“LEGISLATIVE MANDATE” OR “LEGISLATION?”
The bishop of the California-Pacific Annual Conference was asked if a resolution asking that a portion of the Social Principles be ignored was legal. She ruled that because the Social Principles were for thoughtful and prayerful consideration and were not law, the resolution was not illegal.
The Council majority agreed and said that the difference between her ruling on this question and the ruling in JCD 833 where a portion of the Social Principles was indeed law is that the other Social Principles statement was a mandate to action while the portion relevant to the instant case was not.
The three members of the Council from outside the United States disagreed, saying that there is precedent in JCD 1120 which says that anything passed by General Conference cannot be legally ignored by action of any other body of the denomination.
The Council acknowledged that members of the denomination disagreed with many portions of the Social Principles such as those related to gun control and war. That was okay because, concurring with the bishop, the Council sees most of the Social Principles were a call for “prayerful dialogue.”
From what I heard at General Conference, a lot of church people in the Central Conferences find literalism more secure and have a hard time with the attitude that they see in America regarding “loose” interpretations of everything. But I also remember very well some thoughtful leaders from Africa and Asia that were very calm about differences and were willing to question us in detail about our differing views on things like homosexuality. The United Methodist Church is in flux all over the world, not just here in America.
Watch for who signs which concurring and dissenting opinions and you will see these dynamics reflected.