Judicial Council Allows Alternative Proposals

By Thomas Lambrecht –

In a decision released today, the Judicial Council ruled by an 8-1 margin that “Petitions to the special session of the General Conference 2019 may be filed by any organization, clergy member and lay member of the United Methodist Church as long as the business proposed to be transacted in such petition is in harmony with the purpose stated in the call.”

This means that any member or organization in the church may file a petition with a proposal for resolving the church’s impasse over the definition of marriage and the practice of homosexuality. Such petitions will need to be received by the petitions secretary in the proper format by July 8, 2018. They will then be translated and published in the Advance edition of the Daily Christian Advocate for the delegates to use at General Conference.

The Judicial Council further ruled that “It is the obligation of the General Conference to determine, in the first instance, through its committees, officers and presiders, acting in accordance with The Discipline and the rules and procedures of the General Conference, whether any such petition is ‘in harmony.’” The Council did not tell the General Conference how to make that decision, leaving it up to the General Conference and its committee structure to determine the process for deciding which petitions are in harmony with the purpose of the called special General Conference.

The significance of this ruling is that the petition process is open to all, and alternative proposals for resolving our impasse over the definition of marriage and the practice of homosexuality will be allowed. If a Traditionalist Plan with legislation is not included in the bishops’ report, it can still be submitted separately through this process. This ensures that a plan that evangelicals can support will be considered by the delegates at General Conference.

We applaud the Judicial Council for a well-reasoned decision that will allow the full participation of all the church through its legislative process to arrive at a faithful way forward. Please continue in prayer for the delegates, bishops, and all those involved in submitting petitions.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News.  He is also a member of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Comments

  1. So the committees will recommend that all other proposals are not in harmony and chair will have to rule counter proposals as out of order.

    • William says:

      No, no. This General Conference must follow the Book of Discipline, if I understand their ruling correctly? Note — it is my understanding that a similar “local option” plan was soundly defeated at the committee level during the 2016 General Conference? Corrections to these statements if I am wrong — please.

      As for the Judicial Council ruling, they did two things, in my opinion. One, they repudiated the bishops attempt to rig the General Conference. May this be the beginning of a backlash that ultimately leads to real church reform that once again makes us a true Wesleyan denomination. Two, they fully demonstrated to us just how out of touch they are with the greater church body with which they’re supposed to be leading.

      Anyway, thank God for our UMC Judicial Council.

      • Paul W. says:

        I agree with Kevin. The shenanigans from the UMC bureaucracy are just getting started. Don’t forget, they own the GC committee and fully control the GC process. Past GC’s have shown that the liberal Bishops are willing to shamelessly manipulate the proceedings to try to get the outcome they desire; remember at GC2016 how they completely stalled the work of GC for days trying every trick in the book to get their “Rule 44” passed?

        • You just described my frustration as well. And they even asked for NO petitions at this special conference, because they had put such long hours of work to make their plan — which is the same one that has been voted down before.

  2. Overwhelming majority of of votes, only one against. Thanks be to God

  3. Happy Aldersgate Weekend! May your heart be strangely warmed!

  4. My prayer is that Good News, WCA, the confessing movement and any other traditionalist organization get together and craft one proposal that will bring this sad issue to a conclusion that allows both sides to part in peace. Rev Lambrecht has been involved in the process for two years now and hopefully has envisioned a solution. This is the time for traditionalists to provide leadership and grace. We need a peaceful solution not more chaos. Please join me in prayer for this group to provide us with leadership.

    • Excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s peacefully say goodbye to those who no longer hold an orthodox, Wesleyan faith and move on to the important work of ministry.

  5. A Retired Pastor says:

    Significant to me in the decision of the Judicial Council is how easy it can be for us to lose track of what our rights are as United Methodist Members. In the Judicial Council decision statement of facts, it was observed that there was nothing construed in the 2016 General Conference action creating a Commission on a Way Forward, any authority for the Council of Bishops to assume final authority in analyzing and forwarding limited legislation to a specially called General Conference. Their responsibility was to give oversight to ensure that the Commission on a Way Forward was formed, and was diligent in accomplishing it’s task for the benefit of the United Methodist Church as a whole. Our Discipline does much to protect our individual rights, and we should be grateful today for a Judicial Council, created to ensure that “We the People” (of the United Methodist Church) retain protections from the abuse of leadership, whether intended or not. I feel a strong sense of relief, and assurance, that the coming General Conference can be conducted in a controlled, confident, respectful manner, where the voices of all who call themselves United Methodist can be heard, and the will of the majority can reflect the future of Christ’s Church.

  6. Amen William, AMEN!

  7. Harold Gielow says:

    I was greatly encouraged to read about this JC decision. As in other annual conferences, Virginia’s has put forward a resolution to affirm liberalization on the issue of human sexuality – resolution 1 for VAUMC Annual Conference 2018. I suspect it will pass, and also suspect there has been leadership effort to garner wider ministerial support for the COB’s “One Church” proposal. I believe this as, although I have asked our charge pastor, who has repeatedly asserted he is against liberalization, how he intends to vote at conference on this issue, he has, so far, declined to answer and has made statements from the pulpit encouraging unity on the basics. I suspect he perhaps no longer views the authority of the scriptures as one of these. Had this JC decision restricted GC review to the “One Church” proposal, I was prepared to seek another church, my hope that this apostasy within Methodism would be defeated no longer even close to a certain expectation. Forgive me my lack of faith and blessings to all, including Rev. Lambtrecht, who have soldiered on to uphold the faith. Because of my protestations on this issue, our bishop instructed no one to talk with me, even secular lawyers with no affiliation with the Methodist church. I am renewed in hope with this decision, and offer all working on a traditional proposal to submit to the GC any service I can render. I would much appreciate, and humbly request, updates on the crafting of a traditional proposal. Additionally, I humbly submit the usefulness of a “communications campaign” to contact as many GC-2019 voters with information on the traditional proposal to be proferred. Thank you Good News. Thank you WCF.

  8. William says:

    Yes, a traditional proposal that strengthens, streamlines, and makes crystal clear our present position on Christian marriage and sexual immorality with direct connections to the Scriptures is desperately needed. It should be built off the very basic, unequivocal Scriptural definition of Christian MARRIAGE of one man and one woman as the ONE and ONLY place for sexual relations —- while describing all other sexual relations outside of that as the practice of sexual immorality that is incompatible with Christian teachings. There would be no further need to list the practice of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teachings, thus no more separating it out while seemingly ignoring all other forms of sexual immorality rampant in our modern culture.

    The delegates MUST be presented with Genesis 2:22-24 and the reference made to that by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9 and challenged to defy the Word of God on what constitutes Christian marriage, and what constitutes the practice of sexual immorality.

  9. Bill Fitzgerrel says:

    I wish I could be as optimistic as some of those who have replied seem to be. I am grateful to the Judicial Council for a fair ruling on the petition process. I would be grateful for a “traditionalist” proposal to be put forward. I believe such a proposal would pass because the delegates from conferences outside the US would join with the conservatives from the US to pass it. My question is: what happens three months after GC 2019? My understanding is that the traditionalist proposal would “tighten” enforcement of the Discipline. Since many of the bishops and others who would run investigations and trials are opposed to enforcement of the Discipline, then I gather there would have to be “disciplining of the discipliners.” That would mean there would have to be mechanisms by which refusal of a conference officer to enforce the Discipline would mean that officer would be put on trial. How could that be pulled off within liberal conferences? Will we not be right back in the midst of chaotic “civil disobedience” on the part of progressives? Will anything have been solved? It is not enough to “win” the vote at General Conference. There needs to be a recognition that the present situation–that a sizable minority of progressives within the denomination is creating havoc–can only be ended by a schism that allows the two sides to go their separate ways. Such a schism would not be easy to accomplish. There are huge organizations, like the Board of Global Missions, and institutions, like the seminaries. How all of that will be “split up” calls for wiser heads than mine. But it seems like we need to think this whole thing through. One ruling of the Judicial Council is not going to end the mess we are in. Sorry for the down post. I’m just saying…

    • A Retired Pastor says:

      Bill, I am feeling that you are correct. I try to be optimistic, and the Judicial Council ruling certainly helped my mental state over all that has been going on. But the reality is still there. By any analogy it is obvious that there is no unity. There is a huge void between the leadership and the membership. But this is a voluntary association, and not a military army. The leadership are not generals; they are to be shepherds. The sheep will NOT follow a stranger’s voice, but will FLEE. At present the flock is huddled in the sheep-fold, hearing the voice of many strangers, awaiting the call of the Voice that they recognize. Therefore the General Conference will never be the final decision-making body.

  10. Retired Pastor says:

    Are we the body of Christ or a social club? We are almost dried up! Pastors are only allowed to preach for 15-20 minutes. Heaven forbid an hour teaching on Scripture. We have forsaken the Lord and He has shaken the church. When we do not retain in our minds and thoughts that God is our Creator then as punishment we are plagued by homosexuality. If we don’t repent then God turns us over to a reprobate mind. Read Romans 1. The problem is our seminarys and the professors who no not God are teaching our young pastors incorrectly. As a woman I have experienced a Godly seminary and a liberal seminary. It is like two opposite worlds of thought. I wept over what I heard being taught in the liberal seminary as I watched young people losing their faith. The problem in our church is coming from the top down. The laity many many times know God and his Word and have had a true experience with God than our glorified preachers have had. Many preachers parrot only what they learned in seminary. They are yes men. Their “Yes” started I’m order to get a high grade in agreement with a liberal professor. Trouble is when they graduated they lost their connection with God and became people pleasers, not God pleasers. The laity must rise up and take back the Church along with the few devout preachers we still have left that fear God and honor His divine Word.

    • Jim Wolfgang says:

      I believe this comment is true; I have wondered from where the “theology” of affirming the practice of homosexuality came, and I believe it is the seminaries. Where I graduated in 1994 did not, but recent graduates are taught it is o-k, we “misunderstand” the context! I was also taught scripture interprets scripture and follow the plain reading of the text: sound advice still. I and a colleague have four petitions for the “special called conference” : one to leave the social principals intact and three about accountability-which do require some extensive changes in the discipline including our constitution. (four year terms for U.S. bishops as the E.U.B. tradition did, jurisdictions nominate bishops but General Conference elects general superintendants-bishops, and a complainant in a chargeable offense has the same right to appeal as the respondent.) Unfortunantly we can no longer assume clergy in annual conferences and jurisdictions will honor their vows to uphold the Discipline so we must take that authority away from the annual conference and jurisdiction. What a shame it would be to shipwreck the most true example of the new testament church over something as absurd as approving the practice of homosexuality. I pray we hold the traditional view as the church around the world (with a few exceptions) has for 2000 years.

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