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Judicial Council hearing scheduled for April 25

Judicial Council
The United Methodist Church

Media Advisory
March 30, 2017

The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church will conduct an oral hearing on April 25, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. ET in response to a request for a declaratory decision regarding the nomination, election, consecration, and/or assignment as bishop of a person who claims to be a "self-avowed practicing homosexual" or is a spouse in a same-sex marriage or civil union. The full request can be found at http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/who-we-are/judicial-council/judicial-council-dockets/Docs_0417-1.pdf.

The hearing will be held during the regular spring meeting of the Judicial Council at the Newark Penn Station Hilton Hotel, 1048 Raymond Boulevard, Newark, N.J. The Council has secured the largest available room in order to offer hospitality to the greatest extent possible for those who wish to observe. Of course, capacity regulations will be observed.

The format of the hearing will be the petitioner (one or more representatives of the South Central Jurisdiction) will have 60 minutes of oral presentation, followed by 15 minutes of questions from the Council. There will be a recess of 15 minutes. Then the respondent (one or more representatives of the Western Jurisdiction) will have 60 minutes of oral presentation, followed by 15 minutes of questions. The oral hearing will then conclude.

The request for a decision came from the South Central Jurisdictional Conference and is related to the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto by the Western Jurisdiction in July 2016. Oliveto is the first bishop to be elected who is in a same-sex marriage. The request is focused on specific provisions of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church--the book of rules and structure of the Church--and the constitutionality, application, meaning or effect of those provisions.

The oral hearing is open to the public; however, the Council's deliberations following the hearing will be closed and will take place over the next days of deliberation regarding this and other matters before the body. A decision is not expected to be announced until some time after the full meeting concludes at noon on April 28. The Judicial Council speaks only through its decisions and individual members will not issue statements or conduct interviews.

Guidelines for the hearing are as follows:

  1. Media seating will be provided to credentialed news media (subject to available space). Credentials for news media personnel will be issued onsite on the day of the hearing beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET (please note time change from 8:00 a.m.). To be accredited, individuals must represent a recognized news organization such as a newspaper, wire service, television or radio station, magazine or ongoing newsletter, or must serve as a communicator for a United Methodist agency, annual conference, or other church entity. A work room will be available for media usage.
  2. News media should provide contact information in order to receive follow-up communication about a final decision, and may also request a transcript. Judicial Council decisions are also posted at UMC.org/decisions.
  3. No live broadcasts of the proceedings, either video or audio, are permitted. No recording of the proceedings by any device will be allowed. Accredited still and video press photographers may shoot before and after the hearing, but not during the hearing.
  4. Observers/media may not post to social media or text during the hearing. Laptops, cell phones and other devices must be turned off during the proceedings. Violators of this policy will be asked to leave.

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About the Judicial Council
The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body or "court" of The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council determines whether the actions of the denomination’s official bodies conform to church law, either on appeal of lower rulings or through requests for declaratory decisions. The nine-member council is elected by the General Conference, the denomination's legislative body. Decisions of the Judicial Council are final.

Media contact:
Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org
615.742.5406 (o) 615.483.1765 (c)