ACTIVITIES FOR THE 2019 GENERAL CONFERENCE

  • A WAY FORWARD COMMISSION

  • COUNCIL OF BISHOPS

    • April 29-May 4 2018 - Meeting to discuss the Way Forward proposal

      • The Bishops voted by a majority that they prefer the One Church Model for the 2019 General Conference.

      • They also voted to include the other two sketches/options in their report to the General Conference.

    • July 8, 2018

      • The Council of Bishops' suggestion for the One Church Plan will now be added as an Appendix to the "A Commission on a Way Forward" three models/proposals. It is the Commission's proposals that will all be on the floor of the General Conference for a vote.

    • JUDICIAL COUNCIL

      • May 22-25, 2018 - Meeting to address the Council of Bishops’ questions about the possibility of additional petitions for the General Conference (http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/court-ruling-spurs-competing-interpret...)

        • The Judicial Council voted to allow that additional petitions could be sent to the General Conference as long as they were in harmony with the intended and stated purpose of the specially called General Conference. The Judicial Council, in Decision 1360, declared that any United Methodist clergy, laity, or organization might petition the special General Conference, enabling a multitude of proposals to be placed before the delegates for consideration.

        • The Judicial Council further declared that the report that will be up for a vote to the General Conference should be the report of the COWF, not a report from the COB. Based on recent statements made by some bishops and some members of the Commission On a Way Forward, no report will come to the special General Conference from the Council Of Bishops. Rather, now the Commission On a Way Forward will deliver its report, unfiltered by the Council Of Bishops, as it was directed to do by the 2016 General Conference. The Commission On a Way Forward report that will be delivered will be supported by fully developed petitions to implement each of the proposals explored by the Commission On a Way Forward — the One Church Plan, the Connectional Conference Plan, and the Traditional Plan.

      • An additional meeting took place on October 23-26, 2018.

        • In an electronic vote on July 7, 2018, the bishops agreed to seek a ruling from the highest court in the denomination on whether proposed legislation known as the One Church Plan, the Connectional Conference Plan and the Traditional Plan are constitutional. “We are asking for this so that we can gain greater clarity about constitutional issues within the three plans, and in service to and support of the delegations, who will do extremely important work in a very limited amount of time,” said COB President Bishop Kenneth H. Carter. We will add the Judicial Council's ruling on hte three plans here once it is made public. 

        • Link to videos of those Judicial Conference meetings: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/judicial-council-october-2018-webcast

        • Link to a .pdf file of their decision: http://www.umc.org/decisions/78141

        • The whole purpose of this proceeding before the Judicial Council was to learn in advance of the special General Conference whether language in any of the petitions proposed to implement the plans raised constitutional issues. With some minor exceptions, the Judicial Council held that the petitions filed to implement the One Church Plan would be constitutional if adopted. In reviewing the petitions filed to implement the Traditional Plan, the Judicial Council identified constitutional issues with the language contained in eight of the petitions. The Judicial Council’s decision helpfully identified issues which must be addressed should the special General Conference adopt the Traditional Plan. Each of the points raised by the Judicial Council will be addressed legislatively through minor changes in the Traditional Plan without the necessity of constitutional amendments. The Judicial Council declined to make any rulings with respect to the Connectional Conference Plan since that plan concedes that constitutional amendments would have to be passed to enable it to be adopted. As the Judicial Council observed, it “lacks the authority to scrutinize proposed constitutional amendments.”

      • Judicial Council met on April 23-26, 2019 to discuss the constitutionality of all legislation that was passed at the 2019 General Conference. Here is a link to a video from our Bishop about this meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aizGgxaScy0&feature=youtu.be. Here is a link to the results and decisions of that meeting: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/court-oks-part-of-traditional-plan-exit-plan?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTjJJd1lXRTROMk01TnprNCIsInQiOiJ1ZU8xNXpcL3RhUDhwdlFEcGx3V3BJeHk5VFwvUWZcL1FieDF1Y2NUbGdJeTdsM2wwNnNidUZ6WTlOTllZOExmSlArekMwdnNESHZqTTBwRExjSkhyYThiOHBIN3YzeXpVRzdTODdEcEo1OUk2UTlWZk5WcHZpam9scVBRUU1saFVqWSJ9.

        • Petitions found constitutional and taking effect January 1, 2020 included:

          • An expansion of the definition of a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to include persons in same-sex marriages or civil unions.
          • Prohibition of bishops from consecrating bishops or commissioning or ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”
          • Minimum penalties for being convicted at a church trial for officiating at a same-sex wedding: a one-year suspension without pay for the first conviction and loss of clergy credentials for a second conviction.
          • Prohibiting District Committees on Ordained Ministry and Boards of Ordained Ministry from recommending persons who do not meet all disciplinary requirements.
          • Making every effort to have a complainant agree to the terms of a just resolution of a complaint, and specifying that a just resolution must contain a statement of harms and how they are addressed in the resolution.
          • Church trial verdicts can be appealed on the basis of egregious errors of church law.
        • Petitions found unconstitutional:

          • Petitions which would have moved the accountability of bishops away from their jurisdictional college or central conference.
          • Petitions which would have required specific certification for persons nominated for the Board of Ordained Ministry.
          • A petition which would have asked Boards of Ordained Ministry to examine candidates in part, through a search of social media, to determine if they meet qualifications for commissioning or ordination. 
        • Finally, the Judicial Council ruled that a petition specifying a process for local church disaffiliation from an Annual Conference was constitutional.  The process includes a two-third majority vote by the church conference, an agreement between the church and the conference trustees, and a ratification vote by the Annual Conference. 

      • The Judicial Council met again in the fall of 2019. Here are the outcomes from their meeting:

        • The Judicial Council has rebuffed several challenges to the implementation of the Traditional Plan as adopted at the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis. These decisions mean that the provisions adopted can take effect January 1, 2020, as planned. The provisions will take effect in the central conferences outside the U.S. as of February 26, 2020.

           In one request for a declaratory decision, the Council of Bishops challenged several provisions adopted by the special General Conference.

           Expanded Definition

          The General Conference expanded the definition of the term “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to include a person “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.” This definition clarifies that someone who lives publicly as a practicing homosexual cannot evade accountability to the church’s standards by simply refusing to state under oath in a trial that they are indeed engaging in same-sex practices. The bishops challenged this provision as being unfair to persons who had already entered into a same-sex marriage, union, or domestic partnership before the definition was expanded.

           However, this definition merely made explicit what was already implied in the previous requirement. At no time in the church’s history have same-sex marriages, unions, or domestic partnerships been allowed for clergy. Persons in these relationships still have the right to rebut the charges by stating that they are not engaged in a sexual relationship.

           Bishops Not to Ordain

          The General Conference added language explicitly prohibiting a bishop from commissioning or ordaining persons as deacons or elders if the Board of Ordained Ministry determines the individual is a self-avowed practicing homosexual or if the board has failed to certify it has carried out the disciplinarily mandated examination of the candidates, even if the individual has been recommended by the board and approved by the clergy session. The bishops challenged this provision as requiring the Board of Ordained Ministry to certify that a requirement has been met, when the Discipline does not require them to certify it. But of course, the language of the new provision is itself a requirement to certify the full examination of candidates, so the bishops’ argument is without merit.

          Mandatory Minimum Penalty

          The General Conference added a mandatory minimum penalty of a one-year suspension without pay for any clergy person found guilty in a trial of performing a same-sex wedding or union. The bishops challenged this provision by saying the penalty could not be applied equally to all clergy. Some clergy serve in appointments beyond the local church, and the church does not control their employment or their compensation. Some countries outside the U.S. do not allow employees to be suspended without pay. In both these instances, the bishops argued, a trial court could suspend the person without pay, but the penalty might not take effect.

           However, the trial court would know these circumstances before imposing a penalty, and could take the circumstances into account in tailoring a penalty to fit the circumstances. Without a specific case that has facts upon which the Judicial Council can base judgment, these questions are premature.

           The Judicial Council agreed. In Memorandum 1390, the Council declared that it did not have enough votes to declare any of the provisions unconstitutional. Instead, the provisions will go into effect. The Council stated, “Our rulings on the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the various provisions will await the specific facts of applications of these provisions in cases to come before the Council after January 1, 2020.”

           Disaffiliation Provisions

          The General Conference added a new ¶ 2553, which contains a process whereby local churches may withdraw from The United Methodist Church and keep their property.

           In a different request for a declaratory decision, the Council of Bishops questioned the effective date of the new process, stating that there were different interpretations of what the General Conference enacted. The Judicial Council ruled that the General Conference adopted the new paragraph to be effective immediately upon the adjournment of the General Conference. Thus, the new process is now in effect and has been since February.

           The Council of Bishops also raised the question of whether the possibility of alleged improper voting in St. Louis had nullified this paragraph. The Commission on the General Conference carried out an investigation that reportedly identified four person who voted at General Conference when they were not entitled to vote. Since the initial vote for ¶ 2553 only passed by two votes, the Commission ruled the vote null and void. They then referred the matter to the Council of Bishops to present to Judicial Council for a ruling.

           In a somewhat passionate oral hearing, the Judicial Council questioned why the Commission did not bring the case to Judicial Council itself and why members of the Commission were not present to answer questions about the allegations of vote fraud. Under questioning, it came out that only two bishops had seen the report of the results of the Commission’s investigation. Questions arose about whether the Commission even had the authority to investigate or to declare the vote null and void.

           The Judicial Council postponed consideration of this matter until its spring meeting. This means that ¶ 2553 as adopted by General Conference is still in effect. Only the Judicial Council can nullify an act of General Conference, and it has not done so. In a related case, an action by the New England Annual Conference to add requirements to the process in ¶ 2553 remains in limbo. Judicial Council has postponed consideration of that question until it decides whether the paragraph was legally adopted.

           Annual Conference Resolutions

           A number of annual conferences adopted resolutions responding to the 2019 General Conference actions. Most of the resolutions disagreed with the decision by General Conference to adopt the Traditional Plan.

           In three annual conferences, the bishops ruled the resolutions (in part or in whole) to be an illegal contravention of the Book of Discipline. Such resolutions attempted to limit the annual conference from spending funds on complaints, trials, and other disciplinary procedures. They also committed the annual conference to disobey the standards of the Discipline when it comes to the ordination of gay clergy.

          The annual conferences where resolutions were ruled null and void by bishops and affirmed as such by the Judicial Council were:

          • Mountain Sky (Bishop Oliveto)
          • California-Pacific (Bishop Hagiya)
          • Upper New York (Bishop Webb)
          • In the past, the Judicial Council has ruled that resolutions that simply disagree with a General Conference action and “aspire” to a different outcome are acceptable because they do not bind the annual conference to take any specific action and they are merely an expression of opinion.

          • The annual conferences where resolutions were challenged but validated as acceptable by the bishop and Judicial Council were:

            • Central Texas (Bishop Lowry, two resolutions)
            • North Texas
               
  • LISTENING SESSIONS
    • April 15, 2019 - The Annual Conference shared summary videos from the District Gatherings. You find them at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhVXxJQ10kT6xJKoNAapQZRdC8RgRbYIb. The also shared a link for the Power-Point presentation from those meetings: http://mississippi-email.brtapp.com/files/episcopal%20office/project%20k....

    • April 10, 2019 - By April 10, the Bishop plans to send out summary videos of the presentations he made at the recent District meetings. Those videos will also address a number of the questions and concerns that were submitted on the feedback forms in person and online. All of this material will be available on the Conference website (www.mississippi-umc.org) and on their YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSRtxv_Kix8IbYuHKRMLIjg).

    • April 2, 2019 - Our Administrative Council, having attended the Town Hall and the Bishop's District event, will meet to discuss the General Conference and to make plans for our church. 

    • March 24, 2019 - Bishop Swanson held District-wide meetings to discuss and answer questions about the February General Conference vote. Many from our church family attended the meeting at Christ United Methodist Church on March 24. Here is a link to the information that was shared that day: http://mississippi-email.brtapp.com/files/tables/emails/2254070/fields/a...

    • February 27, 2019 - Our senior pastor will lead our second General Conference Town Hall at 6:15 pm in the Sancuary. We will discuss the decisions made at the Genrecal Conference. 

    • February 14, 2019 - Mississippi Annual Conference Communications update about General Conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKf3zwdWj2A&feature=youtu.be

    • February 6, 2019 - Bishop Swanson will begin a series of meetings throughout our Conference with clergy to address their questions and to share his thoughts about the General Conference.

    • January 20, 2019 - A new Listening Post event with our Bishop and all of the General Conference delegates at Christ UMC (3:30 pm). 

      • 500 United Methodist clergy and laity gathered at Christ UMC to address the Mississippi Conference Delegation to the 2019 Called Session of General Conference. Our Bishop spoke to us about the upcoming Conference, twenty-six people publically shared their hopes and thoughts with the delegation and then the entire group prayed over the delegation. 

    • September 2018 - FAQ document from the August Listening Sessions (https://www.mississippi-umc.org/files/episcopal%20office/2018%20fall%20l...).

    • September 2018 - Summary video with Bishop Swanson and General Conference delegates about the recent Listening Sessions (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyH5ZRzF0-k&t=28s).

    • ​August 2018 - Bishop Swanson responded to questions regarding proposed legislation for the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference at these meetings. Several members of the 2016 delegation representing the Mississippi Annual Conference also attended these meetings. Crowds of 300-500 people attended the events throughout the state. Video summaries from the Listening Sessions, and also a roundtable discussion with the Bishop and General Conference delegates, will be available soon. We will post the link for that here when it does. 

  • 2019 GENERAL CONFERENCE

    • February 23-26, 2019

      • Link to live stream of General Conference: www.umc.org/live. This link will go live once the General Conference begins.

      • Saturday, February 23, will be a day of prayer and preparation, culminating the bishops' "Praying Our Way Forward" campaign to seek God's help for our church's way forward.

      • Sunday, February 24, will be the first day of business. The conference will hear a report from the Commission on a Way Forward on the three plans it brought forward. The conference will spend the rest of the day debating the three different directions suggested by the plans. At the end of the day, there will be a straw poll to determine which plan will be the one that the body works on. (This is not a final vote, but rather determines which set of petitions will be considered in the committee process. There will need to be more votes before the action becomes final.)

      • Monday, February 25, will see the conference meet as a legislative committee of the whole, presided over by a delegate. The body will consider, amend, and pass the petitions related to the plan they voted to consider on Sunday. Other petitions can be added to or substituted for the ones directly related to a plan. All the other petitions that are not approved will presumably receive a vote of non-concurrence, since all petitions must be voted on by the legislative committee. If the petitions related to the chosen plan do not pass, the body could presumably try to perfect other petitions related to another plan instead.

      • Tuesday, February 26, will be the final day of the conference and it will meet in plenary session, again with a bishop presiding. The petitions perfected on Monday will receive a final vote. The conference will also consider the implications of its actions for the future, particularly for the upcoming regular 2020 General Conference. This day also provides a bit of margin, in case the perfecting work is not completed on Monday or the conference votes to go in a different direction. Whatever is enacted by the plenary session on Tuesday will be the final decision of the conference.

    • General Conference actions​

      • Video from our Bishop about the General Conference results: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=TObRlMxuH9Q 
      • By a vote of 438 to 384 (53.3 percent), the General Conference adopted the Traditional Plan, parts of which will not be able to go into effect because they are unconstitutional.
        • Parts that will go into effect are:
          • Expanded definition of “self-avowed homosexuals” to include persons living in a same-sex marriage or union or who publicly proclaim themselves to be practicing homosexuals
          • Explicitly prohibits bishops from consecrating bishops, ordaining or commissioning clergy who are self-avowed practicing homosexuals
          • Requires all persons nominated to serve on the annual conference board of ordained ministry to certify that they will uphold and enforce the Book of Discipline’sstandards for ordained clergy
          • Establishes a minimum penalty for clergy convicted of performing a same-sex wedding of a one year suspension (first offense) and loss of credentials (second offense)
          • Explicitly prohibits district committee and conference board of ministry from recommending a candidate for ministry who does not meet the standards, and orders the bishop to declare any such unqualified candidate out of order
          • Prohibits a bishop from arbitrarily dismissing a complaint against a clergy person
          • Requires the involvement of the complainant in all stages of the resolution process and that every effort must be made to have the complainant agree to any just resolution
          • Allows the church to appeal the verdict of a trial court in cases of egregious errors of church law or administration
          • Petitions defining how clergy pensions are to be handled when a clergy person or congregation leaves the denomination
      • An exit path for congregations seeking to leave the denomination with their property, in exchange for one (extra) year’s apportionments and payment of pension liabilities. This legislation will not go into effect because it is believed to be unconstitutional.
      • The One Church Plan was defeated by a vote of 374 to 449 (54.6 percent opposed).
      • The Conference Connection Plan was not brought up for a formal vote. 
      • UPDATE - Due to four questionable ballots, the dissafiliation vote may not be valid. 
  • ANNUAL CONFERENCES

    • February 14, 2019 - Link to Mississippi Annual Conference's webpage on General Conference updates and information: https://www.mississippi-umc.org/gc2019

    • Summer 2019 - Annual Conferences across the UMC voted on delegates for the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. 

2020 GENERAL CONFERENCE (May 5-15, 2020) UPDATES

2019 GENERAL CONFERENCE MISSISSIPPI ANNUAL CONFERENCE DELEGATION

Lay delegates: Timothy Crisler, Turner Arant, Ann LaSalle, Ann Harrington, David Beckley and Lauren Sledge.

Clergy delegates: Mattie Gipson, Stephen Sparks, Fred Britton, Zach Beasley, Mitchell Hedgepeth and Bob Rambo.

Reserve delegates

Lay: David Stotts

Clergy: Leanne Burris

2020 GENERAL CONFERENCE MISSISSIPPI ANNUAL CONFERENCE DELEGATION

Lay delegates: Turner Arant, Ann Harrington, David Stotts, David Beckley and Steve McAlilly.

Clergy delegates: Mattie Gipson, Stephen Sparks, Fred Britton, Zach Beasley and Mitchell Hedgepeth.