This past week the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church met in Elk Grove, IL, and declared the decisions of General Conference surrounding guaranteed appointments and clergy appointments to “transitional leave” as unconstitutional, “null, void and of no effect.” The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) celebrates these actions as crucial to a deeper understanding of clergy covenant and effectiveness.
In relation to the security of appointment, the Judicial Council cited contradictions in the Discipline between paragraphs and violations of the third and forth restrictive rules of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church. In relation to the changes made in language around transitional leave, giving a Bishop the ability to appoint a clergy person in good standing to transitional leave and in effect leave them without appointment, the Judicial Council stated, “Fair process procedures, trials and appeals are integral parts of the privilege of our clergy of right to trial by a committee and of appeal and is an absolute right which cannot be eradicated by legislation.”
“The Judicial Council’s ruling not only affirms our Wesleyan heritage of itinerancy, but also highlights the importance of theological, age, gender, and racial diversity within The United Methodist Church,” states Chett Pritchett, Interim Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. “The work of the Church is best done through diffused power-sharing among both laity and ordained clergy, Cabinets and Boards of Ordained Ministry. This ruling is a strong reminder that such leadership is crucial to The United Methodist Church remaining a relevant reflection of God’s world.”
At The United Methodist Church’s General Conference this past spring, MFSA had hoped the Church might engage in conversation about ways to strengthen the clergy covenant and empower Bishops to better utilize their Boards of Ordained Ministry in cases of clergy effectiveness, rather than developing an adversarial approach leading to a culture of fear and distrust. The Judicial Council ruling opens a door to broader discussion about faithful calling, training, and support of clergy in a two-way covenant system.
You can read the full text of the Judicial Council’s decision here.