Decision Number 1366


October 26, 2018


IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the Council of Bishops regarding the constitutionality of three sets of legislative petitions known as the One Church Plan, Connectional Conference Plan, and Traditional Plan.

Digest


View a PDF of Decision 1366

The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to determine the constitutionality of any proposed legislation when such declaratory decision is requested by the General Conference or by the Council of Bishops but lacks the authority to scrutinize proposed constitutional amendments under ¶ 2609.2. To trigger jurisdiction and be properly before the Judicial Council, a petition for declaratory decision must contain proposed legislation that prima facie requires no constitutional amendment(s) for implementation and can be tested directly against the constitutional provisions in effect at the time of filing. The Connectional Conference Plan contains proposed constitutional changes and does not pass this jurisdictional test. The One Church Plan and the Traditional Plan meet those criteria to be properly before the Judicial Council. The task of the Judicial Council is to pass upon the constitutionality of the legislative petitions without expressing an opinion as to their merits or expediency. It is up to the General Conference to determine the wisdom of each plan.

With respect to the One Church Plan, the Judicial Council makes the following ruling:

As a primary principle in any organizational structure of The United Methodist Church, connectionalism denotes a vital web of interactive relationships—multi-leveled, global in scope, and local in thrust—that permits contextualization and differentiation on account of geographical, social, and cultural variations and makes room for diversity of beliefs and theological perspectives but does not require uniformity of moral-ethical standards regarding ordination, marriage, and human sexuality. Full legislative power of the General Conference includes the authority to adopt a uniform, standardized, or a non-uniform, differentiated theological statement. Our Constitution commands not that all church policies enacted by the General Conference be uniform but that all uniform church policies be enacted by the General Conference. It assigns the legislative function to set standards related to certification, commissioning, ordination, and marriage to the General Conference and the administrative responsibility for applying them to the annual conferences, local churches, and pastors within their missional contexts. The legislative branch of the Church is constitutionally free to set the standards for entrance into the ministry wherever and whenever it sees fit. Regardless of where that threshold may be at any given time, the annual conference may enact additional requirements that are not in conflict with the letter or intent of the minimum standards set by the General Conference.

Petition 1 is constitutional. 

Petition 2 is constitutional. 

Petition 3 is constitutional. 

Petition 4 is constitutional, except for the second sentence:

The bishop may choose to seek the non-binding advice of an annual conference session on standards relating to human sexuality for ordination to inform the Board of Ordained Ministry in its work.

This part violates the separation of powers, is contrary to ¶ 33 and, therefore, unconstitutional.

Petition 5 is constitutional. 

Petition 6 is constitutional. 

Petition 7 is constitutional.

Petition 8 is constitutional, except for the sentence:

Similarly, clergy who cannot in good conscience continue to serve a particular church based on unresolved disagreements over same-sex marriage as communicated by the pastor and Staff-Parish Relations Committee to the district superintendent, shall be reassigned.

This part is in conflict with ¶ 54 and is unconstitutional.

Petition 9 is constitutional.

Petition 10 is constitutional.

Petition 11 is constitutional. 

Petition 12 is constitutional

Petition 13 is constitutional, except for the second sentence:

Provided, however, that any clergy session of an annual conference that votes on such matters shall not, without the consent of the presiding bishop, take up any subsequent motion on that issue during any called or special session of annual conference held within 30 full calendar months from the date of such vote regardless of the outcome.

This part infringes upon an annual conference's reserved rights under ¶ 33 and is unconstitutional.

Petition 14 is constitutional.

Petition 15 is constitutional.

Petition 16 is constitutional.

Petition 17 is constitutional.

 

With respect to the Traditional Plan, the Judicial Council makes the following decision:

Impartiality and independence of decision-making bodies are the hallmarks of due process and bedrock principles of procedural justice in our constitutional polity. No process can be fair and equitable if the body bringing the complaint is also empowered to determine its merits. The fundamental right to fair and due process of an accused bishop is denied when the complainants are also among those tasked with reviewing and making the final decision. The Council of Bishops was not designed to function as an inquisitional court responsible for enforcing doctrinal purity among its members.

As a tenet of United Methodist constitutionalism, the principle of legality means that all individuals and entities are equally bound by Church law, which shall be applied fairly and without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition. It forbids selective or partial enforcement of Church law at all levels of the connection and demands that The Discipline in its entirety be followed without distinction. All decisions and actions by official bodies and their representatives must be based on and limited by the Constitution and The Discipline. Individuals must be informed with specificity and clarity as to what is prescribed and proscribed by Church law. No person or body can be required to act contrary to Church law or prohibited from engaging in lawful conduct. No person can be punished for actions and conduct that are permitted or required by Church law. Clergy persons whose credentials and conference membership are at stake have the right to know what to expect when they choose a course of action or take a particular stance on ordination, marriage, and human sexuality. To pass constitutional muster, any proposed legislation affecting clergy rights must define with sufficient clarity and specificity the standards to guide future actions of all concerned persons and entities.

Under the principle of legality, the General Conference can prescribe or proscribe a particular conduct but cannot contradict itself by prescribing prohibited conduct or prohibiting prescribed conduct. It can require bishops, annual conferences, nominees, and members of boards of ordained ministry to certify or declare that they will uphold The Discipline in its entirety and impose sanctions in case of non-compliance. But it may not choose standards related to ordination, marriage, and human sexuality over other provisions of The Discipline for enhanced application and certification. The General Conference has the authority to require that the board of ordained ministry conduct a careful and thorough examination to ascertain if an individual meets all disciplinary requirements and certify that such an examination has occurred. But it cannot reduce the scope of the board examination to one aspect only and unfairly single out one particular group of candidates (self-avowed practicing homosexuals) for disqualification. Marriage and sexuality are but two among numerous standards candidates must meet to be commissioned or ordained; other criteria include, for example, being committed to social justice, racial and gender equality, and personal and financial integrity, that all should be part of a careful and thorough examination.

Petition 1 is constitutional.

Petitions 2, 3, and 4 deny a bishop's right to fair and due process guaranteed in ¶¶ 20, 58 and are unconstitutional.

Petition 5 is constitutional.

Petitions 6, 7, 8, and 9 violate the principle of legality and are unconstitutional.

Petition 10:

¶¶ 2801.1-7 violate the principle of legality and are unconstitutional;
¶ 2801.8, the first sentence:

Clergy who find themselves for reasons of conscience unable to live within the boundaries of ¶¶ 304.3, 341.6, 613.19, and 2702.1a-b are encouraged to transfer to a self-governing church formed under this paragraph.

is unconstitutionally vague and violates the principle of legality;

¶ 2801.9 is constitutional;
¶¶ 2801.10-12 and the "local churches" reference in ¶ 2801.13 are in conflict with ¶ 41 and unconstitutional;
¶¶ 2801.14-23 are constitutional.

Petition 11 is constitutional.

Petition 12 is constitutional.

Petition 13 is constitutional.

Petition 14, the second sentence:

In cases where the respondent acknowledges action(s) that are a clear violation of the provisions of the Discipline, a just resolution shall include, but not be limited to, a commitment not to repeat the action(s) that were a violation.

violates ¶¶ 20, 58 and is unconstitutional.

Petition 15 is constitutional.

Petition 16 is constitutional.

Petition 17 is constitutional insofar as it refers to self-governing Methodist churches formed by annual conferences under the provisions of proposed ¶ 2801.9.

Statement of Facts


On July 10, 2018, the Council of Bishops [hereinafter COB] submitted a request asking the Judicial Council to rule "on the constitutionality of the three plans submitted by the Commission on a Way Forward to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference."[1] The Petition for Declaratory Decision, including cover letter, judicial form, the request, and five exhibits, totaled 230 pages.

In addition, four interested parties and fourteen amici curiae filed 28 briefs. The relevant parts of the COB request read:

The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church ("the Council") respectfully requests the Judicial Council to issue a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of three sets of petitions submitted by various members of the Commission on a Way Forward, one set relating to the One Church Plan attached hereto as Exhibit A ("One Church Plan Petitions"), the next relating to the Connectional Conference Plan attached hereto as Exhibit B ("Connectional Conference Plan Petitions"), and another relating to the Traditional Plan attached hereto as Exhibit C ("Traditional Plan Petitions"). Attached hereto as Exhibit D for informational purposes is the entire report of the Commission on a Way Forward.

[…]

 

The Council requests the following declaratory decisions:

Is the proposed legislation known as the One Church Plan constitutional?
If any petition included within the proposed legislation known as the One Church Plan is not constitutional, may the other proposed petitions constituting the One Church Plan be enacted without violating the constitution
Do any of the petitions comprising the proposed legislation known as the One Church Plan violate other provisions of the 2016 Book of Discipline?
Is the proposed legislation known as the Connectional Conference Plan constitutional?
If any petition included within the proposed legislation known as the Connectional Conference Plan is not constitutional, may the other proposed petitions constituting the Connectional Conference Plan be enacted without violating the constitution?
Do any of the petitions comprising the proposed legislation known as the Connectional Conference Plan violate other provisions of the 2016 Book of Discipline?
Is the proposed legislation known as the Traditional Plan constitutional?
If any petition included in the proposed legislation known as the Traditional Plan is not constitutional, may the other proposed petitions constituting the Traditional Plan be enacted without violating the constitution?
Do any of the petitions comprising the proposed legislation known as the Traditional Plan violate other provisions of the 2016 Book of Discipline?

 

            An oral hearing was conducted on October 23, 2018 at the Placid Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland. Appearing on behalf of the COB were Bishops Kenneth H. Carter and Cynthia Fierro Harvey and William Waddell, Esq., and on behalf of the Commission on the Way Forward [hereinafter COWF], Rev. Thomas Berlin for the One Church Plan, Patricia Miller for the Connectional Conference Plan, and Rev. Thomas Lambrecht for the Traditional Plan. Amici curiae Rev. Keith Boyette and Thomas Starnes, Esq. requested and were granted privilege to speak at the oral hearing.

 

[1] Cover Letter of Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, President Designate COB, of July 10, 2018.

Jurisdiction


I.          Object of Review

This Petition for Declaratory Decision was submitted by the Council of Bishops under ¶ 2609.2 of The Book of Discipline 2016 [hereinafter The Discipline], which reads:

2. The Judicial Council shall have jurisdiction to determine the constitutionality of any proposed legislation when such declaratory decision is requested by the General Conference or by the Council of Bishops.

As one of two bodies expressly authorized to request a declaratory decision on proposed legislation, the Council of Bishops has standing to file this request.

An important question was raised concerning the proper object of judicial review. Specifically, do proposed constitutional amendments qualify as "any proposed legislation" under ¶ 2609.2 and can the Judicial Council determine the constitutionality of constitutional proposals?[1] Among the three plans, the Connectional Conference Plan [hereinafter CCP] is the only one that proposes constitutional amendments in addition to disciplinary changes. The entire plan is said to depend on the enactment and ratification of all nine amendments. "Failure to adopt any of the constitutional amendments would jeopardize the whole plan," asserted the submitter of the CCP.[2] Ruling out piecemeal consideration, she emphasized that "the legislation should therefore be considered as a whole, rather than in isolated parts."[3] This is an admission that it is legally and practically impossible to isolate legislative proposals requiring constitutional changes from the rest of the CCP. Her brief argues that the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to review the constitutionality of proposed constitutional amendments because they "start out as legislation and would certainly qualify as an 'act' of the General Conference."[4]

The starting point of legal interpretation is "the text of the relevant provisions in The Discipline, particularly the words used therein and their plain meaning." JCD 1328. The Discipline distinguishes between proposed legislation and constitutional amendment and uses the former to the exclusion of the latter. The plain meaning of "any proposed legislation" cannot be construed to include constitutional amendment, since each requires separate processes for implementation that yield different outcomes. Under our constitutional system and polity, the legislative process is entrusted exclusively to the General Conference, which "shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional," Constitution, ¶ 16, whereas the power to scrutinize constitutional proposals belongs to both General Conference and annual conferences as part of the amendment process. Constitution, ¶ 59 - 61. Contrary to the CCP proponent's contention, it is our opinion that constitutional proposals do not start out as "legislation" and do not become "acts" of the General Conference until their enactment by two-thirds of the delegates present and voting. Constitution, ¶ 59. The Judicial Council cannot be asked to "assume that all the amendments have been adopted,"[5] for this would require us not only to answer hypothetical questions but also to violate the separation of powers by tacitly endorsing constitutional proposals prior to deliberation and action of the General Conference and ratification by the annual conferences. Consequently, we construe the term "any proposed legislation" narrowly to refer to proposed disciplinary changes, since they are the only appropriate object for constitutional review under ¶ 2609.2.

 

Scope of Review

Paragraph 2609.2 limits the scope of review to "the constitutionality" of proposed legislation. This is markedly different from the language in ¶ 2610.1 where the Judicial Council is authorized to make a ruling "as to constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect" of The Discipline. Our task here is to determine only the constitutionality of the legislative proposals contained in the Petition for Declaratory Decision. Conversely, this means that we are not to determine their meaning, application, and effect. It is also evident from the meaning of the term "constitutionality" in ¶ 2609.2 that the legal authority against which "any proposed legislation" may be tested are the constitutional provisions effective at the time of filing of this request, i.e. July 10, 2018, thereby excluding constitutional proposals that have not been adopted and ratified.[6]

Consistent with past precedents, it is our opinion "that the Judicial Council was not set up as an interpreter of doctrine but as an interpreter of law from the strictly legal standpoint," JCD 59, and that "the Judicial Council has no jurisdiction to pass upon the wisdom of any General Conference legislation [in the extant case, proposed legislation]." JCD 81. Ours is not the discretion to weigh the merits of each petition, nor does it behoove us to judge the expediency of each plan. For that we must defer to the full legislative authority of the General Conference.

 

Timeliness

In JCD 1303, the Judicial Council determined that the questions presented in the petition were not "timely" and thus not appropriate for declaratory decision. We deferred ruling on the proposed legislation on the ground that "by making a declaratory decision on one item of proposed legislation prior to the time when the Church will have access to all proposed legislation, the Judicial Council potentially risks intruding into the 'full legislative authority' of the General Conference."  We are not faced with such a situation in this case.

The church needs clear and cogent rulings from the Judicial Council before the delegates to General Conference commence their work. Waiting until the General Conference enacts legislation to address its constitutionality will heighten the denomination's difficulties even more. This means that, at a critical juncture like this, the Judicial Council must assume its constitutional role and assist the delegates to the special session of General Conference in the preparation of their legislative work. We, therefore, find that the facts and questions presented in this Petition are timely for declaratory decision.

 

Jurisdictional Test

It is established precedent that the "Judicial Council has only such jurisdiction as is expressly granted to it by the Constitution and by the General Conference. Our lodestar principle has been that we may not assume jurisdiction to render a declaratory decision unless jurisdiction has been clearly vested in the Judicial Council. Our long-standing policy is to construe our jurisdiction strictly and with restraint." JCD 1354, citing JCD 29, 255, 535, 1160. As previously discussed, it is beyond our power to review proposed constitutional amendments, nor do we have the authority to test proposed legislation against a set of hypothetically or presumably enacted and ratified constitutional amendments in violation of the separation of powers.

For purposes of ¶ 2609.2, to trigger jurisdiction and be properly before the Judicial Council, a petition for declaratory decision must meet the following two-part test: the request must contain proposed legislation that (1) prima facie[7] requires no constitutional amendment(s) for implementation and (2) can be tested directly against the constitutional provisions in effect at the time of filing.

The One Church Plan [hereinafter OCP] contains seventeen petitions all of which seek to change disciplinary provisions only. The COWF's introduction to the OCP ends with the statement: "No Constitutional Amendments are needed for the One Church Plan as far as we can determine."[8] Likewise, none of the seventeen petitions of the Traditional Plan [hereinafter TP] seek constitutional changes. Since they propose only disciplinary changes, the petitions in the OCP and TP could undergo constitutional review and, therefore, pass the jurisdictional test. As mentioned above, of the fourteen petitions of the CCP, nine propose constitutional amendments. Having been advised by the submitter of this plan that its implementation depends on those amendments,[9] we hold that the CPP fails the jurisdictional test. Consequently, only the OCP and TP are properly before us.

 

Questions Properly Before the Judicial Council

We will address only the following questions presented in the Petition for Declaratory Decision:

Question 1:     Is the proposed legislation known as the One Church Plan constitutional?

Question 2:     If any petition included within the proposed legislation known as the One Church Plan is not constitutional, may the other proposed petitions constituting the One Church Plan be enacted without violating the constitution?

Question 7:     Is the proposed legislation known as the Traditional Plan constitutional?

Question 8:     If any petition included in the proposed legislation known as the Traditional Plan is not constitutional, may the other proposed petitions constituting the Traditional Plan be enacted without violating the constitution?

Question 3 and 9 ask us to interpret the meaning, application, and effect of the OCP and TP. They are not properly before us because the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to determine only the constitutionality of proposed legislation under ¶ 2609.2. 

Questions 4, 5, and 6 concern the CCP and are not properly before the Judicial Council for the reasons stated above.

 

[1] See Opening Brief of Patricia Miller, p. 1 ("There may be a question whether the Judicial Council has the authority to rule on the constitutionality of proposed constitutional amendments.") [hereinafter Miller Opening Brief]

[2] Reply Brief of Patricia Miller, p. 1 [hereinafter Miller Reply Brief].                                                                                                                                             

[3] Id.

[4] The Miller brief asserted: "Discipline ¶ 2610.1 gives the Council the authority to rule on "the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof or of any act or legislation of a General Conference. Proposed constitutional amendments start out as legislation and would certainly qualify as an "act" of the General Conference." Miller Opening Brief at 1.

[5] Miller Reply Brief at 1.

[6] The Black's Law Dictionary defines constitutional as: "Consistent with the constitution; authorized by the constitution; not conflicting with any provision of the constitution…" Black's Law Dictionary, p. 311 (6th ed. 1990). Constitutionality is the "quality or state of being consistent with the constitution" or "accordance with the provisions of a constitution." Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/constitutionality.

[7] "Prima facie" means that the stipulations of a proposed legislation contained in the record are sufficient at first impression and accepted as correct until determined otherwise by the Judicial Council.

[8] Report of the Commission on the Way Forward, Exhibit D, p. 18. [hereinafter COWF Report].

[9] Miller Opening Brief at 1 ("It is necessary for the Judicial Council to consider the proposed constitutional amendments in conjunction with the whole plan, since those amendments make the plan possible.").

Decision


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to determine the constitutionality of any proposed legislation when such declaratory decision is requested by the General Conference or by the Council of Bishops but lacks the authority to scrutinize proposed constitutional amendments under ¶ 2609.2. To trigger jurisdiction and be properly before the Judicial Council, a petition for declaratory decision must contain proposed legislation that prima facie requires no constitutional amendment(s) for implementation and can be tested directly against the constitutional provisions in effect at the time of filing. The Connectional Conference Plan contains proposed constitutional changes and does not pass this jurisdictional test. The One Church Plan and the Traditional Plan meet those criteria to be properly before the Judicial Council. The task of the Judicial Council is to pass upon the constitutionality of the legislative petitions without expressing an opinion as to their merits or expediency. It is up to the General Conference to determine the wisdom of each plan.

With respect to the One Church Plan, the Judicial Council makes the following ruling:

As a primary principle in any organizational structure of The United Methodist Church, connectionalism denotes a vital web of interactive relationships—multi-leveled, global in scope, and local in thrust—that permits contextualization and differentiation on account of geographical, social, and cultural variations and makes room for diversity of beliefs and theological perspectives but does not require uniformity of moral-ethical standards regarding ordination, marriage, and human sexuality. Full legislative power of the General Conference includes the authority to adopt a uniform, standardized, or a non-uniform, differentiated theological statement. Our Constitution commands not that all church policies enacted by the General Conference be uniform but that all uniform church policies be enacted by the General Conference. It assigns the legislative function to set standards related to certification, commissioning, ordination, and marriage to the General Conference and the administrative responsibility for applying them to the annual conferences, local churches, and pastors within their missional contexts. The legislative branch of the Church is constitutionally free to set the standards for entrance into the ministry wherever and whenever it sees fit. Regardless of where that threshold may be at any given time, the annual conference may enact additional requirements that are not in conflict with the letter or intent of the minimum standards set by the General Conference.

Petition 1 is constitutional. 

Petition 2 is constitutional. 

Petition 3 is constitutional. 

Petition 4 is constitutional, except for the second sentence:

The bishop may choose to seek the non-binding advice of an annual conference session on standards relating to human sexuality for ordination to inform the Board of Ordained Ministry in its work.

This part violates the separation of powers, is contrary to ¶ 33 and, therefore, unconstitutional.

Petition 5 is constitutional. 

Petition 6 is constitutional. 

Petition 7 is constitutional.

Petition 8 is constitutional, except for the sentence:

Similarly, clergy who cannot in good conscience continue to serve a particular church based on unresolved disagreements over same-sex marriage as communicated by the pastor and Staff-Parish Relations Committee to the district superintendent, shall be reassigned.

This part is in conflict with ¶ 54 and is unconstitutional.

Petition 9 is constitutional.

Petition 10 is constitutional.

Petition 11 is constitutional. 

Petition 12 is constitutional

Petition 13 is constitutional, except for the second sentence:

Provided, however, that any clergy session of an annual conference that votes on such matters shall not, without the consent of the presiding bishop, take up any subsequent motion on that issue during any called or special session of annual conference held within 30 full calendar months from the date of such vote regardless of the outcome.

This part infringes upon an annual conference's reserved rights under ¶ 33 and is unconstitutional.

Petition 14 is constitutional.

Petition 15 is constitutional.

Petition 16 is constitutional.

Petition 17 is constitutional.

 

With respect to the Traditional Plan, the Judicial Council makes the following decision:

Impartiality and independence of decision-making bodies are the hallmarks of due process and bedrock principles of procedural justice in our constitutional polity. No process can be fair and equitable if the body bringing the complaint is also empowered to determine its merits. The fundamental right to fair and due process of an accused bishop is denied when the complainants are also among those tasked with reviewing and making the final decision. The Council of Bishops was not designed to function as an inquisitional court responsible for enforcing doctrinal purity among its members.

As a tenet of United Methodist constitutionalism, the principle of legality means that all individuals and entities are equally bound by Church law, which shall be applied fairly and without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition. It forbids selective or partial enforcement of Church law at all levels of the connection and demands that The Discipline in its entirety be followed without distinction. All decisions and actions by official bodies and their representatives must be based on and limited by the Constitution and The Discipline. Individuals must be informed with specificity and clarity as to what is prescribed and proscribed by Church law. No person or body can be required to act contrary to Church law or prohibited from engaging in lawful conduct. No person can be punished for actions and conduct that are permitted or required by Church law. Clergy persons whose credentials and conference membership are at stake have the right to know what to expect when they choose a course of action or take a particular stance on ordination, marriage, and human sexuality. To pass constitutional muster, any proposed legislation affecting clergy rights must define with sufficient clarity and specificity the standards to guide future actions of all concerned persons and entities.

Under the principle of legality, the General Conference can prescribe or proscribe a particular conduct but cannot contradict itself by prescribing prohibited conduct or prohibiting prescribed conduct. It can require bishops, annual conferences, nominees, and members of boards of ordained ministry to certify or declare that they will uphold The Discipline in its entirety and impose sanctions in case of non-compliance. But it may not choose standards related to ordination, marriage, and human sexuality over other provisions of The Discipline for enhanced application and certification. The General Conference has the authority to require that the board of ordained ministry conduct a careful and thorough examination to ascertain if an individual meets all disciplinary requirements and certify that such an examination has occurred. But it cannot reduce the scope of the board examination to one aspect only and unfairly single out one particular group of candidates (self-avowed practicing homosexuals) for disqualification. Marriage and sexuality are but two among numerous standards candidates must meet to be commissioned or ordained; other criteria include, for example, being committed to social justice, racial and gender equality, and personal and financial integrity, that all should be part of a careful and thorough examination.

Petition 1 is constitutional.

Petitions 2, 3, and 4 deny a bishop's right to fair and due process guaranteed in ¶¶ 20, 58 and are unconstitutional.

Petition 5 is constitutional.

Petitions 6, 7, 8, and 9 violate the principle of legality and are unconstitutional.

Petition 10:

¶¶ 2801.1-7 violate the principle of legality and are unconstitutional;
¶ 2801.8, the first sentence:

Clergy who find themselves for reasons of conscience unable to live within the boundaries of ¶¶ 304.3, 341.6, 613.19, and 2702.1a-b are encouraged to transfer to a self-governing church formed under this paragraph.

is unconstitutionally vague and violates the principle of legality;

¶ 2801.9 is constitutional;
¶¶ 2801.10-12 and the "local churches" reference in ¶ 2801.13 are in conflict with ¶ 41 and unconstitutional;
¶¶ 2801.14-23 are constitutional.

Petition 11 is constitutional.

Petition 12 is constitutional.

Petition 13 is constitutional.

Petition 14, the second sentence:

In cases where the respondent acknowledges action(s) that are a clear violation of the provisions of the Discipline, a just resolution shall include, but not be limited to, a commitment not to repeat the action(s) that were a violation.

violates ¶¶ 20, 58 and is unconstitutional.

Petition 15 is constitutional.

Petition 16 is constitutional.

Petition 17 is constitutional insofar as it refers to self-governing Methodist churches formed by annual conferences under the provisions of proposed ¶ 2801.9.

 

 

Ruben Reyes was absent.  Warren Plowden, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.

Beth Capen participated fully in the deliberation of this matter.  Kent Fulton, Second Lay Alternate, cast the vote.