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Judicial Council Affirms the Traditional Plan

Good News Statement

Members of the Judicial Council during the Feb. 23 morning of prayer at the 2019 Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.

The Judicial Council has properly ruled that many parts of the Traditional Plan are constitutional and can go into effect. United Methodists around the globe can be gratified that the Judicial Council has upheld the direction and will of the General Conference. These rulings are consistent with the Council's previous rulings and provide a stable understanding of how the church can move forward with a traditional understanding of marriage and sexual ethics. Good News is grateful that the church is now able to more faithfully uphold biblical teaching.

In addition, the Council ruled that the option for local churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church is constitutional. As enacted by the General Conference, this option goes into effect immediately. It provides a way for those who simply cannot abide by the decisions of the church to find their own path in ministry. The following provisions have been ruled constitutional by the Judicial Council and will take effect as of January 1, 2020.

  1. Expands the definition of "self-avowed practicing homosexual" to include persons "living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual."Bishops are prohibited from consecrating bishops who are self-avowed homosexuals.

  2. Bishops are prohibited from commissioning those on the deacon or elder track if the Board of Ministry has determined the individual is a self-avowed homosexual or has failed to certify it carried out the disciplinarily mandated examination. Bishops are prohibited from ordaining deacons or elders if the Board of Ministry has determined the individual is a self-avowed homosexual or has failed to certify it carried out the disciplinarily mandated examination.

  3. Minimum penalty for clergy convicted of performing a same-sex wedding: suspension without pay for first offense, termination of clergy status for second offense.

  4. The District Committee on Ordained Ministry AND the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry shall not approve or recommend any person for candidacy, licensing, commissioning, or ordination who does not meet the qualifications. Bishop must rule such recommendations out of order.

  5. Bishops may not dismiss a complaint unless it has no basis in law or in fact.

  6. Just resolutions shall state all identified harms and how they shall be addressed by the Church and other parties to the complaint.

  7. No matter where in the process a just resolution is achieved, the complainant(s) shall be a party to the resolution process and every effort shall be made to have the complainant(s) agree to the resolution before it may take effect.

  8. The Church shall have a right of appeal to the committee on appeals and then to the Judicial Council from findings of the trial court based on egregious errors of Church law or administration that could reasonably have affected the findings of the trial court.

  9. Disaffiliation by a local church requires:

  • Two-thirds vote by the church conference

  • Payment of the previous 12 months' apportionments and an additional 12 months' apportionments

  • The church's share of the annual conference's unfunded pension liabilities

  • Ratification of the disaffiliation request by a majority vote of the annual conference (¶ 2529.1(b)3)

  • This disaffiliation pathway goes into effect immediately

As covenanted members of the global connection, bishops, clergy, annual conferences, and local congregations should abide by the direction set by General Conference, the one body authorized to speak for the whole church, and affirmed by the Judicial Council. The unity of The United Methodist Church will only be realized as members follow the clear direction of the General Conference. Statements of non-compliance issued by the Western Jurisdiction, several bishops, and groups of clergy are counterproductive to our denomination's quest for unity. Such statements are schismatic and divisive. The heightened conflict around such non-compliance serves only to further tear our church apart and distract us from the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As these provisions of the Traditional Plan go into effect, we urge all United Methodists to treat one another with love and consideration, to speak to and of one another respectfully and using the guidelines of Holy Conferencing suggested by Discipleship Ministries. We also encourage leaders across the theological spectrum to be willing to work on a negotiated way forward that allows us to walk different paths that honor our core convictions. Let us seek a way to honor Christ, even in the midst of our disagreement.

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