United Methodist Bishops Ask Church Court to Review Proposal to Split Denomination

Kent Millard, right, president of United Theological Seminary, answers a question during a Q&A session at the 2020 Pre-General Conference Briefing, Jan. 24, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News

A proposed plan to split the United Methodist Church is on its way to the denomination’s top court to decide whether the legislation that would implement it is constitutional.

If the Judicial Council rules the plan is constitutional, delegates could take up the proposal, called “A Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation,” at the United Methodist General Conference May 5-15 in Minneapolis.

The protocol was announced in January and later written into legislation — after the deadline had passed to submit legislation for consideration by the General Conference.

But the denomination’s rulebook, the Book of Discipline, allows legislation to be submitted later if it originated at an annual conference session held between 230 and 45 days before General Conference. Other petitions also can be allowed at the discretion of the Committee on Reference, it says.

Over the past month, three regional United Methodist annual conferences have approved measures to send the protocol to the General Conference for a vote.

Members of the unofficial group of United Methodist bishops and advocacy group leaders who negotiated a proposal to split the denomination spoke about the process Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, on a live-streamed panel hosted by United Methodist News Service. Video screengrab via UMNS

Over the weekend, annual conferences in Michigan and Sierra Leone voted to pass along the protocol. The Philippines Annual Conference Cavite previously had approved sending the protocol to the General Conference.

Both the conferences in the Philippines and Sierra Leone also endorsed the proposal to split.

“It is significant in our global church that this legislation is being sent to the General Conference by conferences in Africa, Asia, and the United States,” Michigan Bishop David Bard told the Michigan Annual Conference.

On Wednesday (March 11), the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops announced it had asked the Judicial Council to decide whether proposed legislation implementing the protocol is constitutional. The court’s spring meeting runs April 29-May 2, just before the start of the General Conference.

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Source: Religion News Service