Plan UMC Revised
To understand the details of what aspects of the Plan UMC Revised were constitutional and which were not, read the decision. It is clearly written.
You will find that the cluster of petitions called “Plan UMC-Revised” sent in together in one package violates the separation of powers at some points, violations which would have given bishops more authority over things that the Discipline and constitution do not allow.
Here is a quick history behind this “plan.” At the 2012 General Conference, it seemed like two-thirds of the plenary session was taken up extolling then arguing the merits of legislation called Plan UMC. Pushed by the Council of Bishops, it was finally passed two days before the end of General Conference. Then without discussion, it was referred to the Judicial Council for review of constitutionality. The Council overturned it, pointing out its flaws of giving authority to bishops that the constitution does not support. See JCD 1210 and the commentary on this blog for it from 2012.
To avoid that embarrassment, the Council of Bishops first had an individual send in the package over his own name. Then, the Council of Bishops voted in May of 2015 to request a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of this latest plan. Despite statements to the contrary, they were hoping to get the Council to accept this new version and grease the skids to get it through the 2016 General Conference.
The balance of powers worked in that case. In JCM 1303 in November of 2015, the Council pointed out that this was only one of many possible plans that might be before the General Conference and a ruling only on this plan would intrude on the legislative process, appearing to be a preferred option. So they punted! They deferred making a ruling until their General Conference session in May, 2016.
But then the Council did just what it said it intended not to do. It ruled on the constitutionality of Plan UMC Revised the day before the opening of General Conference. Had they stayed true to their approach, they would have waited until the delegates asked for review. Hence, the bishops got what they wanted, just not the result they’d hoped for.
For practical purposes, it must be said, Plan UMC Revised ended up “dead on arrival” and never got any real traction as a package. In fact, the plan was broken up into smaller clusters of petitions by the originator of the package in order to be accepted by the Petitions Secretary since five or so different legislative committees would have responsibility for various portions of the package. I can’t say which portions were actually passed but the desire of the bishops to marginalize several of the monitoring agencies (Status and Role of Women, et al) and shifting control of certain financial and other functions to a group under the control of the Council of Bishops were not passed, as far as I know.
Now let me beat on a dead horse for a moment. Over the years, I petitioned General Conference an average of forty per quadrennium since 1976. Several times, I was chastised for dealing with more than one issue in a petition or addressing more than one paragraph. Paragraph 507 has been used to prevent individuals like myself from putting together a coherent set of petitions needed to correct flawed systems like the administrative and judicial handling of complaints and personnel.
Yet every four years, agencies like the General Board of Higher Education and Ministries submit complex packages of petitions which deal with those very systems. They may do it and I was not allowed to.
Similarly, the Council of Bishops through whichever agency wishes to help them out, has been submitting clusters of petitions, contrary to Paragraph 507 as long as I can remember. The Council in JCM 1310 did note the possible violation of Paragraph 507.2 but left enforcement of it to the General Conference rather than include it in its own decision. Maybe next time the Council will consider disqualifying such packages. They didn’t need to this time.