Judicial Council Sets Oral Hearings for Two Cases
- Judicial Council sets oral hearings for two cases
A UMNS Report
By Neill Caldwell*
September 29, 2006
The highest court of the United Methodist Church will hear oral
arguments from people concerned with two cases that will appear on its
Oct. 25-28 docket.
The Judicial Council will hear oral arguments beginning at 9 a.m.,
Oct. 26, at the Vernon Manor Hotel in Cincinnati. Only interested
parties or their designees have the right to address the council
during the oral hearings, but the hearings are open to the public.
The first case involves legislation enacted by the 2004 General
Conference, and the second will address action by the Kansas East
Annual (regional) Conference.
Dr. James Holsinger, president of the Judicial Council, granted
requests for oral hearings for a case brought by the Commission on
General Conference, which is responsible for planning the 2008 top
legislative body of the denomination.
Delegates to the 2004 General Conference session welcomed the
Protestant Methodist Church of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) into the
denomination as an annual conference, but the assembly declared that
only two delegates would represent the million-member conference at
the 2008 meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Commission on General Conference is asking Judicial Council if
that action is constitutional since the legislation runs contrary to
the church's Book of Discipline, which sets out a representation
formula according to the number of clergy and lay members of an annual
conference. If that determination were to be used, the Cote d'Ivoire
Annual Conference would be entitled to as many as 70 delegates - more
than any other delegation. The size of General Conference is limited
to 1,000 delegates, so the size of other delegations would have to be
proportionally reduced if the Cote d'Ivoire contingent grew in size.
The Kansas East item is related to a previous Judicial Council ruling,
handed down a year ago and upheld in April. In Decision 1032, the
council ruled that the pastor in charge of a local church has the
power to determine who may be taken into membership of that
congregation. The decision stemmed from a case in South Hill, Va.,
where the pastor refused to admit an openly homosexual man into church
At its session in June, the Kansas East Annual Conference passed a
resolution that stated: "No pastor in the Kansas East Conference shall
deny membership into a Kansas East United Methodist church solely
based on the candidate for membership being a self-avowed, practicing
homosexual." Immediately following approval of the petition, a motion
passed which requested a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council
on the non-discrimination petition.
The council has a full slate of 20 items on its docket for the Oct.
*Caldwell is editor of the Virginia Advocate, the newspaper of the
United Methodist Church's Virginia Annual (regional) Conference.