By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—Annual Conference did not vote on any petitions to General Conference 2020 this year, as all three were ultimately ruled out of order.
Originally, the body was slated to vote on the following: 1) Petition to Change Language in the Book of Discipline (to remove the sentence found in Para. 161G of the 2016 Discipline that states, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching”); 2) Petition to Create Separate Books of Discipline (to create a separate Discipline for Central Conferences so the United States Annual Conferences can move forward with language changes in the Discipline if they choose to regarding sexual orientation); and 3) Petition to Repeal and Replace the Traditional Plan (to have a full repeal of the Traditional Plan, for a return to the language in the 2016 Discipline and for the 2020 General Conference to recommit itself to the work of reconciliation and peacemaking).
On Monday, Dr. Carolyn Briscoe of the Committee on Petitions to General Conference presented for information the three petitions slated to go before the body, announcing they would be voted upon Tuesday.
However, requesting a moment to speak, Dr. Roger Gramling argued that while the first petition was in order, it appeared petitions two and three were not petitions at all but rather an expression of opinion of the Annual Conference.
“Petitions must follow a prescribed form not only in formatting, but also must address a particular paragraph of the Book of Discipline, Para. 507, therefore making them legislative petitions,” Gramling said, calling for a point of order. “It seems to me two and three do not.”
Gramling said while petitions two and three seem to have validity as resolutions—that is, as an opinion this conference might want to express to General Conference—they do not appear to be petitions.
South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston agreed.
“It does say petitions presented to annual conference for endorsement must follow the provisions of Para. 507 and be submitted in the proper format,” Holston said, issuing his ruling. “In light of what you’ve just indicated, those two petitions are out of order for us to deal with at this annual conference.”
Then, on Wednesday morning, the body was slated to vote on the remaining petition, “Petition to Change Language in the Book of Discipline.” However, Briscoe noted questions had been circulating as to whether it, too, was in the proper legislative format. She asked Holston to issue a ruling on it.
Holston agreed again, ruling it, too, was invalid and therefore out of order.
Holston urged the makers of the petitions to put them in proper order per Para. 507 and submit them by Oct. 8 to be considered for General Conference 2020.
Allison Trussell contributed to this story.