Why United Methodists are watching the results of a denominational court meeting

Religion News Service | 4/23/2019 | Staff
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CHICAGO (RNS) — After a contentious special session of the United Methodist Church General Conference in late February in St. Louis, a closed meeting of the global denomination’s Judicial Council seems anticlimactic.

The special session was called after the last quadrennial General Conference meeting in 2016 to consider several plans to move the United Methodist Church forward despite deep, decades-long divisions over the inclusion of its LGBTQ members.

Session - General - Conference - Plan - Enforcement

During the session, delegates to the General Conference approved the “Traditional Plan,” which strengthens enforcement of the denomination’s ban on the ordination and marriage of its LGBTQ members.

RELATED: The ’Splainer: What happened at the United Methodist General Conference?

Decision - Singing - Demonstrations - LGBTQ - United

That decision was met with singing, chanting and demonstrations from LGBTQ United Methodists and their allies — and a church court challenge.

The denomination’s top court, known as the Judicial Council, will review some of the decisions made during the special session at its spring meeting, which runs Tuesday (April 23) to Friday in Evanston, Ill. But what might the court decide, and what would that mean for the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States?

Let us explain:

What is the Judicial Council?

Judicial - Council - Court - United - Methodist

The Judicial Council is the top court of the United Methodist Church — like the denomination’s Supreme Court.

It acts on appeals from lower denominational courts or requests for decisions to determine the constitutionality of acts by the General Conference or smaller regional conferences, according to the denomination’s website. It also can rule whether acts by other denominational bodies conform to its rulebook, the Book of Discipline.

Court - Members - Clergy - Members - Denomination

The court has nine members representing both clergy and lay members of the denomination, all five of the denomination’s U.S. jurisdictions and three of the Central Conferences outside the U.S.

What is the court deciding this week?

Session - General - Conference - Close - Year

As the special session of the General Conference drew to a close earlier this year, the Rev....
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