Judicial Council Affirms the Traditional Plan

Good News Statement

Members of the Judicial Council during the Feb. 23 morning of prayer at the 2019 Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.

The Judicial Council has properly ruled that many parts of the Traditional Plan are constitutional and can go into effect. United Methodists around the globe can be gratified that the Judicial Council has upheld the direction and will of the General Conference. These rulings are consistent with the Council’s previous rulings and provide a stable understanding of how the church can move forward with a traditional understanding of marriage and sexual ethics. Good News is grateful that the church is now able to more faithfully uphold biblical teaching.

In addition, the Council ruled that the option for local churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church is constitutional. As enacted by the General Conference, this option goes into effect immediately. It provides a way for those who simply cannot abide by the decisions of the church to find their own path in ministry.

The following provisions have been ruled constitutional by the Judicial Council and will take effect as of January 1, 2020.

  1. Expands the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to include persons “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.”
  2. Bishops are prohibited from consecrating bishops who are self-avowed homosexuals. Bishops are prohibited from commissioning those on the deacon or elder track if the Board of Ministry has determined the individual is a self-avowed homosexual or has failed to certify it carried out the disciplinarily mandated examination. Bishops are prohibited from ordaining deacons or elders if the Board of Ministry has determined the individual is a self-avowed homosexual or has failed to certify it carried out the disciplinarily mandated examination.
  3. Minimum penalty for clergy convicted of performing a same-sex wedding: suspension without pay for first offense, termination of clergy status for second offense.
  4. The District Committee on Ordained Ministry AND the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry shall not approve or recommend any person for candidacy, licensing, commissioning, or ordination who does not meet the qualifications. Bishop must rule such recommendations out of order.
  5. Bishops may not dismiss a complaint unless it has no basis in law or in fact.
  6. Just resolutions shall state all identified harms and how they shall be addressed by the Church and other parties to the complaint.
  7. No matter where in the process a just resolution is achieved, the complainant(s) shall be a party to the resolution process and every effort shall be made to have the complainant(s) agree to the resolution before it may take effect.
  8. The Church shall have a right of appeal to the committee on appeals and then to the Judicial Council from findings of the trial court based on egregious errors of Church law or administration that could reasonably have affected the findings of the trial court.
  9. Disaffiliation by a local church requires:
    • Two-thirds vote by the church conference
    • Payment of the previous 12 months’ apportionments and an additional 12 months’ apportionments
    • The church’s share of the annual conference’s unfunded pension liabilities
    • Ratification of the disaffiliation request by a majority vote of the annual conference (¶ 2529.1(b)3)
    • This disaffiliation pathway goes into effect immediately

As covenanted members of the global connection, bishops, clergy, annual conferences, and local congregations should abide by the direction set by General Conference, the one body authorized to speak for the whole church, and affirmed by the Judicial Council. The unity of The United Methodist Church will only be realized as members follow the clear direction of the General Conference.

Statements of non-compliance issued by the Western Jurisdiction, several bishops, and groups of clergy are counterproductive to our denomination’s quest for unity. Such statements are schismatic and divisive. The heightened conflict around such non-compliance serves only to further tear our church apart and distract us from the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

As these provisions of the Traditional Plan go into effect, we urge all United Methodists to treat one another with love and consideration, to speak to and of one another respectfully and using the guidelines of Holy Conferencing suggested by Discipleship Ministries. We also encourage leaders across the theological spectrum to be willing to work on a negotiated way forward that allows us to walk different paths that honor our core convictions. Let us seek a way to honor Christ, even in the midst of our disagreement.


  1. I’m in the Minnesota Annual Conference, where a majority of the clergy support same-sex marriage and LGBT ordination – hard to say if even a majority of churches would be able to achieve the 2/3 vote to disaffiliate.

    What I’m wondering – is there any way at this time for an Annual Conference to leave, or ONLY local churches?

  2. “…the church is now able to more faithfully uphold biblical teaching.” Thank you to all from Good News who have worked so hard, under some seriously adverse conditions that we may hopefully honor Christ in this way.

  3. Renato M. Velasquez says

    So be it Lord. Speak to us, guide us, and bless us as we move forward. Let there be love in spite of diversity. Should some churches decide to disaffiliate, let not hatred and animosity prevail in their hearts as well as to those who decide to stay in the faith.

  4. Someone is getting this wrong and communicating to the laity a different message https://www.ngumc.org/newsdetail/judicial-council-12799228 Who?

  5. Jim Wolfgang says

    GOOD NEWS: I felt almost as much relief for this Judicial Council ruling as I did for the Special Called Conference decision. One hopes now that the very resonable exit path is in effect, the congregations that cannot follow the beliefs of the United Methodist Church will find another path than their present one of divisiveness and disruption. The “gracious” path for them is to form their own denomination that they can be at peace with. (I wonder what they will do with our stand on abortion?) The next big decision for us is what to do with our bishops? Why not go back to the former tradition we have in our Evangelical United Brethren Church heritage and elect bishops for four year terms (re-electable), and this done by the General Conference delegates, not the jurisdictions. Perhaps the jurisdictions could nominate a candidate for bishop, or we could eliminate the jurisdictions entirely; they were devised to allow the Methodist Episcopal Church South to elect their own bishops and not deal with racisim. In any case the United Methodist Church is healthier today than the week before. If a dis-eased part cannot heal, it is better it be removed.

  6. Why do we approach with pause and timidity that the UMC has voted to stand as a scriptural church? Must we offer apologies to those who would tolerate and even celebrate sinful lifestyles? And though I reaffirm the divine worth of each of God’s human creations, I am absolutely appalled by certain leaders, whose seek to reinterpret scripture as a flexible roadmap, rather than the holy, unerring Word of God. Someday in eternity, seminary deans and presidents, theology professors and Christianity revisionists may be pressed to account for deceiving God’s people with perverse doctrine and societally acceptable theology. May God bless His church and may He speak to and convict those who add to and take away from His Word.

  7. Gary Bebop says

    Challenging the liberal narrative interpreting the decisions of 2019 must be part of the work order for Traditionalists. Adam Hamilton and others are trying to “do the wave” at annual conferences, overwhelming the election of delegate processes. The Traditional Plan is now Book of Discipline, and we must ask the whole church to live by the law, not succumb to disorder.

  8. Licensed Local Pastor says

    I concur with Mark Tooley’s article in Juicy Ecumenism https://juicyecumenism.com/ titled Counter Cultural Methodism. It will be interesting to see how many Bishops leave the denomination after GC 2020.

  9. John Tryon says

    Is there a written description of what happens to the church building if a congregation votes to disaffiliate? Our church is taking a straw vote and it would be nice if they understand the ramifications of their vote.

  10. Ann Jones says

    What is going to happen when the pastors in the Michigan Conference abide by the statement they posted online? See…..

    These current pastors have signed a statement that was posted online after the Special General Conference. They state that they will not follow the Book of Discipline!
    “We, therefore, refuse to accept the United Methodist stance that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
    “We can no longer abide by the restrictions the Book of Discipline has placed on inclusion of LBGTQIA people in the full life of the UMC.”

    There is a full list of all the pastors who have signed this pledge on the link above.

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