As many of you may have heard by now, the Judicial Council, (the Supreme Court of the United Methodist Church) delivered its rulings on legislation passed at the February Special Called Session of the General Conference 2019.
Portions of the Traditional Plan previously deemed unconstitutional were upheld as unconstitutional and portions previously deemed constitutional remained constitutional.
The Disaffiliation Plan that would allow churches to leave the UMC with their property was initially ruled unconstitutional, but the court reconsidered their decision and deemed it constitutional with the caveat that churches choosing to leave the denomination would only be allowed to do so once the Annual Conference session ratifies the decision.
I am encouraged with this particular action of the Judicial Council that acknowledges and reaffirms our connectional nature and that the annual conference is the basic body of the Church.
Connectionalism is an important part of our identity as United Methodists.
While some are elated with these decisions, others I know are troubled.
One important note is that the Judicial Council does not legislate but instead interprets the legislation. They are not makers of the law but interpreters of the law. Only the General Conference delegates legislate.
I am thankful for the care and discernment of the Judicial Council and respect their work and their decision. I, like many, continue to be troubled by the punitive nature of the work of the General Conference and the harm that continues to be inflicted upon LGBTQIA+ persons, their families, and allies.
While some of you will agree with me, I know others will not, and yet, I am still in ministry with you and respect your position. Our agreement on human sexuality is not the basis of our faith, ministry, or mission; the basis of our faith, ministry, and mission is in Jesus Christ.
I will continue to work to find a more just way for us to fully express our Wesleyan witness. We must honor and respect one another in Christian love even as we disagree.
I believe one of the reasons it has been so difficult to make the Traditional Plan fully constitutional is because it is not who we are. We are people of justice, grace, inclusion, reconciliation, and restoration and the Traditional Plan falls short of embracing these important tenets of our faith.
I believe in the authority of scripture and as Wesleyan Methodists believe we interpret scripture using tradition, experience, and reason. We each bring who we are, what we have experienced, where we grew up, where we went to school to our understanding of the scriptures. To deny that is to deny the whole person of God.
"I will continue to work to find a more just way for us to fully express our Wesleyan witness. We must honor and respect one another in Christian love even as we disagree."
I must also remind us of who we say we are as Louisiana United Methodists...
The mission of the Louisiana Annual Conference is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We have said that Christ’s love compels us. We the people, lay and clergy leaders of the Louisiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church are:
We have embraced our core values and have said that in order to live into our vision for our preferred future, we will live and lead with:
While I am grateful for the commitment and work of the delegates of General Conference 2019, neither their actions nor the actions of the Judicial Council will deter us from our mission.
Disciples (perhaps thankfully) are not made at General Conference or at the Judicial Council table but are being made in your churches day after day.
Below, you will find an overview of the decisions of the Judicial Council although I would urge you to read the full decisions for yourself.
The Judicial Council ruled constitutional …
The Judicial Council ruled unconstitutional…
The disaffiliation petition was ruled constitutional with the reminder that the requirements include the annual conference vote, which is stated elsewhere in the Book of Discipline.
The Disaffiliation Petition…
You can find other descriptions and interpretations through United Methodist News Service as well as a synopsis borrowed from the New Jersey Conference.
We will continue to bring further definition to these decisions and determine their direct impact on our Conference, on you and your church.
In the meantime, I give thanks for each of you and for your love and commitment to the United Methodist Church, to the communities you so diligently serve and for helping to multiply the United Methodist witness in as many places as possible in the world as possible.
May God continue to bless you and your ministry, as you hold nothing sacred but the mission.
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey