Methodists: Out from Under the Gun

After three hours of tumultuous debate, delegates to the founding convention of the new United Methodist Church last week voted to drop a longstanding requirement that its ministers vow to refrain from drinking and smoking. Henceforth, the church will simply require clergymen to, pledge "to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity," in accordance with "the highest ideals of Christian life."

Dropping the explicit ban on alcohol and tobacco represents a significant change for Methodism. Since the rule did not apply to laymen, many ministers have long complained that the church was...