Recently, the Judicial Council, known as The United Methodist Church’s top court, ruled on portions of the Traditional Plan, adopted by the General Conference during a special called session in February of 2019.
Their ruling - some provisions of the newly adopted plan remain unconstitutional, but others are valid as church law.
The Traditional Plan is an effort to strengthen the enforcement of bans on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-sex weddings.
In a separate ruling, legislation to provide an exit strategy for local churches wishing to leave the denomination meets three minimum requirements and thus is constitutional “when taken together with the consent of the annual conference” as specifically outlined in the Book of Discipline, the court said.
Both decisions came at the conclusion of the Judicial Council’s April 23-26 meeting
Below you will find a summary, courtesy of the New Jersey Conference, of these rulings. It was prepared and updated by Rev. Joseph Monahan, Medford UMC, Medford NJ.
Traditional Plan Petitions Approved & Ruled Constitutional
- DEFINE SELF AVOWED PRACTICING HOMOSEXUAL - Amended footnote to paragraph 304.3 on definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to include anyone in a same-sex marriage or who publicly states that he or she is “a practicing homosexual.” – AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90032
- EPISCOPAL RESPONSIBILITIES - Prohibits bishops from consecrating new bishops who are “self-avowed homosexuals” (the word “practicing” is not included here) even if elected, and prohibits bishops from ordaining “self-avowed homosexuals” (again not “practicing”) or candidates for whom the Board of Ordained Ministry has “failed to certify” it carried out the “disciplinarily mandated examination” – even if approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry and clergy session of annual conference – AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90036.
- MINIMUM PENALTIES – mandates mandatory one-year suspension for first offense celebrating a same-sex union; and a mandatory termination of conference membership/loss of orders for second offense – AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90042
- AMEND COMPLAINT PROCESS – requires explanation of any dismissal of complaint to be shared with the complainant – AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90044
- REVISE JUST RESOLUTION PROCESS – requires a statement of harms to be part of the just resolution of a complaint; requires commitment not to repeat the violation – AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL EXCEPT the provision that requires commitments to not repeat the actions, petition 90045
- MAKE COMPLAINANT A PARTY TO JUST RESOLUTION – requires inclusion of complainant in the just resolution process; “every effort shall be made” to achieve the complainant’s agreement with the proposed resolution – AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90046
- APPROVAL OF CANDIDATES – no candidate may be approved for licensing, ordination or commissioning without first meeting all qualifications in Paragraph 304.1-3, based on “the full examination and thorough inquiry into the person’s fitness”; references Judicial Council Decisions 1343 & 1344; bishop given authority to rule “unqualified” candidates out of order – AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90043.
- GIVE CHURCH RIGHT TO APPEAL – gives the church the ability to appeal verdict of a trial court to the committee on appeals and then the Judicial Council in cases of “egregious errors of Church law or administration” – AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL petition 90047
- DISAFFILIATION (TAYLOR) PETITION – AS AMENDED – allows churches to disaffiliate from the UMC over issues of human sexuality; includes time limit of December 31, 2023; requires church conference vote with 2/3 majority; sets approvals required by the annual conference; sets standard terms of the disaffiliation agreement; limits apportionment payments to 24 months; allows church to keep property; requires pro rata payment of any unfunded pension liabilities; requires payment of other liabilities to annual conference; local churches disaffiliating may continue to sponsor employee benefit plans through GBOPHB if they choose; releases trust clause when process is completed AFFIRMED CONSTITUTIONAL petition 90066
Traditional Plan Petitions Approved & Ruled Unconstitutional
- INVOLUNTARY RETIREMENT FOR BISHOPS - Would allow Council of Bishops to vote to involuntarily place a bishop in retired relationship based on recommendation of the “council relations committee” – AFFIMED UNCONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90033
- INVOLUNTARY LEAVE FOR BISHOPS - Would allow Council of Bishops to vote to place a bishop on involuntary leave based on recommendation of the “council relations committee” – AFFIRMED UNCONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90034
- COUNCIL RELATIONS COMMITTEE - Creates the “council relations committee” in the Council of Bishops to hear complaints against bishops unwilling to certify that they will “uphold, enforce, and maintain” the Discipline relative to “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” – AFFIRMED UNCONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90035
- BOOM (Board Of Ordained Ministry) EXAMINATION OF CANDIDATES - Describes the process for the Board of Ordained Ministry to inquire whether any candidate for local pastor, associate member, provisional member, or full member is a “practicing homosexual,” including by looking at social media; requires BOOM to certify the result – AFFIRMED UNCONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90038
- BOOM ANNUAL CONFERENCE CERTIFICATION (PARAGRAPH 806.9) - Requires annual conferences to certify that the bishop has only nominated members to BOOM who will “uphold, enforce, maintain” Discipline around marriage and ordination of practicing homosexuals; mandates that GCFA withholds funds & use of logo for those who do not – AFFIRMED UNCONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90039 (affects Paragraph 806.9, which is the language restricting general church funds from supporting “the acceptance of homosexuality”)
- BOOM ANNUAL CONFERENCE CERTIFICATION (PARAGRAPH 613.19) - Requires annual conferences to certify that the bishop has only nominated members to BOOM who will “uphold, enforce, maintain” Discipline around marriage and ordination of practicing homosexuals; mandates that GCFA withholds funds & use of logo for those who do not – AFFIRMED UNCONSTITUTIONAL, petition 90040 (affects Paragraph 613.19, which is the language restricting annual conference funds from supporting “the acceptance of homosexuality”)
- BOOM CERTIFICATION - Requires any clergyperson nominated for membership on the Board of Ordained Ministry to certify that they will “uphold, enforce, and maintain” the Discipline “in its entirety, including but not limited to all qualifications for ordination” likewise requires the bishop to certify that he/she has only nominated those who will “uphold, enforce, and maintain” the Discipline. UNCONSTITUTIONAL 90037
Rev. Joseph Monahan, Medford UMC, Medford NJ
Updated 4.26.19 with rulings from Judicial Council Decisions 1378 and 1379