United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council Face Questions About Implementation of the Traditional Plan That Condemns Homosexuality

Bishop Gregory Palmer reviews the results of a key vote on church policies about homosexuality on Feb. 26, 2019, during the special session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church, held in St. Louis, Mo. The vote, which failed, would have substituted the One Church Plan for the Traditional Plan. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/ UMNS

Earlier this year the United Methodist Church’s top court upheld much of the Traditional Plan strengthening the denomination’s language barring its LGBTQ members from marriage and ordination.

But questions about that plan still dominated the Judicial Council meeting this past week in suburban Evanston, Illinois.

“The matters before us are neither academic nor abstract. They are where we and the church live,” Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the denomination’s Council of Bishops, said during an Oct. 30 public hearing, according to United Methodist News Service reports.

“This impacts persons who are called to ministry and persons who are served by them.”

The Council of Bishops had asked the Judicial Council to decide the “constitutionality, meaning, application and effect” of several petitions adopted as part of the Traditional Plan by a special session of the General Conference, the denomination’s decision-making body, held in February in St. Louis.

The Book of Discipline states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained as ministers, appointed to serve or be married in the church.

The Traditional Plan further defines a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” as a person who 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.”

The plan also bars bishops from consecrating, ordaining or commissioning “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” even if they have been elected or approved by the appropriate church body. It prohibits those church bodies from approving or recommending them as candidates, as well.

It also strengthens current complaint procedures and penalties in the Book of Discipline. A clergy member who performs a same-sex wedding will face a minimum one-year suspension without pay for the first offense and a loss of credentials for the second.

In April, the Methodist’s high court ruled that the plan was passed was constitutional. But the denomination’s bishops have their doubts.

The bishop petitioned the court about several details of the plan. Specifically, they wanted to know if the Tradition Plan’s definition of a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” is constitutional. And they wanted to know if that plan applies to current clergy who had been approved under previous versions of the rules.

For now, the court did not issue an opinion.

The court also left legislation in place that allows churches that leave the denomination to keep their property, saying that legislation went into effect at the close of the special session in February.

The legislation has been controversial because of allegations of improper voting during February’s general conference.

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Source: Religion News Service