The United Methodist Church’s highest court has partially upheld a measure passed by a special session of General Conference that would provide stricter enforcement of the denomination’s rules against homosexuality and gay marriage.
In a decision made public on Friday, the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled that the “Traditional Plan” approved earlier this year at the special session has parts that violate the denomination’s constitution.
Known as Judicial Council Decision 1378, the ruling refused to strike down the entire Traditional Plan, noting that the petitions within it that were unconstitutional “can be severed from the remainder.”
“These petitions are not so closely related that a change in one affects the others. The petitions held unconstitutional have no effect on the petitions declared constitutional,” read the decision. “The constitutional petitions are not dependent on the unconstitutional petitions and can survive without the unconstitutional petitions.”
Petitions declared constitutional included, among others, Petition 90032, which offered a fuller definition of the term “self-avowed practicing homosexual” in the Book of Discipline; Petition 90036, which stops bishops from consecrating noncelibate homosexuals as bishops, even if they were elected by a conference; Petition 90042, which mandates a year’s suspension without pay for any pastor who officiates a same-sex wedding; Petition 90043, which bars the approval or recommendation of a person for ordination if they fail to meet the standards, including that of being in a same-sex relationship.
In another ruling, the Judicial Council upheld a petition passed at special session that would allow an easier departure for congregations that want to leave the denomination.
In Judicial Council Decision 1379, the church court ruled that Petition 90066 passed the three minimal requirements, specifically: “the disaffiliation resolution be approved by a two-thirds majority of the professing members of the local church present and voting at the church conference,” … “the terms and conditions, including effective date, of the agreement between the annual conference and the exiting local church be established by the conference board of trustees in accordance with applicable church law and civil laws,” and that “the disaffiliation agreement be ratified by a simple majority of the members of the annual conference present and voting.”
“When taken together with the consent of the annual conference pursuant to ¶ 2529.1(b)(3), Petition 90066 as amended meets all three requirements and is constitutional and provides a means for the disaffiliation of a local church,” concluded the Judicial Council.
For the past several years, the UMC has been involved in a divisive internal debate over whether the denomination should change its position on LGBT issues.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski