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Judicial Council Decisions Search

Decision No. 1052

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October 26 2006
In Re: Request for a Declaratory Decision by the Kansas East Annual Conference on the Meaning, Application and Effect of Article IV of the Constitution and ¶¶ 124 and 214 of the 2004 Book of Discipline to the Action of the Annual Conference in Adopting a Petition Prohibiting the Denial of Membership Solely Based on a Person Being a Self-Avowed, Practicing Homosexual.

Digest of Case

Annual conferences are free to express their ideals and opinions so long as they do not attempt to negate, ignore, or contradict the Discipline.

Statement of Facts

The 2006 regular session of the Kansas East Annual Conference adopted the following resolution:

WHEREAS, a UM pastor in Virginia has denied membership in his local church to an individual solely on the grounds that he is a self-avowed, practicing homosexual. WHEREAS, the Judicial Council of the UMC has upheld the pastor’s right to do so. (Judicial Council Decision No. 1032) THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the 2006 KS [sic] East Annual Conference clearly state that: “No pastor in the KS East Conference shall deny membership into a KS East UMC solely based on the candidate for membership being a self-avowed, practicing homosexual.
Upon adoption of the resolution, the Conference voted to request a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council as to whether the resolution “is in compliance with Article IV [sic] of the Constitution, ¶ 124 and ¶ 214 of the 2004 Discipline. Oral hearings were held in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 26, 2006. Reverend Mark R. Holland and Reverend Paul K. Stephens presented oral argument.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2004 Book of Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The resolution adopted by the Kansas East Annual Conference is similar in intent to actions of other annual conferences that seek to model inclusiveness. The issue of membership is a matter that is distinctively connectional and thus is within the province of the General Conference. The Kansas East Annual Conference resolution does not seek to fix or modify the criteria for membership as fixed by the General Conference. Rather, the resolution expresses the sense of the annual conference that the inclusiveness ideal and the invitation to full participation and membership into the church should be the standard rather than an exception. The Judicial Council held in Memorandum No. 1044 that a similar resolution adopted by the Baltimore-Washington Conference was not in violation of the Discipline because it was aspirational in nature and did not violate ¶16.1 of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church. The Council noted that annual conferences may express disagreement with other bodies of The United Methodist Church, but they are still subject to the Constitution, the Book of Discipline, and the decisions of the Judicial Council. The resolution of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference stated:
BE IT RESOLVED that the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference of [T]he United Methodist Church believes that Judicial Council Decision 1032 is inconsistent with Christian teachings, and contrary to [T]he United Methodist Church Constitution; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that from this day forward, the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference will model inclusive behavior by expecting and encouraging its congregations and clergy to abide by the principle: Membership in any local church in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference shall not be denied on the basis of race, color, national origin, economic condition, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, ability or disability, or any other status.
The Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference resolution uses the language “expecting and encouraging its … clergy…” to abide by their stated principle; the resolution does not mandate the desired conduct of their clergy. In contrast, the Kansas East Annual Conference’s resolution uses proscriptive language, “No pastor … shall….,” which addresses a distinctively connectional matter which is reserved to the General Conference. ¶ 16.1 of the Discipline. The Kansas East Annual Conference resolution does more than express ideals and opinions of the Conference. An annual conference may express its ideals and opinions as long as the resolution is interpreted as an expression of opinion rather than a law or binding policy and the resolution is not inconsistent with the Discipline and Judicial Council Decisions.
Annual Conferences are free to express their ideals and opinions as long as they do not attempt to negate, ignore, or contradict the Discipline. October 27, 2006 Mary A. Daffin and Shamwange P. Kyungu were absent.

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