Judicial Council ruling and responses
The Judicial Council has now ruled on the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan voted in by the special General Conference in St. Louis in February. Some parts of the plan were declared unconstitutional, but others were upheld, including the prohibitions on bishops ordaining LGBTi clergy. You can find the full ruling here:
Judicial Council full ruling.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño has responded to the ruling. Here is the full text of her message:
Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Risen Lord. As I have shared during my episcopal visits following the special-called General Conference 2019, two critical matters approved at this General Conference had been referred to the Judicial Council for declaratory rulings: Whether the approved Traditional Plan was constitutional and whether a disaffiliation petition (90066) also approved, was constitutional, according to the Constitution of The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council has been meeting this week and this morning released its decisions.
The Judicial Council determined that parts of the Traditional Plan were constitutional, but as in previous determinations of the Judicial Council, much of the enforcement sections of the Traditional Plan as approved by the General Conference 2019 were again determined to be unconstitutional (Judicial Council Decision 1378). On the disaffiliation Petition 90066 that provides an exit plan for local churches to leave the denomination, the Judicial Council ruled that it is in line with the Constitution of The UMC while also clarifying that the annual conference must approve the disaffiliation of a local church (Judicial Council ruling 1379).
In the preliminary work of analysis done by our Council of Bishops with legal counsel the following important rulings were highlighted:
1. The question of local churches exiting from the denomination is one that is determined by votes in the local church and at the annual conference. This retains the value of our connection.
2. The practice of certifying Board of Ordained Ministry members on whether they would follow the Book of Discipline in its entirety, including on matters of human sexuality/LGBTQ identity, was found unconstitutional. Current language around sexuality and restrictions on same-sex weddings and ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals was not in question and is retained.
3. Accountability for bishops continues to be lodged in the jurisdictional college or central conference.
4. Exiting churches must pay their fair share of pension liability. Exiting clergy retain their pension but it is converted to limit further liability to the conference.
5. Seven petitions in the Traditional Plan were found to be unconstitutional, consistent with two previous Judicial Council decisions, and eight petitions were found to be constitutional.
There is no surprise in what the Judicial Council has determined. It is clear that the Judicial Council worked hard to provide the declaratory rulings requested of them. They are the interpreters of the law not the makers of the law. The General Conference makes the law. And, for too long the General Conference has chosen to act like the pharisees who were committed to the legalism of their own creation rather than the laws of grace, mercy, and love for all God’s children that Jesus came proclaiming. The preservation of those pharisees’ self-righteousness was more important to them than the vulnerability required by the commandments to love God and to love neighbor as we love ourselves, and it so appears to be the case with our General Conference as well.
There are those among us who are saying that the Judicial Council decisions now free us to move ahead. The decisions have been made, accept it and move on they say. These friends tend to be the same persons who unequivocally state that The United Methodist Church has been in decline for generations because of the debate over the full inclusion or the exclusion of our LGBTQ children and siblings. That we have been in decline is true, but it is not as simple as some would assume. Conservatives have left because they don’t want to be part of a church where they have to deal with gay persons. Gay persons have also left because who would want to be part of a church where you are told in so many ways that you are unacceptable, less-than, incompatible with the very Word of God that they have placed their faith in! Many of their family members have left with them. Somehow, we forget to count them in the numbers of those who have departed, pushed out of the church. Post General Conference 2019 there are now those who consider themselves centrists who are also leaving. They are leaving because they are tired of a church that has made who one loves the litmus test of faithfulness.
Can we not see it? Our decline is not because of the long struggle over the matter of human sexuality. I believe it is because of the lack of commitment to the greatest commandments to love God and to love our neighbor. How can love for God be true when we reject those whom God has also created and called good? And how can love for neighbor be authentic when we say to our LGBTQ children and siblings that they are not worthy of the fullness of love just as God has created them? The exclusion of LGBTQ persons is but one broken place in the life of our church, but it reveals to the core of our life together our lack of love for God and neighbor. Truly loving God and authentically loving neighbor is what will reverse our decline and allow us to grow into the faithful and fruitful church that God calls us to be.
I keep praying that we will not be torn asunder by the pettiness of what seems to be our present inwardly focused missional direction that sounds like this: Let’s exclude all LGBTQ persons and their supporters unless they conform to our punitive laws. Let’s judge the righteousness of our LGBTQ children and siblings based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Let’s not hear the witness of their faith in Christ because it would make things much too complicated for us. Let’s make God’s love small and limited to only some, and certainly not to LGBTQ persons, so that we can control it. What happened to being the people called United Methodist who dared to make Matthew 28:19-20 its mission and the transformation of the world its bold vision?
I believe that the full inclusion of ALL God’s children is the necessary first step to being the Church God calls us to be.
Your Sister in Christ,
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
The Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops (WJ COB) has published an open statement in response to the Judicial Council rulings made on April 26, 2019. At the request of Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, the press release has been made available to the California-Nevada Annual Conference and can be found below.
———————— COPY OF PRESS RELEASE BELOW ————————
April 26, 2019
A STATEMENT FROM THE WESTERN JURISDICTION COLLEGE OF BISHOPS
Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church has ruled on the constitutionality of the plan known as “The Traditional Plan” that was passed at the Special Called Session of General Conference 2019 (St. Louis, Missouri). In its ruling, some of the petitions were ruled constitutional while others were ruled unconstitutional, and a petition related to a plan for churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church was ruled constitutional. With humble gratitude, we acknowledge the diligent and faithful work of the Judicial Council. The decision, made during the Council’s April 23-26 meeting, means that less than half of the Traditional Plan will take effect in the U.S. on January 1, 2020, with Africa, Europe, and the Philippines taking effect twelve months after the next General Conference. The petition on a gracious exit goes into effect immediately. You may review the Judicial Council’s Ruling No. 1378 at http://bit.ly/JCR1378 and No. 1379 at http://bit.ly/JCR1379. An explanation of both rulings is available at http://bit.ly/UMNSApr26.
While graciously received, the intent of the Western Jurisdiction remains the same as was stated on the floor of General Conference 2019: to live in the spirit of “One Church.” The Mission Cabinet and the delegations of the Western Jurisdiction endorsed the One Church Plan before the Special Session, believing it to be the best option for allowing faithful United Methodists of differing theological perspectives to be in ministry together. We believed the One Church Plan was an expression of Wesleyan values that we practice in the West. In the wake of the Judicial Council decisions, we continue our commitment to live into Beloved Community as one church in each of the conferences of the Western Jurisdiction.
Even now, efforts are underway to coalesce our plans and energy to help forge the future of our church. If you are interested and energized in assisting, we invite you to visit the Western Jurisdiction website to volunteer and join this movement. (http://westernjurisdictionumc.org/ahomeforall)
We commit to be true to John Wesley’s tradition of the entire world being our parish. We will continue to relate with one in another in such a way that all people may find our United Methodist Church to be their spiritual home. We will remain united in our determination to make our Jurisdiction a home for all.
Next month, on May 17-18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and May 20-22 in Leawood, Kansas, persons of courage and faith from the Western Jurisdiction will participate in discussions that are happening and are connecting with representatives from Conferences around the world about the next steps for our Church. Those discussions will continue as annual conferences convene this summer and when our Western Jurisdiction leadership gathers in the fall.
The ruling by our Judicial Council will spark new discussions in our churches and in our Annual Conferences and across the connection. We anticipate that difficult decisions will take place during General Conference 2020. Thus, the road ahead may feel like a wilderness. But we, your bishops, are prayerfully in conversation in many places, with many individuals and groups about your hopes and your vision for being church in this challenging time. We remain committed to ministry as one church for all and we ask for your prayers for the church and for the future of the love and grace as we travel this road together, not knowing where it will lead us, yet, but confident in God’s presence with us.
The Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church