the issue from "the position of those of us who are ethnic and do not consider the term minority to be helpful in this day and time when we are"

During a debate before the vote the Rev. Darlene D. Balm-Demmel from Iowa said deleting minority would be a good thing.

"It's my understanding that we are all ethnic, and if we take away minority it would be all-inclusive," she said.

Florida conference delegates were split on the issue.

The Rev. Jacques Pierre said he voted against changing the language because the word minority is still relevant.

"I think the rights of minorities will be lost in the pile," Pierre said. "I think we should include minority in our language. If we remove the language, we are eliminating the voice and the presence of the least, the less fortunate."

Disney Weaver said he was in favor of having the minority language remain in all church language. "I think it does concisely speak to the demographic of one's location," he said. "I think it paints a picture of where the numbers lie."

Terry Hill said she wants to refer to people using whatever language is most appropriate for the time. She voted in favor of the petition.

"I want to be sensitive," she said. "Ten years from now if people come up with something more sensitive, we should use that. It's about people's choices. I just want to call people what they want to be called."

The Rev. Dan Johnson said changing the language was the right thing to do. "It gives everybody equal footing," he said.

Still, Joseph Ha, a Florida Conference lay delegate, said he couldn't believe the language change passed. "I need more background on where this came from," he said. "I don't understand how it could happen."

For additional coverage of the news and events taking place at General Conference visit the Florida Conference Web site at


This article relates to General Conference.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.