When church leaders speak out on a social issue, are they speaking for the Church?
Only the General Conference can speak officially for The United Methodist Church. The official statements of the Church on social and world issues can be found in the Social Principles and The Book of Resolutions.
The Social Principles are described as a "prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions."
The Book of Resolutions serves as a guide for the church for reference, encouragement, study and support.
General Conference authorizes bishops "to be a prophetic voice for justice in a suffering and conflicted worid..." In addition, "The Church expects the Council of Bishops to speak to the Church and from the Church to the world...." (¶¶ 403 and 427, 2008 Book of Discipline)
General Conference also gives the General Board of Church and Society the responsibility to "provide forthright witness and action on issues of human well-being, justice, peace, and the integrity of creation" and to "speak its convictions, interpretations, and concerns to the Church and to the world." (¶1004, 2008 Book of Discipline)
When church leaders speak out about an issue, it is expected that their comments will be consistent with the official positions of the Church as adopted by General Conference and expressed in the Social Principles and Book of Resolutions.