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The Judicial Council: the UMC's top court

The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body or "court" of The United Methodist Church. Its nine members are elected by the General Conference. The Judicial Council determines the constitutionality of acts or proposed acts of the General, Jurisdictional, Central, and Annual Conferences. Hear Council members, in their own words, talk about the role they play for The United Methodist Church.


Deanell Reece Tacha:  I don't think most United Methodists know there is a Judicial Council—and, if they do, they have no real understanding of what we do. I did not until I was elected. 

The Rev. Dennis Blackwell: We are not lawmakers. The law is actually made in General Conference. Our responsibility as council members is to interpret the law of the church. 

The Rev. Luan-Vu Tran: The Judicial Council - you'll notice we're nine members - and that's the same on the U.S. Supreme Court. However, in a fundamental way, the Judicial Council is different. We have the authority to give advisory opinions, and we call that declaratory decisions, which the U.S. Supreme Court does not because only cases and controversies can come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Deanell Reece Tacha: It is truly like a court in that people are impartial, they attempt in every way possible not to have biases. We recuse when we have any interest in the matter.

Deanell Reece Tacha:  Deciding cases just comes absolutely naturally to me, and I enjoy trying to resolve controversies, see what issues are important, try to find a way through …in this case, the Constitution and the Discipline; in the case of my other job, the Constitution in the United States and the statutes.

The Rev. Dennis Blackwell:  Really when the church is at an impasse, our voices kind of help give some clarity and some light and some focus. It also is the avenue or the platform where the voiceless get a voice; and that is very, very important I think, for the Kingdom of God and the people of God and for the church. The people who are powerless and voiceless can come to the Council, have their cases and concerns to be heard in context of the parameters of the law of the church.

The Rev. Luan-Vu Tran:  We're just human beings. We are striving on to perfection, and there is no perfect judicial decision. There's no perfect Judicial Council member. We're all members of the church, lay or clergy, and we struggle, facing the same challenges as anybody else.

Learn more about the work of the United Methodist Judicial Council.

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.
Media contact is Joe Iovino.
This video was first posted on April 19, 2019.

United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

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