A message from Bishop Devadhar: Judicial Council rulings

April 26, 2019

Dear Beloved United Methodists in New England,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The United Methodist Judicial Council in its decisions 1378 and 1379, April 26, 2019,  affirmed, for the most part, the decisions made by the 2019 special session of General Conference.

The rulings are consistent with its previous decisions regarding parts of the Traditional Plan – upholding some and deeming others unconstitutional. See a story from United Methodist News for details of the rulings.

Council of Bishops President Bishop Ken Carter has issued a response to the rulings on behalf of the Council. You can read that here.

Some notable points:

  • The Judicial Council reaffirmed that in order for a local church/congregation to leave the UMC, it must meet certain obligations – including a majority vote of the annual conference session; churches that choose to leave the denomination on theological grounds have until Dec 31, 2023 to do so.

The legislation deemed constitutional:

  • does NOT require the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) members to certify compliance with The Book of Discipline;
  • does NOT require charged clergy to state they will not repeat the offense
  • DOES uphold restrictions on bishops ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” despite the recommendation of BOM/DCOM/clergy session
  • DOES uphold restrictions on bishops consecrating of bishops who are “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”
  • DOES add to the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” in ¶ 304.3 to include “or is 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.”
  • DOES add new requirements for Just Resolutions and timelines for referral or dismissal of complaints
  • DOES add mandatory penalties for charged clergy 
  • DOES give Church the right of appeal for egregious errors of law 

The changes to The Book of Discipline go into effect Jan. 1, 2020 in the U.S. and in May of 2021 in the Central Conferences (Philippines, Africa, and Europe).

(New England Conference Chancellor William Hewig III has produced an executive summary of Decisions 1378 and 1379. Read the summary.) 

So what does this mean for the New England Conference?
This decision does not change the positions stated by my Cabinet and me and our Board of Ordained Ministry prior to and after the called session of General Conference. 
We in New England are not of one mind on several matters of theology and social principle, however, we continue to repent of the ways in which our legislative and judicial process does harm to individual persons and groups – particularly those who identify as LGBTQIA –  and fails us in our Christian mandate to love one another after the example of Jesus.
Our churches, camps and retreat centers, food pantries and other meal programs, child care centers, and institutions of higher learning, are and will continue to be open to ALL persons. 
I have been gathering with districts for holy conversations in the past couple of weeks, and will continue to do so in these next few days and weeks (see schedule). As always, my door is open to any who wish to join with me in further conversation and prayer. 
Regardless of where we stand on the decisions before us, my prayer is that we would join hand-in-hand as disciples of Jesus Christ. Will you kindly join me in prayer for all of our churches, clergy and laity, especially those who continue to be hurt by these decisions.

May we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all we do and say so that we will embody the love of Christ. We know we stand in need of God's grace, and welcome all to participate with us as we continue to seek peace and to live in love with God and one another; and we remain committed to our central mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 
In Christ’s Love,

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar