Prayers for The UMC Judicial Council

The United Methodist Church’s version of the Supreme Court, otherwise known as the Judicial Council, will be ruling in October about Karen Oliveto’s consecration as a UM bishop, and they’ll be adjudicating whether an annual conference’s clergy session and Board of Ordained Ministry can properly have before them persons who have self-avowed behaviors that are in violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. It is basically a question of whether an annual conference’s prerogatives outweigh General Conference’s actions.

The first major Judicial Decision which established that General Conference is preeminent in legislation and supersedes annual conferences’ administrative function, was made back in 1972. In reference to the establishment of the General Council on Ministries, the Judicial Council  stated in Decision 364, “The General Conference may not delegate legislative functions and responsibilities which are assigned to it by the Constitution.” This specifically helps us pray for the Judicial Council because at issue is who outranks whom in our checks and balances system. The bottom line is exactly what the Book of Discipline says in Par. 509.1,2: Only the General Conference has the authority to speak for the church.

Judicial Decision 1321 that was rendered at GC2016 also covers this in great detail and cites previous decisions of church law (All Judicial Council Decisions can be researched online at http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/judicial-council). Decision 1321 reinforces that the General Conference certainly has full legislative authority over all things “distinctively connectional” (Par. 16), including matters of defining minimum clergy credentialing requirements (Cf. Judicial Decision 536). There are plenty of Judicial Decisions that make the recent actions of certain annual conferences null and void, even the election of Karen Oliveto. My interpretation of the aforementioned decisions is that it is impossible in our connectional polity for an annual, central, or jurisdictional conference to contravene the General Conference.

It really doesn’t matter if an annual conference says persons are in “good standing” if they have already self-avowed that they are in opposition to The Book of Discipline. The declaration of the General Conference is the last word, and the “right to trial” guaranteed to each UM clergyperson is moot when someone precludes the need of a trial by their own volition. Judicial Decision 980 is very specific if an annual conference’s Committee on Investigation refuses to certify a bill of charges and ignores stated facts that ipso facto would convict a person. The Decision reaches two very pertinent conclusions: “Should members of the Committee on Investigation be unwilling to uphold the Discipline for reasons of conscience, such members must step aside…” and  “persons who state that they cannot in good conscience uphold the Discipline are ineligible to serve on a trial jury.”

As a historical aside, after the 1956 GC had approved full clergy rights for women a specific case arose about some who refused to enforce the GC’s action. This Decision is a great help in understanding our denominational jurisprudence and the rights of whole entities in the church to ignore General Conference decisions. The Judicial Council rendered Decision 155 in 1958 which stated clearly that everyone had to abide by the same Book of Discipline. This was a wonderful decision in many ways, and in this case in setting a legal precedence (Par. 2611 BOD) of Book of Discipline over all other documents and entities. It alone speaks for the UMC.

Similarly, Judicial Decision 886 offers clear guidance in our current milieu. In its opening “Digest of Case,” the decision says, “The Discipline is the law of the Church which regulates every phase of the life and work of the Church. As such, annual conferences may not legally negate, ignore, or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree, even when the disagreements are based upon conscientious objections to those provisions.” It seems obvious that connectionalism is based upon mutual covenant keeping, or the whole house falls.

The United Methodist position on the practice of homosexuality extends both grace and definite boundaries. It is a complex issue. Not only is the authority of Scripture involved, but also our ecclesiology. My sincere hope is that our denomination can work through this. My plea is for us to honor the Study Commission and pray for them as they do their work on “A Way Forward” on this issue.

In the meantime, all of us need to keep covenant, whether pro or con in changing the language of the Discipline about the practice of homosexuality. We pray and hold fast in the interim. I remind all UM clergy that Judicial Decision 986 says that any pastor that deliberately encourages withholding apportionments is liable for a charge of disobedience. BOD Pars. 340.2(c)(2)e, 639.4 and 247.14, last sentence, are very instructive. Let’s remain calm and let the judicial process work.

This is about the rule of canon law and covenant keeping in a connectional church. These are tenuous times for us. We can either obey the General Conference or fracture into something we’re not. I wouldn’t want to be anything else than a United Methodist. Every person who has been ordained promised to keep our rules and stated that he or she agreed with them. I made that promise, and I’m still keeping it by the grace of God.

Judicial Council Book Pic

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18 thoughts on “Prayers for The UMC Judicial Council

    1. Amen and thanks, Lynn. tim

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      On Aug 16, 2016, at 5:23 PM, A Potter's View wrote:

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree with the views expressed by Pastor Tim. It seems there have always been people in many organizations (religious and non religious) who want to push the envelop. Sometimes that is for just reasons. Sometimes it is because that person or group thinks their way is the only way. But for those who do not agree with United Methodist Church beliefs, there are other churches that might better suit their more progressive views. In fact, there is one denomination that lets it’s members pretty much believe or not believe anything that they wish. Go for it. The rest of us United Methodists will stay where we are and love it and our creator.

    1. God bless you, David. tim

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      On Aug 16, 2016, at 6:03 PM, A Potter's View wrote:

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  2. At this point it seems obvious there is a faction that has shown they will not obey the will of General Conference. That’s no longer the question. The question is, “Do our leaders have the will to enforce the will of our General Conference?”

    1. Scott, Absolutely right. tim

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      On Aug 16, 2016, at 6:30 PM, A Potter's View wrote:

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  3. Tim, I, too, made a covenant to uphold and abide by both Scripture, and the Book of Discipline when I was ordained. I cannot imagine kneeling before my conference, Cabinet, bishop, other clergy, family and friends, and lying about something so sacred. More importantly, I cannot imagine kneeling before my God and lying! How can these clergy be considered “in good standing” when they were dishonest from the get-go? How can we as United Methodists trust in a system that will not hold clergy to the vows that were made? How can we continue in a connection that means everything to us, but obviously so little to others? Come, Lord Jesus!

    1. Amen, Cheryl. Prayers, tim

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      On Aug 16, 2016, at 7:17 PM, A Potter's View wrote:

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  4. God is specific about obedience, honor thy father and thy mother.
    Honor thy church, Honor our Lord Jesus Christ, be obedient, insure your house is in order.

    Simple sounding and simply stated.
    There should not be any confusion in understanding what is stated in the Book of Discipline. Each and every ordained clergyman man or woman accepts the United Methodist Church’s ruling in accordance with the Book of Discipline.

    I ask simply this: how can you say I will obey, be obedient, and then openly defy? The Lady Bishop in California is very much defiant. She lacks love of her church, she lacks a love of her fellow brother and sisters, as she defies what governs.

    My question to her is rather simple: why are you challenging our church? What is more important? Your affair with the woman you are associated with? So that you wish to split the United Methodist Church?

    I am a layman who lives in Aiken, South Carolina. I lived through a split of the Episcopal Church in Virginia, in that instance those who departed formed an anglican church. It still prevail today. They pleaded with me to leave and join them, I chose not to.

    Is that what you wish to happen, so you can say I (you) won. God will not win in the end if the Bishop Council sides with you and your other purported followers and supporters. Our church, The UMC will be the losers. Is that your wish? To split us?

    I equate your action as being comparable to what has happened nationwide in the political arena where in November we are to vote and elect a president. Hate prevails, personalities are being damaged. How do you remain peaceful? How can we of the UMC remain true to what was expected of us by John Wesley when he and his brother founded Methodism?

    Being true and faithful. Committed to do so Bishop Oliveto, is essential to the UMC, not to yourself in order to cause dissension.

    I lift you up unto our Lord Jesus Christ to achieve wisdom, and have your heart filled with the joy that you realize that God is first and foremost in our lives and I ask then where is our church, our denomination?

    You and others who are dissenters and wish to cause a schism, I pray that the light of illumination is bestowed upon each of you and that Face of Jesus Christ shines before you, and that you see heaven before you and walk among those who did not compromise.

    I wonder how you feel about a lady who lived her life in India as a Nun and received the light of Jesus Christ before her that caused a change to help change a people of hunger, poor living conditions, achieve good health reached through medicine, prayer, food, doctors, schooling. Bishop, are you doing the same in California?

    Lastly are your another Mother Theresa in the wings, ready to fly and show the world how to beat and knock away oppression, starvation, provide for the homeless, the needy, the orphans, open schools, Health Clinics, train nurses, and doctors to assist you? In other words start a revolution to help the poor, the down and out? Increase those who ar unchurched to become churched as part of our denomination. Show growth by example?

    May God Bestow His Special Blessings upon you.

    My prayers are with and for you at this time.

    Andrew J Parlantieri,Sr.

    Pastor Tim: I departed and became honest by expressing what I earnestly feel is wrong and needs corrected.

    1. God be with us all in these trying times, Andy. tim

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      On Aug 16, 2016, at 7:28 PM, A Potter's View wrote:

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    2. You are reading things into Bishop Oliveto’s commitments and actions that are inaccurate. Have you ever read or heard anything that she has said about her motivations or about her commitment to the UMC?

    1. Got to love everyone without believing everything is okay. Amen.

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      On Aug 18, 2016, at 3:44 PM, A Potter's View wrote:

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  5. Thank you Tim. Our ordination vows are so sacred and Holy. Once attained, I can not see through such ideas and reason that all has changed and therefore we ignore our divine covenant in the ruse of progressive ideals. Praying for leadership and faithfulness for all.

  6. Galations 3:23-29
    “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave7 nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And aif you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
    The Discipline speaks to ordination and appointment, Bishops are elected not appointed, the focus of the complaint is misplaced. The only question should have been ordination for once ordained, that qualification falls away, unless removed by complaint an action. A thorny question indeed. But I pray the gospel as Paul has preached will prevail over those who would enforce the law, which is no longer our guardian. Jesus is our guardian.

    1. Valid except Jesus came not to abolish the law, but fulfill it.

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      On Aug 22, 2016, at 5:38 PM, A Potter's View wrote:

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