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Day 4 Update: Judicial Council rules constitutional seven key aspects of Traditional Plan, other portions unconstitutional

Day 4 Update: Judicial Council rules constitutional seven key aspects of Traditional Plan, other portions unconstitutional
Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

By Jessica Brodie

Late in the morning of Day 4, General Conference Secretary Gary Graves announced Judicial Council Decision 1377, a review of the petitions requested Monday in a motion by South Carolina delegate the Rev. Tim Rogers.

The UMC’s top court ruled that seven of the key aspects of the Traditional Plan were constitutional. These include aspects of qualifications for ministry (Paras. 304.3 and 304.5), episcopal responsibilities (Para. 415.6), minimum penalty (Para. 2711.3), complaint process (Para. 362.1e), just resolution (Para. 2701.5) and church appeal (Para. 2715.10).

Nine petitions were ruled unconstitutional. It ruled six other aspects on the Traditional Plan were unconstitutional—three on Episcopal Accountability violate Paras. 20 and 58, and three (on Composition of Board of Ordained Ministry and Full Examination) violate the principle of legality.

It also ruled the second sentence in another petition, 90045 (Traditional Plan #4 Episcopal Accountability, Para. 422), was unconstitutional.

It ruled both disaffiliation plans (Boyette and Taylor) unconstitutional; the Boyette plan violates Paras. 33 and 41 and the Taylor plan violates Para. 33.

After a quick break, the body then moved on, hearing debate on the One Church Plan minority report. Delegates entered a time of prayer just before noon CST.

At noon, the delegates had the chance to vote on whether to substitute the One Church Plan for the Traditional Plan. They voted (majority 54.56 percent) not to substitute.


Earlier update:

United Methodists are gearing up this morning, Feb. 26, for the final day of General Conference 2019—a day when many hope the body will take action on a plan for the denomination through issues over human sexuality.

Delegates finished their legislative committee session yesterday, passing the Traditional Plan and two disaffiliation plans but rejecting the others, including the One Church and Simple plans.

Today, GC2019 will reconvene as a plenary session, and it will hear from the Judicial Council as to the constitutionality of the plans, as well as take action—or not. While the Traditional Plan and two disaffiliation plans will carry forward in the plenary, it doesn’t mean there is no possibility for the One Church Plan or any other plans to resurface, delegates said.

South Carolina Delegation Chair the Rev. Tim McClendon said the One Church Plan will likely be submitted as a minority report and come before the body again Tuesday, or there is a possibility someone can offer it as a motion to substitute for the Traditional Plan.

South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston continues to call for fervent prayer from those watching back home and from all United Methodists and other people of faith.

“Pray,” Holston said late Monday. “There’s so much we do together than we can ever do separate, and there’s so much more God has called us to do.”

What is the Traditional Plan? This plan affirms the current language in the Discipline, which states “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (Para. 304.3).

What is The One Church Plan? This plan allows for contextualization of language about sexuality and allows for central conferences, especially in Africa, to retain disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values. It gives United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. It removes the restrictive language of the Discipline but adds assurances to pastors and conferences who, because of their theological convictions, cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.


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  • What does it mean that parts of the Traditional Plan were unconstitutional? What does this mean going forward? What happens now; is the Traditional Plan the official policy of the UMC or not? Thank you for responding.

    • Tom, we don’t know yet what it means. The Judicial Council (the UMC’s top court) will be reviewing it at their meeting in April. Nothing will go into effect until 2020, so right now everything that stood at the 2016 General Conference remains as-is. Here’s an article UM News Service ran Monday on what happens now: We hope to know more and run an update in our next edition.

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