Traditional Plan Passes Anyway
The Council was given a “present” by the General Conference. Just like the presents our pet cats occasionally drop on us, like a dead rat.
Instead of allowing the Traditional Plan (TP) to be taken piece by piece where the Council’s rulings on constitutionality could be considered as the plenary worked through the package, the delegates apparently felt their work was going to be reviewed by the Council anyway so they put the whole TP up for a vote and let the Council sort it all out! With friends like that . . . .
But with a penache we have all come to know and love (church law nerds, anyway), the Council introduced a new legal term to spin our brains: “the doctrine of severability.”
Actually, all they did was look at the petitions in the TP package, pull out the unconstitutional ones, and then look to see what difference that made to the rest of the package. Easy peasy.
I know the Council had other matters on their docket and I was surprised when they only worked on two. In trying to get inside of this ruling, I understand why they had no energy left to get to those other items. This decision is careful and thorough and exhausting.
Thanks to Beth Capen for adding her concurring opinion in which she points out what survived. Like her, I’m sure some of the new passages for the Discipline will be challenged back to the Judicial Council in the future. These survived based on not being legally linked to the unconstitutional petitions struck down by the Council. Other criteria may be brought to challenge them later.
Among the cited surviving petitions is one that clearly responds to JCD 1374, now listing the Judicial Council as a party to appeal by a church counsel.
Also among the surviving passages are a number which require that the complainant be a part of any just resolution. This is similar to them being able to have a greater role in civil and criminal cases, particularly the punishment phase. (Just resolutions require confession so that all parties can work together to build a response to what actually happened. The respondent gives up presumption of innocence once a just resolution is accepted. In fact, even entering into just resolution may be an admission of guilt, legally speaking.)
There is one possible snag in that addition to just resolutions. If the complainant is a Calvinist, just based on the historical record, he or she will bring to the table an attitude that is likely to be disruptive (“My authority is Scripture and if you disagree, you are wrong.”) In the best sense of just resolution, there must always be a level of openness to alternatives between black and white in order for agreement to be reached. Theologically, involving a Calvinist can lead to no concensus on anything but the Calvinist’s position.
JCD 1378 includes references to and following of precedent and continues this Council’s commitment to going by the book.
The instant decision just had to put a civil law term as a concept (doctrine of severability) needed to resolve a church problem. See p. 1373 of BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY, Sixth Edition. I don’t know if Bishop Tuell is rolling over in his grave wishing we’d made up our own terminology or is glad to have this addition from civil law. But we have it now and it appears to have worked.
One last word: the new passages for the Discipline cited in this decision do not go into affect until Jan. 1, 2020. (I don’t recall seeing anything about going into affect right away.) And as I write this, the docket for Fall, 2019 contains at least four items directly related to the TP passages that survived at GC2019.