The Following Post is not supported by Mainstream UMC and is on our website for informational purposes only. We recommend the Judicial Council not honor this request for reconsideration.
Read our response to this request HERE
Author: Rev. Tom Lambrecht, Vice President of Good News
REQUEST FOR PARTIAL RECONSIDERATION OF JUDICIAL COUNCIL DECISION 1366
REQUEST OF REV. THOMAS LAMBRECHT
Pursuant to Rule IX.A of the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church, petition is hereby respectfully made for partial reconsideration of Decision 1366 on the grounds that the Judicial Council is in error with respect to one aspect of that Decision. This request is filed by the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, ordained elder in the Wisconsin Annual Conference and member of the Commission on a Way Forward. I was an interested party to Decision 1366 representing the Traditional Plan, having addressed the Judicial Council in oral argument. I ask that if partial reconsideration is approved, the matter be placed on the docket for the special session of the Judicial Council that will be held from February 19-22, 2019 in St. Louis, MO.
PORTION OF DECISION 1366 TO BE RECONSIDERED
I respectfully request reconsideration of the part of Decision 1366 related to the Traditional Plan, ¶ 2801, Sections 10 and 11, found on page 44 of the decision, and addressed in the Digest of Case at page 4 and the Ruling at page 58. These sections “establish a procedure for groups of local churches and individual local churches to form new or join existing self-governing Methodist churches in the United States.” The Judicial Council ruled, “The proposed ¶¶ 2801.10-12 are in direct conflict with the process established by the Constitution for the transfer of local churches from one annual conference to another.”
BASIS FOR RECONSIDERATION
Decision 1366 improperly applies ¶ 41 to proposed ¶ 2801.10-12. Paragraph 41 states, “A local church may be transferred from one annual conference to another in which it is geographically located …” (emphasis added). This paragraph plainly deals with the transfer of a local church within The United Methodist Church from one annual conference to another. That is the understanding of the Judicial Council, as well, as indicated in Decision 1366, “The proposed ¶¶ 2801.10-12 are in direct conflict with the process established by the Constitution for the transfer of local churches from one annual conference to another.”
By contrast, the provisions of ¶ 2801.10-12 deal with a “change of affiliation” from an annual conference within The United Methodist Church to a newly created “self-governing Methodist church” that is plainly not The United Methodist Church and, in fact, is independent of the UM Church. As such, ¶ 2801 deals not with transfer within the UM Church but withdrawal from the UM Church to join or form a different church body (which may or may not even have annual conferences). Thus, there is no “direct conflict,” as maintained by Decision 1366. Paragraph 41 of the Constitution and ¶ 2801 deal with entirely distinct issues.
The provisions of ¶ 41 do not address the withdrawal of a congregation. Thus, they are improperly applied to ¶ 2801. Since ¶ 41 is part of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church, it cannot govern a “self-governing Methodist church” that is distinct from the UM Church. Indeed, ¶ 2801.11 conditions the joining of a congregation to the new church upon notice to the “cabinet of the annual conference from the supervisory leadership of the receiving church that the transfer to them is accepted” (emphasis added). The use of the word “transfer” here has a generic meaning of changing the affiliation from one independent body to another. It implies withdrawal from The United Methodist Church and “joining” a “self-governing Methodist church.” Thus, ¶ 41 cannot govern the change of affiliation of a church moving outside the UM Church.
Perhaps the origin of the Judicial Council’s application of ¶ 41 is the use of the word “transfer” in the second paragraph of the proposed ¶ 2801.11. If the use of that term alone is the source of the problem, it can easily be replaced by language used elsewhere in ¶ 2801.10-11, “change of affiliation,” “switch in affiliation,” or “join an existing self-governing church.” As these alternative expressions imply, the use of the term “transfer” in this context means a withdrawal from the UM Church in order to join/affiliate with a different church having its own Book of Discipline and structure (¶ 2801.10d). Therefore, the use of the term “transfer” should not trigger the application of ¶ 41 to this proposal. If the replacement of the term “transfer” in the proposal with the change of affiliation language would remove the constitutional impediment, it would be extremely helpful for the Judicial Council to identify and state that fact.
Under ¶ 16.3, the General Conference has the constitutional power “to define and fix the powers and duties of … charge conferences, and congregational meetings.” That would include the power to stipulate the process and conditions under which a charge conference or a congregational meeting could vote to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church and affiliate with a “self-governing Methodist church.” Since such would not constitute a transfer within The United Methodist Church from one annual conference to another, the General Conference has the authority to adopt a process and conditions that are independent of ¶ 41. This authority is a direct analogy with the finding by Judicial Council that “the General Conference, under the authority of ¶ 16.3, may regulate the process and set the conditions for an annual conference to leave The United Methodist Church” (Decision 1366, p. 44). The General Conference has the same authority for local churches, since ¶ 41 is not addressing the situation of a local church leaving the denomination.
The error identified in Decision 1366 raised by this petition for reconsideration resulted from the unfortunate circumstance of the issue being raised for the first time during the oral hearing on this matter and not having been briefed by any of the parties. The issue was briefly mentioned in oral argument by Mr. William Waddell on behalf of the Council of Bishops, and I replied briefly in my remarks. Therefore, the issue was not fully argued and briefed, leaving the Judicial Council without the opportunity to fully consider points advanced here. Reconsideration will enable the error identified to be corrected.
Petitioner respectfully requests that the Judicial Council reconsider the above-mentioned part of Decision 1366 and state one of the following:
- ¶ 41 does not restrict the process for a local church leaving The United Methodist Church to affiliate with another church body, as outlined in proposed ¶ 2801.10-12, making those proposed paragraphs constitutional.
- Proposed ¶ 2801.10-12 are constitutional, so long as they do not use the word “transfer” to describe the change of affiliation they provides for.
I ask that if partial reconsideration is approved, the matter be placed on the docket for the special session of the Judicial Council, which will be held from February 19-22, 2019 in St. Louis, MO.
Correcting this misapplication of ¶ 41 and clarifying what governs the process for a local church to withdraw from The United Methodist Church and affiliate with a different church body would be very helpful to the delegates at the upcoming special called General Conference. Such clarification would prevent a futile attempt to adopt different language if such language did not resolve the constitutional problem the Judicial Council identified. Specifically identifying the constitutional problem, if any, would prevent such an occurrence.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. The church is indebted to the Judicial Council for the work done in Decision 1366 to identify the flaws that must be corrected. Further clarification on the matter raised above would help create more certainty about the parameters that proposed legislation needs to meet.
Rev. Thomas Lambrecht
1903 Whitelaw Dr
Spring, TX 77386
Affidavit of service:
In addition to submission to the Judicial Council, electronic copies of this brief have been sent to the following interested parties. I will send electronic copies to any additional interested parties or amici curiae identified by the secretary of the Judicial Council.
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter
President, Council of Bishops
450 MLK Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815
Phone: 863-688-5563 ext. 151
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
President Designate, Council of Bishops
527 North Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Bishop Bruce Ough
Immediate-Past President, Council of Bishops
122 West Franklin Avenue, Second Floor
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Bishop Mande Muyombo
Secretary, Council of Bishops
450 Beaumont Drive
Stone Mountain, GA 30087
Phone: 243 81 408 1120
Bishop Marcus Matthews
Executive Secretary, Council of Bishops
100 Maryland Ave. NE
Washington DC 20002
Rev. Thomas M. Berlin
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
1041 Muessing Road
Indianapolis, Indiana 46239
The following amici curiae also received an electronic copy of this brief:
Lonnie D. Brooks
Rev. Tim McClendon
Rev. Nathanael Fugate
Rev. Keith H. Mcilwain
Rev. Robert F. Zilhaver
Rev. Dr. William B. Lawrence
Rev. Keith Boyette