Editor’s note: We mistakenly identified one of the actions as coming from the Southwest Texas Annual Conference when in fact it came from the Desert Southwest. We have updated our story to fix this mistake.
The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church (UMC), the top judicial body of the UMC, will again review several cases related to homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues in their April 23-25 meeting, according to the docket released by the Council yesterday.
One of the cases will be familiar to the members of the Council, as they offered a ruling on different aspects of the case in their previous session. The case involves a decision by the Southwest Texas Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) to remove Mary Ann Kaiser Barclay from the candidacy process for being a self-avowed practicing homosexual even though she had been recommended by the Austin District Committee on Ministry. When that decision was questioned from the floor of the annual conference, Bishop Dorff was asked to make a ruling on the legality of that decision. Dorff’s original ruling that the question was moot in that it didn’t deal with active issues before the annual conference was overturned by the Judicial Council at their October 2013 session, and Dorff was told to make a ruling on whether the BOM had the authority to make such a decision without first investigating and interviewing Barclay. Dorff ruled this past December that the BOM had indeed acted inappropriately and that Barclay’s candidacy should be reinstated until she received a full examination by the BOM. The Judicial Council will be reviewing this latter ruling by Bishop Dorff.
In a case involving the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, the Council will be reviewing Bishop Robert Hoshibata’s decision to allow a resolution on marriage equality to proceed to the members of the conference for a vote. The Marriage Equality resolution called on the annual conference to support marriage quality and to offer support to clergy who performed same-sex wedding ceremonies (which is prohibited in the UM Book of Discipline). Hoshibata ruled that the resolution doesn’t not “legally negate, ignore, or violate the Discipline” and thus the resolution was in order. Hoshibata drew on Judicial Council Decision 1220 as support for his decision.
A third case related to same-sex marriage originating from the General Council on Finance and Administration will be reviewed that the Council’s April session. This case involves spousal benefits for same-sex couples under the General Agencies Welfare Benefits Program (GAWBP). After the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, and the increasing number of states legalizing same-sex marriage, GCFA made the decision this past October to allow same-gender spouses to be enrolled in the program according to the laws of the state where the agency is located. GCFA has asked for a declaratory ruling from the Judicial Council as to whether this decision conflicts with ¶806.9 of the 2012 Book of Discipline which states that church funds may not be used to “promote the acceptance of homosexuality.”
Two other items relate to the rules for the election of bishops in the Philippines, and a conflict between the New Jersey Annual Conference and A Future With Hope, Inc.
The April meeting will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Click here to download a copy of the docket.