UMC top court OKs part of Traditional Plan, church exit plan

The United Methodist Church Judicial Council, meeting April 23-26, ended churchwide suspense as it ruled on controversial legislation passed by the special General Conference 2019.  The top court has found that while some provisions of the newly adopted Traditional Plan remain unconstitutional, the rest of the plan is valid as church law.

That was the denominational Supreme Court’s ruling on a requested review of the Traditional Plan, which was approved during a special denomination-wide legislative session in February to strengthen enforcement of bans on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-sex weddings. The court has nine international members from U.S. and Central Conferences.

In a separate ruling, legislation to provide a “gracious exit” strategy for local churches wishing to leave the denomination because of theological disagreement meets three minimum requirements and thus is constitutional “when taken together with the consent of the annual conference” as specifically outlined in the Book of Discipline, the court said. Decision 1378 and Decision 1379–both historic decisions–came at the conclusion of the Judicial Council’s April 23-26 meeting. Read reporter Linda Bloom’s UM News Service story to learn more…

“For some, these rulings will be deeply disappointing and a sign of our division and ongoing theological and interpersonal struggles,” Bishop Peggy Johnson wrote in a letter to Philadelphia Episcopal Area leaders and churches. “For others, this is a victory and a sign of hope. Whenever a house is divided it is a call to prayer. Only the Holy Spirit of God can keep unity among us during this journey.

“We live in a pivotal time in the life of this denomination,” she continued. “How will future generations look at us when they reflect on our actions and decisions? Were we loving? Was this necessary? Were we kind to each other? Let us remember the future as we move forward.”

The bishop said she is ready “to be in dialogue with any church, organization or district that would like to have constructive conversations with me.” She added, “Clarity and unity often come when we seek to hear the hearts of each other in humble relationship- building.”

Read the Bishop’s full letter here.

The Judicial Council decisions are posted at: