Mar 18, 2022

The United Methodist Church’s supreme court released this week three decisions responding to questions raised during annual conference sessions. One of its decisions responded to a question raised at Eastern PA’s 2021 Annual Conference.

The Judicial Council determined that bishops do not have to address the substance of every request for a ruling. In Decision 1431, it affirmed Bishop Peggy Johnson’s decision not to rule on a question at the 2021 conference session because it was hypothetical.

The now-retired Johnson refused to answer when the Rev. Joseph DiPaolo asked whether it was permissible as a matter of church law for annual conferences and local churches to regard all general church apportionments—shares of church giving—as voluntary until General Conference meets to pass a new budget. The court agreed with Johnson that the question “is predicated on some future action or possibility.” Therefore, it was hypothetical and not a valid question of law.

Last year the justices ruled that the UMC’s 2017-2020 budget, including apportionment formulas, continues to be legally binding and operative until a new General Conference replaces it with a new quadrennial budget.

The court also issued decisions related to other conferences and clarified in a memorandum an earlier ruling regarding church disaffiliations. And it agreed to take up two requests for declaratory decisions from the Council of Bishops.

The bishops asked the Judicial Council whether annual conferences can leave the denomination under current church law. And they asked whether or not they could schedule regular U.S. jurisdictional conferences to elect and assign bishops before the next General Conference, now scheduled for 2024. If the Judicial Council says yes, the bishops have tentatively set Nov. 2-5 this year for jurisdictional meetings.

Read the UM Judicial Council’s Decision 1431:
Review of a Bishop’s Ruling on a Question of Law in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference as to whether Judicial Council Decision No. 1409 renders the required payment of general church apportionments to be voluntary.

Read the entire UM News article about all the Judicial Council’s recent decisions.