Author: Mark Holland
The Judicial Council opened its Fall docket on October 23, 2018 by hearing oral arguments for and against the One Church Plan, the Connectional Conference Plan, and the Traditional Plan. The Council of Bishops proactively requested the review so that the General Conference would not do its work only to be overturned later by what would almost certainly be an appeal to the Judicial Council.
The meeting was held in an ultra-modern, minimalist hotel in Zurich, Switzerland. All concrete walls, ceilings, and floors with no wall art or rugs. Small conference room, all glass on three sides with drab gray curtains, floor to ceiling. One wall finished in wood. Very stark black metal chairs and tables with no table skirts. There is a horseshoe of chairs and tables at the front for the Judicial Council. There is a podium before the Council. There is a short row of tables for the speakers. There are only 40 chairs in the gallery, half of which were reserved seating. There were five observers.
It had the feel of a quasi-court/church setting. They announced the “Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church.” We all stood up and they all nine filed in. They do not wear robes or fake white wigs—which was a little disappointing. They took their seats and went around and introduced themselves. Then one of the members offered a prayer.
The proceedings started immediately. Bishops Harvey and Carter began and then their legal counsel spoke. Then Tom Berlin presented the One Church Plan on behalf of the Commission on the Way Forward. Then Keith Boyette, President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association presented against the plan. The Bishops saved 5 of their 20 minutes for rebuttal. The Judicial Council members asked a couple of questions. They finished and we took a break.
Then the Connectional Conference Plan. The Bishops pointed out the additional constitutional problems beyond the eight known constitutional amendments. Pat Miller from the Commission on the Way Forward presented it. This plan is so unlikely to pass that no one filed briefs for or against it. I do not think members of the Judicial Council asked any questions? I do not remember. This plan is dead. We took a break.
Then the Traditional Plan. Bishop Carter came out strong against it, which was refreshing. Then the Bishops’ Counsel spoke. Then Tom Lambrecht of Good News presented the plan on behalf of the Commission on the Way Forward. Tom Starnes, Chancellor for Baltimore Washington spoke against it. The members of the JC asked lots of questions. We finished at 1 pm for lunch.
The Judicial Council has said they plan to announce their decisions by Monday, October 29, 2018. You can see the full video here. Pop some popcorn–the food will help keep you awake!
Below are my blow by blow tweets: (For those of you who are not on Twitter.)
- Judicial Council begins hearing arguments about the One Church Plan in Zurich Switzerland.
- Bishop Harvey, “We seek not the uniformity of the church, but the unity.”
- Bishop Carter, “Our doctrinal standards do not speak of marriage, sexuality, or gender identity.”
- Tom Berlin reminds the Judicial Council that Central Conferences will not be affected by the One Church Plan.
- Tom Berlin, “Schism is not a plan for revitalization.”
- Keith Boyette, President of Wesleyan Covenant Association, says One Church plan will not preserve unity, but will institutionalize our conflict and destroy the church. He also filed a petition for GC2019 to dissolve the denomination.
- Keith Boyette, former member of Judicial Council. Says the One Church Plan is a “radical departure” from our historic, orthodox, and Biblical teaching.” Hmmm. Like when we freed slaves and ordained women?
- Arguments have begun on the Connectional Conference Plan.
- Bishop Harvey acknowledges Constitutional amendments needed.
- Bishops’ counsel acknowledges numerous constitutional problems with Connectional Conference Plan–beyond the known 8 amendments. If the Bishops cannot defend it…no one will. No one filed a brief to support it.
- Pat Miller, member of the CoWF and former Executive Director of Confessing Movement, presents Connectional Conference Plan. She suggests it be considered as a whole, not piecemeal by the General Conference. She notes, only objections raised are by the Council of Bishops.
- Pat Miller believes the 8 Constitutional Amendments that are baked into the Connectional Conference Plan are sufficient to pass and implement the plan.
- Pat Miller makes an important argument that is valid for all three plans. She wants the JC to identify any flaws in the plans now so if passed at GC2019 it will not be later invalidated.
- Bishop Carter, essentially says the Connectional Conference Plan has been abandoned because of its complexity. This was an attempt to do something new…
- Arguments for the Traditional Plan have begun.
- Bishop Carter, The Traditional Plan is not status quo but organizes our entire church around the single issue of human sexuality.
- Bishop Carter, Traditional Plan has undue reliance on legality.
- Bishop Carter, “Is this [the Traditional Plan] a way of dissolving the UMC as some groups have sought?”
- Tom Lambrecht, Member of CoWF and leader of Good News Movement presents arguments in defense of Traditional Plan.
- Lambrecht believes the Traditional Plan defines unity around beliefs on homosexuality. And allows for a “gracious exit” for those not feeling unified.
- Lambrecht spends most of his time discussing the integrity of the new trial process. This is the reality of the Traditional Plan. This is the “Trials Plan.” Nothing brings unity like lots of church-splitting trials.
- Tom Starnes argues that the Traditional Plan is not in harmony with the call because it is not the work of the Commission on the Way Forward. It is the work of a few bishops.
- Tran asks, is it fair and impartial for a complaint against a Bishop to originate from within the Council of Bishops and then for the Council of Bishops to vote on the complaint. Counsel for Bishops says no.
- Bishop Harvey summary. “We do not want a repeat of Tampa 2012.” This is when the GC worked for 10 days to have the work tossed out by the Judicial Council on the last day.
- Bishop Harvey, the mission of the UMC is at risk without the One Church Plan. “A fracture of the unity of this body will fracture the mission of the church.”