Judicial Council sets oral hearings for two cases
Sept. 29, 2006
A UMNS Report
By Neill Caldwell*
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
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.
Dr. James Holsinger
Delegates to the 2004 General Conference session expanded the West
Africa Central Conference to include the area that was home to the
Protestant Methodist Church of Cote d?Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Church
officials at the time estimated the size of the Cote d?Ivoire church at
about a million members. The assembly declared that two delegates would
represent the conference at the 2008 meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Commission on General Conference is asking Judicial Council for
more guidance, since that legislation appears to run 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, and if the church
concluded that the Cote d?Ivoire Annual Conference had a million
professing members in 2006, when delegation size is established, the
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 membership.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
2004, the Rev. Benjamin Boni (right) — later elected a bishop — and the
Rev. R. Randy Day announce the Protestant Methodist Church of Cote
d’Ivoire is joining the United Methodist 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. 25-28 session.
*Caldwell is editor of the Virginia Advocate, the newspaper of the
United Methodist Church's Virginia Annual (regional) Conference.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.