“We care about doing the right thing, not only in the Lord’s eyes but also in the eyes of other people.”

2 Corinthians 8:21 (CEB)

The Commission on the General Conference must create an independent investigation to probe irregularities in voting at the 2019 General Conference. 

I’ve been reluctant to say this so publicly, but I have serious qualms with the commission’s announcement last week that it was going to investigate the discovery that illegal voting took place on some petitions that were considered at this extraordinary meeting in St. Louis.

When an organization, in this case the Commission on the General Conference, investigates itself, it’s a prescription for disaster. 

I know several members of the task force and have the highest respect and affection for them, including Bishop Thomas Bickerton, Bishop Rodolfo Juan, and Marie Kuch-Stanovsky.

The Rev. Gary Graves, secretary of the General Conference, repeatedly claims that the number of allegedly fraudulent votes was too small to affect the tallies on the Traditional and One Church Plan. I know Gary, I’ve worked with him, and consider him to be an honorable person. We still need to have an outside, neutral, credible party investigating.

The highways of history are littered with the roadkill of organizations that investigated themselves and then ended up in even more serious difficulty.

The only way to legitimately deal with this situation is to defer to an independent body with total freedom and a charge to be fully transparent as it investigates and reports its findings back to the church, unfiltered.

These questions place the entire process of the General Conference now in question. Key questions on sexuality and the role of LGBTQ persons in our Church were approved or defeated by small margins, of less than 60 votes out of more than 850 cast.

In last year’s election for North Carolina’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, allegations of improper conduct with absentee ballots caused the state elections board to order a new election. The evidence showed that while the number or fraudulent votes cast in the tight election wasn’t enough to change the final result, the election was tainted to the point it needs to be redone. This could be what has happened to the 2019 General Conference. An independent investigation is the only way to credibly find out. 

And for those of you that believe I’m preaching this only because of my support for the One Church Plan, you may not know me very well. I have nearly four decades of experience inside and outside of the Church, pushing for transparency and openness. I also know how the General Conference works, having been a delegate to three General Conferences and a high-level staffer to two others.

Stephen Drachler

Stephen Drachler is a crisis communications consultant, working with faith groups, governmental entities, and other organizations. He served as Director of Public Information at United Methodist Communications from 2002-2006. He served as a delegate to the 1992, 1996, and 2012 General Conferences from the Susquehanna Conference and is a former member of the board of directors of The United Methodist Publishing House. He is a member of the Advisory Development Committee of Africa University. He lives in Harrisburg, PA.
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