Judicial Council strikes down NEJ ‘untitled resolution’
by Maidstone Mulenga*
The Judicial Council has affirmed Bishop Mark Webb’s ruling that nullified a petition by the Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) to allow regional bodies — such as jurisdictions — to decide for themselves to adapt the Book of Discipline within their own ministry context.
In its decision issued Friday in Newark, N.J., the United Methodist Church’s highest court agreed with Bishop Webb’s ruling during the 2016 NEJ Conference in Lancaster, Penn., that the so-called “Untitled Resolution” was “null, void and of no effect.”
Originally titled “Stop the Trials,” the resolution was amended on the floor of the NEJ Conference and ended up being “Untitled Resolution.” The resolution recommended a restructuring plan to be considered by the Council of Bishops’ Commission on a Way Forward.
The resolution also requested that “all CFA’s of the Annual Conferences of the jurisdiction to state that there are no funds available for initiating of investigations and trials based upon the sexual orientation or marital status of faithful United Methodists or involving clergy for conducting same-sex weddings.”
In his ruling, Bishop Webb, resident bishop for the Upper New York Conference and who was in the presiding chair when the question was raised at the NEJ Conference, said the Untitled Resolution adopted on July 14, 2016, was “out of order because it requests the CFAs and annual conferences to violate Church law, and negates, ignores and violates the Discipline and Constitution.”
Bishop Webb stated that by requesting that the CFAs confirm that the annual conferences have eliminated funding for certain fair process proceedings, the Untitled Resolution requested the CFAs and the annual conferences to violate Church law or, alternatively, discouraged the enforcement of Church law.
“I also find that the Untitled Resolution is unconstitutional,” Bishop Webb ruled at the time. “Under the Constitution of The United Methodist Church, only the General Conference has the authority to change trial process, including assigning a body within the Church with financial oversight over fair process proceedings.”
The Judicial Council agreed with Bishop Webb, noting that Jurisdictional Conferences are free to adopt resolutions that are aspirational in nature, and to express their ideals and opinions as long as they do not attempt to negate, ignore or contradict The Book of Discipline.
“They may not pass resolutions that encourage a violation of Church law or discourage the enforcement of Church law. The Untitled Resolution adopted by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference is contrary to the Constitution and The Discipline and, therefore, null and void,” said Judicial Council.
Read the Judicial Decision here
Maidstone Mulenga is Director of Communications for the Council of Bishops and editor of the NEJ Daily Christian Advocate.