In its coming session, The United Methodist Church’s highest court faces multiple questions related to rules for church disaffiliations and deadlines for General Conference legislation.
The Judicial Council plans to start deliberations on its fall 2021 docket on Nov. 23. Since late last year, the pandemic has forced the church court — with nine members from Liberia, Mozambique, Norway and the U.S. — to do its work in a new way.
Instead of meeting for a few days in one location, the Judicial Council has been meeting online over a period of months and publishing decisions as they are ready.
This session has no oral hearings scheduled.
Most of the 22 items on the fall docket deal with issues raised during the 2020 and 2021 U.S. annual conference seasons. Bishops routinely face questions of law during the sessions at which they preside. The Book of Discipline — the denomination’s policy book — requires that any bishop’s decision of law must go before the Judicial Council for review.
Prompting the most questions before the court is the Discipline’s new Paragraph 2553 — approved by the 2019 Special General Conference in St. Louis. Passed during the same lawmaking assembly that strengthened church bans against same-sex weddings and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy, the church law allows congregations to exit with property “for reasons of conscience” related to homosexuality.