The United Methodist Judicial Council listens during an oral hearing on Way Forward Commission plans.
Traditional Plan’s modified version is headed to GC2019.
Proponents of the Traditional Plan and its related modified version have offered revisions to the legislation heading to the special General Conference on Feb. 23-26.
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Meanwhile, backers of the One Church Plan are recommending deleting three sentences in that legislation.
The goal, for all three plans, is to address constitutional issues that the Judicial Council, The United Methodist Church’s top court, identified in a ruling last year.
The plans are among the proposals offering very different directions for the denomination as it navigates a potentially church-splitting division.
To be ratified, a constitutional amendment requires at least a two-thirds vote at General Conference and then at least two-thirds support among annual conference voters around the globe. Other petitions in the plans require a simple majority.
The Judicial Council found the 17 petitions in the One Church Plan to be constitutional, except for one individual sentence each in three petitions. Proponents of the One Church Plan say those sentences simply can be dropped without changing the nature of the proposal.
“I think the One Church Plan remains the plan for unity in The United Methodist Church that honors the consciences of all and creates for us a future with hope,” said the Rev. Tom Berlin, who submitted the legislation on behalf of the Way Forward Commission. The plan has support from a majority of bishops as well as affirmation from the majority of Way Forward Commission members.
The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, who submitted the Traditional Plan on behalf of the commission, said that plan and the related modified version ensure church unity in teaching and practice.
“To restore unity, we need to return to operating under a single standard,” he said. “Sexual morality is a very important component of the Christian life both scripturally and in personal experience.”
Of the plan’s 17 petitions, the court ruled seven unconstitutional and identified unconstitutional portions in two others.
Lambrecht on Feb. 1 announced revisions to that plan and related parts in the Modified Traditional Plan to bring them in line with the ruling.
The modified version also requires provisions to take effect at the adjournment of the special General Conference, rather than Jan. 1, 2020.
Finally, Lambrecht urges delegates to pass one of the submitted exit plans that allows congregations to depart the denomination without seeking approval of its annual conference.
The Judicial Council will be present at the Special General Conference and could be asked again to weigh in on legislation.
Under the denomination’s constitution, one-fifth of General Conference delegates or a majority of bishops can ask the Judicial Council to rule on the constitutionality of any General Conference action.
Heather Hahn,multimedia news reporter, UMNS
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