Dominating this Spring's session of the Council is the Oliveto case where someone outside of the jurisdiction most affected raised a request about the legality of a clergy in a same sex marriage being elected a bishop. I found that decision to be exhaustive in its analysis and helpful in its decision that it takes Fair Process to make the determination about the guilt of someone before action can be taken against her or him. That seems to be the consensus of the briefs from all sides that I’ve seen.
Those who believe the Discipline was violated in the election of Rev. Oliveto were shown that their belief was not sufficient to end or curtail the ministry of a pastor/bishop. Those who believe the Discipline has been wrong since 1972 when anti-homosexuality laws were initiated were shown they are legally church law but that their enforcement was to be handled by Fair Process and not by beliefs of accusers.
While Fair Process was not invoked in related cases involving Boards of Ordained Ministry who stated they do not want to press candidates for their sexual preference, the Council supported the bishops who insisted that only clear evidence and not someone else's beliefs were required to stop a candidacy.
What was introduced by this Council was a new possibility on how "self-avowal" could be done. Besides making the statement in the presence of church entities directly, the Council pointed out public sources as grounds for inquiring about sexual preference and practice. The Council was clear, though not always understood as such, that those public sources were not proof. They wrote, "Self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from episcopal office but is a sufficient declaration to subject the bishop’s ministerial office to review." And that review is by Fair Process.
I see the Council discreetly and with appropriate legal care, using the system of law to face the dynamics of the fight to control the denomination.
I urge you, Dear Reader, to not mistake the legalism of those trying to control the church for the Council's orderly attempt to examine and resolve conflicting points of view.
One of the effective ways to handle conflict, when all else fails, is to follow reasonable rules of judicial procedures. It is a form of mediation which allows an impartial democratically elected body to listen and decide on a resolution after full exploration by opposing advocates (called "argument") based on previously agreed upon laws, laws that are subject to change by democratic processes.
Because it is so valuable a technique, you better believe that there will be a judicial process just like it in both entities if there is a split of our denomination.
And it just may help keep the United Methodist Church united.