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Pro-homosexuality UM Social Action Org Inspired By Bishops' Disobedience To Undermine Church High Court

From Kathryn Johnson, MFSA:

Friends -

The statement by the Council of Bishops was just released (pasted below). The Bishop's letter states clearly that "while pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier." Significantly - the statement was passed unanimously by the bishops.

Now we must keep the pressure on until the egregious ruling of the Judicial Council (1032) is reversed.

I would also suggest that we use this opportunity to inform and mobilize people for General Conference 2008 when delegates will have the opportunity to replace the Judicial Council members who are trying to lead the church in this appalling direction.

Some concrete suggestions:

1. Reread - and share - the MFSA Plumbline on the Judicial Council that was written for General Conferene 2004 (attached and pasted below and also found on the MFSA web page under the General Conference - Plumblines - #2). This will help folks understand how we got to the place we are and how imperative it is to mobilize to change the nature of the Judicial Council at GC 2008.

2. If you don't already have it, write to MFSA to request a copy of the CD with a power point presentation on organizing for the election of delegates to General Conference 2008. The power point presentation clearly lays out the agenda of the right and makes the case for electing delegates who will pull the church back from this precipice. Email the office mfsa@mfsaweb to request a copy.

The events of this week have given many people pause as to whether they can remain a part of the United Methodist Church. The questions being raised are entirely valid and we will need to spend time reflecting, analyzing and planning together.

At the same time, the events of this week have set things in clear relief. This is a "teachable" moment for all those in the UMC who have been unaware of the danger posed by the right.


Council of Bishops Disagrees with Judicial Council Ruling

The United Methodist Council of Bishops unanimously adopted the following statement regarding the Judicial Council's Nov. 1 decision (#1032) during the bishops' meeting at Lake Junaluska NC.

A Pastoral Letter to the People of The United Methodist Church from the Council of Bishops

By grace you have been saved through faith.

-Ephesians 2:8

Grace to you from Jesus Christ who calls his church to welcome all people into the community of faith as it proclaims the Gospel.

The Judicial Council, our denominations highest judicial authority, recently issued a decision regarding a pastors refusing a gay mans request for membership in the church. In the case, this man was invited to join the choir at the United Methodist Church in the community. As he became more active in the choir and the church, he asked to transfer his membership from another denomination to The United Methodist Church. Because he is a practicing homosexual, the pastor refused to receive him into church membership. The Judicial Council upheld the pastors refusal of membership.

While pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier. With the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church we affirm: "that Gods grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons."(Para. 161g, 2004 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church)

We also affirm our Wesleyan practice that pastors are accountable to the bishop, superintendent, and the clergy on matters of ministry and membership.

The United Methodist Church is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ with all people. We, the bishops of the Church, uphold and affirm that the General Conference has clearly spoken through the denominations Constitution on inclusiveness and justice for all as it relates to church membership:

The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking the vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.

(Article IV, Constitution of The United Methodist Church)

We believe the ministry of the local church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to help people accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We call upon all United Methodist pastors and laity to make every congregation a community of hospitality.

November 2, 2005

Lake Junaluska, N.C.




At General Conference 2004, delegates will elect five members to the Judicial Council, two laypersons and three clergy. It is critically important that the persons elected be eminently qualified and that all care is taken to ensure that the Judicial Council is composed of people with a clear and balanced view of their role in providing expert interpretation of the UM Constitution and Book of Discipline.


At General Conference 2000, well-organized conservatives elected three members to the Judicial Council who are leaders within Good News and the Confessing Movement. These three persons have already voted together consistently enough to have an impact in shaping the decisions of the Judicial Council. Two more such elections at General Conference 2004 could create a block of five votes. Should these five persons vote in concert it could dramatically alter the future of the denomination. At issue is whether General Conference will maintain the independence of the Judicial Council.


The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body of the UMC and all of its decisions are final. The Constitution gives the General Conference the power to determine the number and qualifications of the Judicial Council’s members, as well as their terms of office and method of election.

The Council of Bishops nominates three times the number of ordained clergy and laypersons as will be elected at that session of General Conference. Each jurisdiction as well as the central conferences as a group is required to be represented by at least one nominee. At the same daily session at which the nominations are announced, nominations may be made from the floor. The names of all the nominees along with their conference and a biographical sketch – not to exceed 100 words – are published in the Daily Christian Advocate at least 48 hours prior to the time of the election. (¶2602.2)

At the time of the election, the General Conference elects, without discussion, by ballot and majority vote the necessary number of ministerial and lay members to the Judicial Council. (¶2602.2) This election is similar to the election of General and jurisdictional Conference delegates in the annual conferences with one significant exception. All General Conference delegates – both lay and clergy – vote for both the lay and ministerial members of the Judicial Council.

It is likely that all the ballots necessary to elect the Judicial Council will take place in one evening. The 2000 DCA shows that all the necessary ballots were cast on Monday evening, May 10, 2000. There was some time between the first few ballots when delegates were voting for more than one candidate among clergy and/or laity. But, once it came down to one remaining position for either lay or clergy side, the General Conference cast several ballots within a few moments (probably less than 1 minute) in order to elect someone. This rapid repeat voting is possible since discussion between ballots is specifically forbidden.

United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan used to speak of the Rule of Five – the word of five justice's on the United States Supreme Court can override the express written word of all the Founding Fathers and all the American People. Likewise, if five members of the Judicial Council want The United Methodist Church to go a certain direction, they can have a great deal of influence in making that happen. They can interpret the Constitution and Discipline as they desire, regardless of what many would regard as the clear meaning of those documents.

The 2000 General Conference elected 5 people to the Judicial Council. Because Good New and the Confessing Movement were well organized, they were able to elect three of their candidates, displacing the three sitting members of the Judicial Council who were seeking reelection. Those elected were Keith Boyette, Mary Daffin and James Holsinger.

At the time of their election, Boyette, Daffin and Holsinger all held leadership positions in Good News and the Confessing Movement: * Keith Boyette was not only on the board of directors of Good News and representing it before the Judicial Council, but was also one of the nine members of the Steering Committee for the Coalition for United Methodist Accountability (CUMA). CUMA is a joint project of Good News, the Confessing Movement and the Institute for Religion and Democracy. * Mary Daffin was the Vice-President of Board of Director of the Confessing Movement. * James Holsinger was a member of the Board of Directors of the Confessing Movement.

The presence of these new members has already had a significant impact on the direction of the Judicial Council. There are also clear indications of the direction that the Judicial Council will take the church should like-minded conservatives hold a block of five votes. An example of this is a dissenting opinion to Judicial Council Decision 930. The three new members wrote that the Bishop in the particular case should be required to suspend the pastor, even though the Discipline clearly reads that the decision about suspension is at the discretion of the Bishop, subject to the approval of the executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

The Good News/Confessing Movement members of the Judicial Council have also issued opinions letting it be known that they think established precedents should be overturned.

For example, in a dissent to Judicial Council Memorandum 942, the Good News/Confessing members argue at length to set aside the well-established precedent of Judicial Council Decision 799 on the constitutional separation of powers.

Finally it is noteworthy that since the last General Conference, there have been two cases where decisions of the Judicial Council have had to be reversed or modified. This is extremely rare, happening less than once a decade up until these last few years. In both instances, the Council of Bishops was so distressed by the Judicial Council’s original decision that it voted to ask for this reconsideration. (See 910 which reversed 904 and 930 which modified 920). But even when the Judicial Council owned up to its mistakes by reconsidering decision 904 and 920, the Good News and Confessing members continued to argue for the original mistaken decisions:

In a dissenting opinion to Judicial Council Decision 910, Mr. Boyette and Mr. Holsinger – defended at length Judicial Council Decision 904 which found the power of the Central Conferences to modify the Discipline based on their unique missional needs to be unconstitutional.

In a dissenting opinion to Judicial Council Decision 930, all three wrote that the Bishop in the particular case should be required to suspend the pastor, even though the Discipline clearly reads that the decision about suspension is a the discretion of the Bishop, subject to the approval of the executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

If just two of the five people elected by the 2004 General Conference associate and move in concert with the current conservatives on the Judicial Council, the future of our denomination could look substantially different.


Be aware of the tremendous importance of the Judicial Council and the impact that the selection of its members has on The United Methodist Church

* The Council of Bishops gives a great deal of thought to its choice of nominees. Give special consideration to its nominees in the upcoming election. Only 2 of its nominees were among the 5 elected to the Judicial Council in 2000.

* Examine carefully any nomination coming from the floor. In 2000 the three elected leaders of Good News and Confessing Movement were nominated from the floor.

* Seek to have the General Conference provide more information about nominees and their views. When someone is nominated as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, his or her record is carefully scrutinized. Yet at present, General Conference delegates are only provided with brief biographical statements about candidates. The present statements contain no information about their views on Judicial Council matters or information about their affiliations that may impact how they view matters that come before the Judicial Council.

* Elect members to the Judicial Council who will serve The United Methodist Church well.

Kathryn J. Johnson, Executive Director Methodist Federation for Social Action 212 East Capitol St., NE Washington, DC 20003 (202) 546-8806 http://www.mfsaweb.org 

"We do not convince others by telling them loudly how wrong they are and how right we are. We convince them by showing them a light so lovely they will want with all their hearts to know the source of it."

Madeleine L'Engle

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