JHYPERLINK "http://www.umc.org/decisions/64866/eyJyZXN1bHRfcGFnZSI6IlwvZGVjaXNpb25zXC9zZWFyY2gtcmVzdWx0cyIsInNlYXJjaDpkZWNpc2lvbl9udW1iZXIiOiIxMzAzIn0" http://www.umc.org/decisions/64866/eyJyZXN1bHRfcGFnZSI6IlwvZGVjaXNpb25zXC9zZWFyY2gtcmVzdWx0cyIsInNlYXJjaDpkZWNpc2lvbl9udW1iZXIiOiIxMzAzIn0
PLAN UMC REVISED
As predicted (see this blog’s post on JCD 1210), “CALL TO ACTION/PLAN UMC” with most of its worts has been resurrected to eat up time and attention at General Conference in Portland, OR, next year.
It is still based on the presumption that the bishops have been flawless in their ministries and that the blame for the decline of our denomination lies with everyone else, especially with the General Commission on Religion and Race and the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, which the revised plan marginalizes. Oh yes, they also want to diminish Archives and History. I find it interesting that the three agencies which have the facts about what is happening in the Church and have an advocacy role (history does so by just being there!) that can challenge the bishops are the principle targets of the “reorganization.”
I do not believe it is coincidental that the Council of Bishops sent in the request for a declaratory decision. The Council Table, a body “created or authorized by” the General Conference” (¶2610.2c), could have done it. I really think it is the Council of Bishops’ arrogance, unrecognized by them, and rarely withstood, that caused them to try to triangulate the Judicial Council into the argument.
Wisely, the Judicial Council has deferred any decision on the constitutionality of Plan UMC Revised. They have thus avoided being sucked into the argument. They are waiting to allow other plans to be presented before they decide on the constitutionality of Plan UMC Revised.
They did not say the request was hypothetical. They have jurisdiction since a request for a declaratory decision may be prospective when the decision directly affects the work of the conference addressing the issue.
I believe the same arguments laid out in JCD 1210 will make this “revision” unconstitutional, primarily that it directs bodies to give up their constitutional authority to other bodies. That would be how decision-making and financing are put into the wrong hands.
We live in tumultuous times. It is sorely tempting to let someone else handle the difficult decisions rather than fight the good fight in democratic processes. There are those who believe all authority resides with them and would love to take over decision-making to make it easier for the rest of us and to make it easier to make decisions. What a blessing these self-identified “servant leaders” can bestow upon us by accepting the power we don’t mind letting slip away. That’s how autocracies devolve from democracies.
I could be incorrect about my presumption that Plan UMC Revised is unconstitutional. The Council may actually think it is okay and are just postponing having to say so. An endorsement at this time would ease the railroading of it through General Conference. In any case, I hope the wise heads among the delegates will do a better job of identifying causes for whatever malaise there is in our Church and provide better solutions than the top-heavy Plan UMC Revised offers.
Postscript: The Judicial Council occasionally does things that seem counter-intuitive. In this case, it has to do with who is actually the appellant.
In a case a few years ago, a bishop was appealing his being dropped from episcopacy. When questions related to his case went before the Council, however, he was not considered the appellant. The bishops who pushed for his unseating were. In that case, the advocate failed to bring the questions in writing and the College of Bishops did!
In this case, the ones most critical of the Plan UMC Revised were not considered the appellants. In fact, they were not even allowed to address the open hearing of the Council. The Council of Bishops pre-empted criticism of Plan UMC Revised by bringing the question of constitutionality and none of the ones who were identified as parties to the request were actually arguing against it.