Responses Across the Connection

Judicial Council Ruling

Last night, the Judicial Council issued Decision No. 1341, responding to a petition by the South Central Jurisdiction for a declaratory decision concerning the application, meaning, and effect of the Book of Discipline in regard to the nomination, election, consecration, and/or assignment as bishop of a person who claims to be a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” or is a spouse in a same-sex marriage or civil union. In short, the Judicial Council declined jurisdiction over matters of episcopal nomination, election, and assignment.

Regarding the consecration of bishops, the Council claimed proper jurisdiction, stating,

The service of consecration, though carried out by the college of bishops of one jurisdictional conference, affects all jurisdictions and jurisdictional conferences and all members of The United Methodist Church. Since episcopal consecration services are distinctively connectional and covenantal, the Petition is not seeking judicial review of an act of another conference but an “act of the whole Church” (¶ 415.6), which has a direct and tangible effect on the work of the petitioning body and, therefore, is permissible under ¶ 2610.2(f).

To this end, they ruled “the consecration as bishop of a self-avowed practicing homosexual” to be prohibited by the Discipline. Further, they ruled that a civil same-sex marriage license constitutes, “a public declaration that the person is a self-avowed practicing homosexual.”

The Council’s decision stated, “It is not lawful for the college of bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop.” They conclude, “Self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from episcopal office but is a sufficient declaration to subject the bishop’s ministerial office to review.”

In short, the Judicial Council ruled that the consecration of a bishop in a civil same-sex marriage is unlawful; yet, such “self-avowal” does not negate the consecration and/or cause the bishop to be removed from episcopal office. If and when a formal complaint is filed against a bishop for being “self-avowed and practicing.” the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy and College of Bishops must be informed and follow due process.

One Judicial Council member only partly concurred with the majority ruling, while a second member wrote a full dissenting opinion.

 

Episcopal Responses

Responses have flooded out across the Connection since the ruling was issued last night.

Bishops across the connection published responses addressed to their respective episcopal areas almost immediately, including Bishop Cynthia Harvey of the Louisiana Conference; Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson of the North Georgia Conference; Bishop Paul Leeland of the Western North Carolina Conference; Bishop Robert Hoshibata of the Desert Southwest Conference; Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the New York Conference; Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the California-Nevada Conference; Bishop Bill McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area; and Bishop Sally Dyck of the Northern Illinois Conference.

Bishop Bruce Ough also issued a statement as President of the Council of Bishops. In the response he expressed the Council’s appreciation for the careful work of the Judicial Council and the considerate participation of all parties involved. He reiterated the decision does not change the 2016 Book of Discipline and expressed the continued hope the Council has placed in the Commission on a Way Forward, urging the Church to remain focused on the Commission’s work.

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky published a statement on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops. The statement also thanked the Judicial Council for allowing the Commission on a Way Forward to continue its work on behalf of the denomination as it searches for new ways for United Methodists to live together. After summarizing the Judicial Council’s decision, the statement confirmed “the Western Jurisdiction is already in the process of responding to complaints that were filed after her election.” The statement concluded with a note that the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops would meet together while they are in Dallas this week for the scheduled meeting of the Council of Bishops.

Bishop Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area, whose episcopal office was the implicit party to whom the South Central Jurisdiction’s petition was addressed, released a brief response thanking everyone for their deep care, prayers, and support throughout this process.

Richard Marsh, council for the Western Jurisdiction in the Judicial Council hearing, also released a brief statement reviewing the facts of the Council’s decision, stating: 1) Bishop Oliveto was in good standing at the time of her consecration, thus, her consecration is valid; 2) Judicial Council did not order any ministerial review of Bishop Oliveto or otherwise retain jurisdiction over the parties involved for any future action.

 

Other Responses

Several independent caucus groups with United Methodist affiliations published statements, including the Wesleyan Covenant Association, the Reconciling Ministries Network, and the newly formed United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus. Three of the thirteen official United Methodist seminaries in the U.S. issued statements from their respective presidents: Iliff School of Theology, (based in Denver) President Tom Wolfe, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary President Lallene Rector, and Claremont School of Theology President Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan.

American media outlets immediately picked up the story with varying responses, including Religion News Service, the New York Times, Huffington PostNBC News, and LGBTQ Nation, Local media from Denver, CO, where the offices of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area reside, also picked up the story, including the Denver Post (a followup to their original article about the trial proceedings).

UMReporter Staff

This story was posted by a staff member of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at editor@circuitwritermedia.com

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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