Associates in Advocacy now has two sites on the internet. Our primary help site is at http://www.aiateam.org/. There AIA seeks to offer aid to troubled pastors, mainly those who face complaints and whose careers are on the line.

Help is also available to their advocates, their caregivers, Cabinets, and others trying to work in that context.

This site will be a blog. On it we will address issues and events that come up.

We have a point of view about ministry, personnel work, and authority. We intend to take the following very seriously:


Some of our denomination's personnel practices have real merit. Some are deeply flawed. To tell the difference, we go to these criteria to help us know the difference.

We also have a vision of what constitutes healthy leadership and authority. We believe it is in line with Scripture, up-to-date managerial practice, and law.

To our great sadness, some pastors who become part of the hierarchy of the church, particularly the Cabinet, have a vision based on their being in control as "kings of the hill," not accountable to anyone and not responsible to follow the Discipline or our faith and practice. They do not see that THE GOLDEN RULE applies to what they do.

If you are reading this, the chances are you are not that way. We hope what we say and do exemplify our own best vision and will help you fulfill yours. But we cannot just leave arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance to flourish. All of us have the responsibility to minimize those in our system.

We join you in fulfilling our individual vow of expecting to be perfect in love in this life and applying that vow to our corporate life in the United Methodist Church.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you have any questions or suggestions, direct them to Rev. Jerry Eckert. His e-mail address is aj_eckert@hotmail.com. His phone number is 941 743 0518. His address is 20487 Albury Drive, Port Charlotte, FL 33952.

Thank you.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Commentary on Judicial Council Decisions 1369 to 1379

The following observations are intended to encourage you to read the decisions of the Judicial Council for yourself. These blog posts are in no way church law in any form but could help you understand some important aspects of the decisions.  Should you feel I have made an error of fact or interpretation, please let me know (email at aj_eckert@hotmail.com) so it can be corrected.

I began offering commentaries in November of 2008, starting with JCD 1099.  This brings them up to date.  While I have not considered going back to the earlier decisions of the Council, there have been a few that have drawn comments that you may discover on this blog.

Please feel free to send your questions about any ruling by the Judicial Council, past or present, for my observations based on your question.  Like this blog, my answers carry no weight of law.  But maybe we can both learn something.

I've included the URL for each of the rulings. That should allow you to click it or paste it so you can go directly to the decision. I’ve added subject titles and have put in labels that can be picked up by search engines.

Each decision’s commentary is posted separately so this review doesn't seem so long! And by using the list of contents in the left margin of this blog, you can go to whichever decision is of interest to you.

The phrase “the Council” when used refers to the Judicial Council.

Rulings of the Council may be referred to as JCDs (Judicial Council Decisions) or JCMs.  Judicial Council Memorandums do not provide decisions of law but may refuse to take jurisdiction, remand, or show a question is not legally appropriate under Council rules.  On rare occasions, the Council may provide their rationale in a memorandum.

The Judicial Council website now offers a search function which covers every JCD since 1940.  Go to http://www.umc.org/decisions/search.  The web page gives you several options for finding any decision(s) you may want.  To go to a listing of every decision, leave the boxes empty and just click on the “Search” bar.  To follow up on a theme such as “separation of powers,” or if you remember a short phrase from a decision, or know the conference or a person involved, type that into the “Keywords” box.  Then click on “Search.”  To go to a specific decision by number, ignore the “Keywords” box and type the number into the “Decision Number” box and click on “Search.”  Follow the instructions given on the page to search based on other things like approximate date of the decision.  Clicking on “Search” for all these options provides a list of possible decisions.  Scan those listed to find the most likely decisions that can be of help to you.  To get into a decision itself, click on the red text.

Once into the text of a particular decision, you will not find your phrase highlighted.  To highlight a key phrase you search for, do “Ctrl f” on PC compatible computers or “Command f” on Apple computers.  That gives you a drop down box at the top of the page.  Type in your phrase, click on “Enter,” and the phrase will be highlighted in that decision.

Another source of help to find and understand particular decisions, I found articles about people and decisions in United Methodist News Service under www.UMC.org.  I clicked on “News and Media” at the top of their page, clicked on “United Methodist News” to get to their home page and then clicked on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right hand corner.  That opened a box at the top of the page.  I could put in key words, names, or numbers followed by clicking on “Enter.”  The search function will let you know which articles had that content.  There are articles going back as far as 1952, though the articles are not in chronological order.  Not think every article has yet been digitized and posted on the site as yet.

Hopefully, my commentaries on this blog will be a valued resource in your search for understanding church law and its contexts.  I also hope my directions for navigating in UM sites will help you in your research on the work of the Judicial Council.

All my commentaries on Council decisions are subject to editing, updating, and revision.  You may want to check back from time to time on decisions of special interest to you.

DISCLAIMER:  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the writer and are not necessarily those of Associates in Advocacy nor its individual members.  While the writer has made it a practice of letting AIA’s officers see these commentaries prior to their being posted on the blog, there have been no endorsements by them or the organization now or over past years.

JCM 1369

Another Request Bites the Dust

A group of pro-LGBTQAI pastors prepared resolutions for the North Texas Annual Conference, and got them in on time to be printed in the pre-conference report.  However, because of the proximity of the special-called General Conference (GC2019), a motion was made to table the resolutions, awaiting the results of GC2019 and it was passed.  This was part of the process to deal with the consent calendar, not a presenting of motions to bring them to the floor for consideration.

After the vote to table, one of the group attempted to remove one of the resolutions which defined “inside the church” as the site for gay marriages or celebrations of gay unions.  The resolution would have allowed the definition to free pastors to conduct those services outside the church buildings, literally on their steps.  The “movant,’ the pastor arguing to pull that resolution off the table, argued it was not directly related to homosexuality so he “requested a ruling of law” about the meaning of “inside the church” in Par. 341.6.  The bishop ruled him out of order.  The movant failed to ask the plenary to overrule the bishop.  The plenary was given a chance to vote on the untabling of that resolution which failed.  After the annual conference ended, as the secretary was leaving, she received the hand-written request for a ruling of law.  The bishop reported it, saying it was out of order because the written request came after the close of conference and the matter had been resolved against the movant parliamentarily.  

Reading the docket item 0219-7 was better than just reading the summary by the Council, good as it was.

The Council was unable to take jurisdiction because the resolutions never “made it to the floor” because the advocating group failed to get the resolutions to be motions by failing to overcome the tabling motion.  That the resolutions had been printed in the pre-conference materials did not give them standing as motions before the conference.

I’ve commented in past postings here that when a pastor raises a “request for a ruling of law,” the bishop should suggest that the pastor meet with the conference chancellor or other competent person to go over the rules and options for raising legal matters for review by the Judicial Council and try to help get that concern into the best form possible and then arrange a time for the request, in proper form, be presented to the conference.  The bishop, according to the minutes, did not interrupt the plenary to allow such a help to be offered.  

Practically speaking, the movant didn’t have a chance anyway because the conference members saw right away it was related to the gay issues of the other two resolutions.  

Interestingly, the final result, though it was an unsuccessful bid to reach a ruling by the Council, got attention all the way to the Council.  Maybe that was all the group wanted, attention to their resolutions and the issue of how tightly Par. 341.6 should be read.  

Update:  Maybe a parliamentarian can say whether or not presentation of resolutions on a consent calendar is a form of motion to the floor.  My Robert’s Rules training never included “consent calendar” actions.

JCD 1370

Authority of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters 

The title should be, “This Is Embarrassing”

Years ago, General Conference set up a standing committee to be able to vet petitions about Central Conference matters to be sure they were sensible and would work to benefit the central conferences rather than be disruptive or inappropriate.

Someone thought it was a good idea to change when Central Conference bishops had to retire and sent in a petition.  It should have been sent to the standing committee but it went straight to the legislative committee from where it was put on the consent calendar and got passed by General Conference.  

When the mistake was discovered, it had to be referred to the Council to halt its application because it would have caused a number of central conferences to be without a bishop with a half year or more before they could elect a new one.  (Read the dockets, you all.  That’s where the fun stuff is, the real reasons for the necessity for a ruling by the Council.)

How could such a thing happen?  I know the Petitions Secretary.  I think of him as a competent and careful guy, though I do not think he is immune to General Conference politics.  He should have made the correct referral.  But maybe he did.  The Committee on Reference is the second place where a referral could have been misdirected.  There have been some times the committee fought off bad suggestions about referrals of petitions to the wrong legislative committees and other times they succumbed.  The third place a petition can be shifted is from a legislative committee where someone should have known to get the bad petition properly vetted by the standing committee.  But from the “title” of the petition as it is given in the decision, it never left the legislative committee.  (Referrals are indicated by the initials of the various legislative committees in which the petition was reviewed added to the ‘title”.)

Why could such a thing happen?  Carelessness is far and away the most likely.  It did not seem to be a significant enough issue considering the tensions facing the denomination and slipped through the cracks.  But as I said, three different folks/groups had a shot at getting the referral to the standing committee right and they all missed.  

Having watched the denomination for sixty years, forty of them focusing on the underbelly because of my experience in advocacy, whenever I see something related to the bishops, my inclination is to look for the hand of one of several manipulative bishops playing some kind of game for his/her own benefit.  But I have no concrete grounds in this case to tie this mistake to any agenda.  

So for now, all I can say is that it was an embarrassing mistake and it has been resolved.  The Council would have been better off resolving it a year ago when it first came up rather than deferring it to the February session.  There is a good chance the matter was not going to actually impact any retirements during that year.  However, I am wondering if the Council can consider establishing a way to handle relatively simple cases like this in the interim.  They have an emergency process which they have used for the Bishops when they request attention on their own sense of urgency (such as JCD 1360).  But now the Council faces appeals of cases which are under a time factor from pastors that need nearly immediate review (such as JCD 1373, and items I am aware of that are on or should be on the docket for Fall, 2019).  I think it is within their authority to set up a “rapid response team” to deal with such needs with some kind of checks-and-balances.

JCD 1371

Episcopal Activism Gone Awry

Most of us are aware that racism in the United States has led to a new kind of “white flight.”  In the 1960s, it was to the suburbs.  But now it is to private schools paid for by public tax dollars but with no real accountability to the public.  When a bishop proud of his reputation on such matters decided to do something about it, he got eleven conference agencies to vote to take action and then channeled their energy through the Greater New Jersey Conference Board of Trustees to enter a law suit to do something about it.

The Judicial Council caught him cutting one major corner, not letting the annual conference vote to support the action, a Disciplinary requirement, before the Trustees (the appropriate legal entity) could enter such a legal action.  He wanted it done on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education case, four days before annual conference.  He got the conference’s approval after the suit was entered but the Council did not let him get away with it.

The Council is not being inadvertently racist here.  The majority on the Council are people of color.

They are sending a message.  There is the rule of law in our denomination.  Just because someone had a good motivation about a real problem does not release them from their commitment to uphold the Discipline.  

Whether the bishop was on an ego trip or was simply careless about church law, he chose to add the symbolism, the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling, rather than call an emergency meeting of the annual conference.  By the way, just a few months before, he did call an emergency meeting of the annual conference for another purpose, according to my sources.

Embarrassing, no doubt about it.  The suit had to be withdrawn, which is sad.

JCD 1372

A Question of Terminology

The Greater New Jersey layman bringing the question about directing that local church conferences should be held simultaneously in a central meeting place got lost in a new bad practice, using the phrase “request a ruling of law.”  No one brought to the attention of the layman who he wanted to answer that question.  If he wanted the bishop to answer it, he should have followed the route for using a question of law Par. 2609.6).  The bishop would then get to rule (as he could do in this case).  And his ruling had the weight of law until the Council acted on it.  In this case, the Council reversed his decision, not because it was wrong, but because it was inappropriate for him to have answered a question that had been incorrectly raised for adjudication by the Council.

The Council would have had to rule as it did because questions of law have to be about something specific being acted upon by the conference.  No such motion was before or had been passed by the plenary related to the question.  The lay person would have been wise to make a motion challenging the abuse of the Discipline on this point and then, if need be, bring the question of law.

Had the lay person requested a declaratory decision (Par. 2610) which the conference could have discussed (which would have been better for the request), voted upon, and thus referred to the Council, there could well have been a ruling to counter the way decisions about church conferences were being made.

JCM 1373

Appeal of Administrative Personnel Actions
I was a consultant in this case appealed under Paragraph 2718.3-.4.  I should not offer my commentary until after the case has been resolved.

JCM 1374

Not Our Problem

The Council did an interesting thing.  It clarified a line of appeal that had not been identified before.

Here’s the deal.  A West Ohio Committee on Investigation chose to strip out almost all of the allegations in the judicial complaint against a pastor on homosexuality-related charges.  

The Discipline allows the church counsel in such a case to appeal to the jurisdiction’s committee on appeals if he/she feels the process contained egregious errors of law.  

Upon that appeal, the jurisdiction’s committee ruled that the committee on investigation had done egregious things, remanded the case for rehearing, but then also “paused” any further judicial action until after GC2019.

That did not sit well with the church counsel, being anxious to prosecute this case so he appealed to the Judicial Council.  

Note that this appeal is an interlocutory one, seeking judicial action out of the normal order.  Normal order would have been committee on investigation-church trial-appeal to the jurisdiction-appeal to the Judicial Council.  

The Council honored the interlocutory appeal to the jurisdiction after the committee on investigation and before trial just like they did in JCD 1361.  In that case. they allowed an interlocutory appeal between the administrative review committee and the annual conference because that is what the Discipline says, not what conference officers wanted it to say..

And then the Council ruled on one more thing.  The Discipline says nothing about such an interlocutory appeal going on to the Judicial Council.  According to Par. 2715.10, appeals dealing with alleged egregious errors of law go only to the jurisdiction and no further, compared to other places where appeals are allowed to go to the Council (Pars. 2715.9 and 2718.3).

Oops!  Those who put together all the legalistic anti-gay legislation missed one.  (Update:  They caught it and added the Council at GC2019.  See JCD 1378, concurring opinion.)

And the Judicial Council “walked” without having to get involved.  While it appears this Council tends to be conservative in its majority, it is still a “rule of law” body and is pretty “strictly by the book,” as it should be.  No matter what ways we all wish the book were different and try to change it, at least the Council still goes by what’s there.

Our Historical Context

Historically speaking, the Methodist tradition has been plagued by trying to contain the theological problem of how to hold Calvinists (followers of John Calvin) like George Whitefield and Arminians (followers of Jacob Arminius) like John Wesley.  Charles Wesley tried to gloss over the differences by using language and frames of reference from both in his hymns.  But it did not resolve John’s and George’s disagreements over theology.  So Whitefield began his exile (my term) of preaching in America and occasionally in the British Isles.  Though George died in the colonies, he arranged for John to preach his funeral sermon in England.

The same differences in theology plague us today.  I have put together a more expansive statement on this in my personal blog at http://jerryeckert.blogspot.com

The evangelical fervor which led to the missionary movements in the 18th and 19th centuries and disrupted the settled denominations in Europe and North America (the main complaint was that the religious life and practice of the settled churches was not really Christian as far as the Calvinists were concerned).  The Calvinists focused on conversion (being saved from sin) while most other churches emphasized sanctification (becoming more and more like Christ).  The Calvinists tend toward believing in inerrancy of the Bible and the rest include other sources of revelation such as reason, experience, and tradition.  

In America, United Methodism has tried to hold Arminianism and Calvinism together.  There are deep pockets of both, hence there are large swaths of Arminian-type United Methodists, largely in the north and west and Calvinist-type United Methodists largely in the south.  In world wide United Methodism, Arminianism prevails in Western Europe and Calvinism tends to influence the mission areas (former colonial areas to Europe) in most of Africa and Asia.

Since 1972, the Calvinists in America serving as United Methodists have taken as their flag the fight against homosexuality.  Why that instead of abortion (which was carefully resolved in the 1960s in our Social Principals) or divorce (also resolved back then) or racism (on paper we’re good), is because it was controversial for the first time in the 1960s when a popular Baltimore pastor came out of the closet, throwing the denomination as a whole into an uproar, and then having a civil court stop the denomination from kicking him out.  

Homosexuality was a non-issue up to that point.  There was little real data, experience, or tradition in the church at the time so the Calvinists took the new use of the term “homosexual” as the Revised Standard Version translation of the words in their original language used instead of the term “pedophile” and raised that flag to assert their response to the controversy.  

While every nation, every culture, has among its people those who are homosexual, not all societies have had a niche for them.  The Calvinists were thrilled when an African bishop addressed General Conference in the 1990s saying the Church must deal with the problem of homosexuality.

I take this much space to remind you, dear reader, that the Arminians among us feel their tradition has been violated by the Calvinists and the Calvinists think they are the bearers of traditional Christianity and each side has lots of support and a long history in the church as it stands today, though neither’s true history extends back before 1500 A. D.  In fact, in our denominational history, until 60 years ago, neither tradition really bothered with concerns about homosexuality.  It is a mostly modern issue in the lifetime of around half of UMC members worldwide.

But it is our problem and this commentary needs to address the current manifestation of this wedge issue in the remaining decisions of the Council from February and April of 2019.

And global warming is dangerously upon us while we squabble . . . .

JCD 1375

The Bishops Strike Early

The Council’s Fall 2018 session pretty much shot down most of the Calvinists’ (most would say “traditionalists” but I like my terms of Arminian and Calvinist better since both have long traditions in the UMC)  petitions in JCD 1366.  There are very gifted church law people in the Calvinists’ group and they went to work to try to work around what the Council pointed out were unconstitutional in their plan.  The Council of Bishops (hereinafter the Bishops) met just before GC2019 and requested declaratory decisions related to some of the Calvinists’ revised petitions.  This request dealt with two elements of that plan, streamlining the process for dealing with allegations related to homosexuals and setting up an international tribunal for homosexuality allegations against bishops under the Council of Bishops.

The  Calvinists saw a pattern in how allegations were handled over the last couple quadrennia.  Those conferences and jurisdictions where the Arminians predominated, the allegations tended to be dropped somewhere between the supervisory response to a written complaint from a Calvinist and a trial.  

So one petition to the GC2019 cut out practically everything from the complaint to the trial at the conference level and tried to establish a special committee on investigation on the General Conference level..  The Council jumped on that one, saying it removed the right of the annual conference to process the complaint, a violation of the constitution (Par. 33).

The other petition wanted to set up an international judicial committee of bishops under the Bishops in an attempt to get away from how Arminian jurisdictions could slow walk or drop homosexuality-related complaints.

The Council clobbered that petition because the constitution (Par. 50) gives accountability to the jurisdictions where the bishops are elected.

That ruling was shared with GC2019.  The related petitions were dropped.

Was the Council supporting the Arminians?  I do not think so.  The constitution is clear on both counts.  This was a by-the-book decision.

JCM 1376

Precedent rules!

At the beginning of the GC2019, a request for a declaratory decision was passed to ask the Council which has the higher authority, the General Conference or the annual conference when it comes to defining the qualifications of who can be a minister.  

The Council went back to an old ruling (JCD 1321) it had made in May of 2016 right at the end of the General Conference, right before the new Council members freshly elected were to take charge.

The “old” Council’s decision was that under Par. 16, General Conference stated the criteria for ministers and the Annual Conference under Par. 33 determined whether or not it was following those criteria.  Or put another way, the General Conference provides the words which point to traits desired in clergy and the annual conference defines those words and applies them in its own way.

At the time, there was worry that the matter should have been deferred to the fall Council session so the new members could make the decision.  Well, the new members were given a chance by the GC2019 request and they stuck with precedent.  Yep, this Council has been “by-the-book.”

JCD 1377

They’re Back, the Traditionalists’ Petitions

Despite serious setbacks before the Council (JCDs 1366, 1375, and 1376), the Calvinists persisted with their petitions, modifying them a little more and presenting them in hopes they would still get passed at GC2019.  They were challenged in the General Conference plenary acting as a legislative committee and presented to the Council in a fashion parallel to JCD 1366, so much so that the Council even identified the parallels.

Again, despite some more tweaking of their unconstitutional petitions by the Calvinists, the Council found few if any that actually became constitutional.

In a dissent, there was a concern that the Council was not respecting local churches who decided to leave the annual conference because the Council was maintaining that the conference had a say in their leaving too and could veto the local church’s decision if it chose.  

There was no concurring decision countering their argument so let me add my two cents worth. There are two basic points against the dissenters’ argument.  

First, the whole point of the Trust Clause is to prevent ill-advised local church decisions regarding properties established or accepted by the conference.  That “branding” of the property brought with it an authenticity and reputation of major significance which enhanced the validity of that congregation in the first place.  It also brought with it an assurance of having a pastor when a local church’s pastor left for whatever reason.

Second, the United Methodist Church is connectional and not congregational in polity.  If we were Baptist, the argument of the dissenters in this case would be appropriate.  But the center of our polity is the annual conference (Par. 33) and not the local church.  That means the final decisions are made at the annual conference level.  Disaffiliation is about a two way relationship between the church and conference, not a one way relationship.

One more note to the dissenters:  The unconstitutionality of the Calvinists’ personnel processes is rooted in the basic fact of the heart of our polity being the annual conference and also not the General Conference.  I find it interesting that the dissenters to the instant decision chose not to argue against that.

JCD 1378

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.

JCD 1379

How to Disaffiliate a Local Church, Modified

The Traditionalist Plan (TP) was designed to let congregations leave the denomination in an amicable way because either the congregation could not tolerate the tolerance to gays shown by many conferences and jurisdictions or they could not accept the righteousness of the anti-gay church laws.  In other words, the TP is a step closer to splitting the denomination by allowing angry churches to disaffiliate.  

From what I’ve seen and read, most Arminians have not even discussed leaving whereas the Calvinists are cutting ties where they can in every conference around the country.  

The General Conference plenary, acting as a single legislative committee, asked the Council if the TP disaffiliation plan was constitutional.  The Council studied the matter with the help of a number of briefs from a variety of sources and concluded that it was not.  

As in JCD 1377, they found the TP failed to include a vote by the annual conference as a part of the process.  Besides financial and legal obligations that could be taken care of on a local level including a two-thirds majority of the congregation present and voting, the TP failed to honor the significance of the annual conference as stated above.  The Council, noted that another Disciplinary paragraph was missed in everyone’s consideration: Par. 2529.1b)(3) which disallows a charge conference from disaffiliating without annual conference consent.  That was the law expression of Par. 33’s affirmation of the centrality of the annual conference to our polity.  Hence, the TP was unconstitutional on its disaffiliation plan.

The Council cleared up (modified) JCD 1377 to only require a simple majority vote by the annual conference rather than a two thirds vote.

It seems to me that pastors of churches seeking disaffiliation tend to be congregational in polity, tend to be charismatic in the general sense of that word (that is, personally influential as long as he or she is around), and tend to be Calvinistic.  Unless the superintendent actually gets to know the local church and unless the Board of Ordained Ministry actually gets to know the pastor it is turning over to the bishop for appointment, there is the distinct possibility that pastors with a “party spirit” (Galatians 5:20) will take over a congregation and lead it away from the United Methodist Church.  So it is wise that the annual conference be in the loop toward disaffiliation to protect the local church from manipulative pastors.  

This decision (JCD 1379) does not, nor was it called upon, to go further in its analysis and decision.  But certainly one of the “effects” of the decision is that annual conferences must be ready to spot disaffiliation considerations long before they get to that point, be able to evaluate if it is truly conscience or “party spirit” in operation in that church, and either move the pastor or consider bringing him/her up on charges (such pastors tend also to think of their churches as their own kingdom and fail to follow appropriate financial practices or use other serious bad actions).