The Way Forward

Conference Update on Judicial Council Ruling

May 7, 2019 4:04 pm

Last week, The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church handed down its ruling on the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan that was passed in March during the special session of the General Conference. The Council ruled that some of the Traditional Plan petitions were constitutional, and some were not.

Petitions found constitutional and taking effect January 1, 2020 included:

  • An expansion of the definition of a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to include persons in same-sex marriages or civil unions.
  • Prohibition of bishops from consecrating bishops or commissioning or ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”
  • Minimum penalties for being convicted at a church trial for officiating at a same-sex wedding: a one-year suspension without pay for the first conviction and loss of clergy credentials for a second conviction.
  • Prohibiting District Committees on Ordained Ministry and Boards of Ordained Ministry from recommending persons who do not meet all disciplinary requirements.
  • Making every effort to have a complainant agree to the terms of a just resolution of a complaint, and specifying that a just resolution must contain a statement of harms and how they are addressed in the resolution.
  • Church trial verdicts can be appealed on the basis of egregious errors of church law.

Petitions found unconstitutional:

  • Petitions which would have moved the accountability of bishops away from their jurisdictional college or central conference.
  • Petitions which would have required specific certification for persons nominated for the Board of Ordained Ministry.
  • A petition which would have asked Boards of Ordained Ministry to examine candidates in part, through a search of social media, to determine if they meet qualifications for commissioning or ordination.

Finally, the Judicial Council ruled that a petition specifying a process for local church disaffiliation from an Annual Conference was constitutional.

These rulings reinforce The United Methodist Church’s current stance on human sexuality and the limitations for LGBTQ persons to be married by our pastors or in our churches or to be eligible for licensing, ordination and appointment.

Bishop Bard continues to counsel patience and tolerance as these decisions are assimilated and a plan for moving forward is formulated. This issue is expected to be at the forefront of discussions during the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis, MN.

For more information and to read Bishop Bard’s letter, please download this PDF of his most recent letter.