April 11, 2018
The United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops has asked the denomination’s Judicial Council (its “Supreme Court”) for a ruling on what petitions can be submitted to the special, called General Conference scheduled to meet in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.
Some bishops have argued that the only proposal that can be presented in advance of the special, called General Conference is what the Council of Bishops as a whole supports. Others claim any proposal can be submitted as long as it is germane to the stated call or purpose of the special General Conference.
The nine members of the Judicial Council usually meet only in April and October of each year to consider cases and questions of church law put before them. However, given the exceptional circumstances of the special General Conference and its importance for the future of the denomination, it is highly likely the Judicial Council will grant the Council of Bishop’s request for a special hearing.
The Rev. Keith Boyette, President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and a former member of the Judicial Council, said, “The holding of a special General Conference is already something out of the ordinary for the UM Church. The potential convening of a special session of the Judicial Council only heightens the stakes for the future of the denomination.”
In the coming days, Boyette will offer further analysis of this unusual request from the Council of Bishops.