Judicial Council docket reflects busy conference season

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, left, greets the Rev. Joey Heath-Mason immediately after ordaining him as a full elder. Photo by Alison Burdett, Baltimore-Washington Conference.
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, left, greets the Rev. Joey Heath-Mason immediately after ordaining him as a full elder. Photo by Alison Burdett, Baltimore-Washington Conference.

Reaction by United Methodist regional bodies in the U.S. — as well as the Council of Bishops — to the Traditional Plan adopted by the 2019 General Conference dominates the fall agenda of the denomination’s top court.

The Judicial Council has an 18-item docket to consider when it meets Oct. 29-Nov. 1 in Evanston, Illinois.

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Two items are from the United Methodist Council of Bishops regarding questions about legislation passed at the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis.

Eleven of the docket items are automatic reviews by the church court of decisions of law made by nine bishops during the 2019 annual conference season. Most of those also relate to the Traditional Plan. In addition, there are four requests for a decision by the top court directly from annual conference voters.

A resolution of nonconformity with General Conference approved June 15 by the California-Pacific Conference was ruled “unconstitutional, null and void” by Bishop Grant Hagiya because it denies clergy the right to trial and appeal.

Bishop Laurie Haller ruled that an Iowa Conference resolution expressing disapproval with the Traditional Plan cannot prioritize in a way that eliminates funds for fair process proceedings.

Bishop Karen Oliveto found three of eight action items on a Mountain Sky Conference petition called “All are Welcomed” to be “contrary to the Book of Discipline and out of order.” Those items include “refusing to comply with the strict requirements of the Traditional Plan,” not enforcing punitive and exclusionary policies” and taking no disciplinary action against clergy who break church law.”

A New England Conference resolution setting a procedure for local churches considering disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church was upheld by Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar.

Bishop William T. McAlilly found a request for a decision of law about a resolution on inclusion in the Tennessee Conference to be moot and hypothetical

Several rulings focused on the aspirational, non-binding nature of a resolution.

In other docket items, the Western Pennsylvania Conference asked for a declaratory decision on the principle of legality related to a conference’s administrative matters, the Desert Southwest Conference is asking Judicial Council to rule on possible violations of the separation of powers found in church law and Erik Seise is asking the court for a review of his administrative appeal.

excerpt from a story by Linda Bloom, assistant news editor, UMNS, New York.

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