Questions and Answers
The Judicial Council released a ruling on May 10, 2022 that current church law doesn’t allow U.S. annual conferences to leave the United Methodist denomination. In other words, currently the discipline doesn’t provide a process for an annual conference to leave. Only the General Conference – the denomination’s top lawmaking body – can establish the process necessary for an annual conference to leave. Until a General Conference pass enabling legislation, the Judicial Council declared “any vote and actions taken by an annual conference to separate are unconstitutional, null and void, and of no legal force or effect.” If any U.S. annual conference wants to vote on leaving the denomination, they must wait until a General Conference passes legislation providing a process to exit.
Click here for the United Methodist News Service Article
Judicial Council Decision 1444
How does that affect votes at this year's annual conference in July?
Any petitions related to the Mississippi Conference seeking to leave The United Methodist denomination will be out of order and therefore can not be properly brought before the assembly for a vote.
The General Conference is the highest legislative assembly of The United Methodist Church and the only body authorized to speak for it. Until General Conference meets in 2024, no changes can be made to the 2016 Disciple of The United Methodist Church, the Addendum to the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016 and The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016 Errata (December 9, 2019).
3. What does the postponement of General Conference until 2024 mean for the election of bishops?3. What does the postponement of General Conference until 2024 mean for the election of bishops?3. What does the postponement of General Conference until 2024 mean for the election of bishops?3. What does the postponement of General Conference until 2024 mean for the election of bishops?Book of Discipline Addendum and Errata – December 2019
On May 20, 2022, the Judicial Council released a ruling concerning the election of bishops since the General Conference has been postponed until 2024. “In the circumstance of this case, the Council of Bishops is authorized to set the date of regular jurisdictional conferences for the election and assignment of new bishops for the limited purpose of effectuating the continuance of an episcopacy in The United Methodist Church under ¶¶ 26, 27.2, and 45 of the Constitution.” (“Resource UMC | Judicial Council Decision Number 1445”)
Judicial Council Decision Number 1445
The Council of Bishops has set the dates for regular sessions of the Jurisdictional Conferences of The United Methodist Church to be convened November 2-5, 2022.
During these jurisdictional conferences, new bishops will be elected and consecrated. The Judicial Council has determined that “January 1, 2023, shall be the effective date of:
1) assignment for all bishops, newly elected bishops and active bishops already serving in the jurisdictions, and
2) mandatory retirement for bishops whose 68th birthday has been reached on or before July 1, 2020.” (Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church Memorandum NO. 1446)
UMC Bishops Call Regular Sessions of Jurisdiction Conferences in 2022
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. has served as our resident bishop in Mississippi since September 1, 2012. His plans were to retire July 31, 2022, which is after the Mississippi Annual Conference. Until we have further clarification on 1446, his date of official retirement is not clear.
It is the responsibility of the SEJ College of Bishops to provide episcopal oversight of every annual conference within the jurisdiction.
The 2016 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church “acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth.” (¶ 4)
The United Methodist Church does not recognize or celebrate same-sex marriages.
“Self-avowed, practicing” gay, lesbian and bisexual persons can not be ordained in The United Methodist Church. According to the Book of Discipline: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” (¶ 304.3)
With the announcement of the postponed 2020 General Conference to 2024, a few churches have asked the question is it possible for a church to leave the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.
There are only two ways for local churches to depart the Mississippi Conference. The first is closure Paragraph 213/2549, the traditional way, in which a church is closed, and all real and personal property reverts to the annual conference trustees for disposition. This will allow purchase of the property. If the closed congregation forms a new church, they will be given the first right of refusal for the acquisition of the property.
The other method is known as disaffiliation (paragraph 2553) and was adopted in the 2019 called session of General Conference. This is available for certain reasons around human sexuality. This method sunsets December 31, 2023.
There are certain costs (Mississippi United Methodist Trustees require two years of mission shares and the pension covenant payment computed in accordance with The Book of Discipline) and actions that must be taken. Every situation is different. Please do not listen to other’s experience as every church’s context is different. We have 14 churches that will be presented to 2022 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference to affirm their disaffiliation effective July 31, 2022.
Some churches have recently expressed the desire to have an informational (exploration) meeting so that the local church can discern those actions. We are very happy to provide a very informative session for the whole congregation about this subject. A decision must be made for disaffiliation by the local church on or before February 1, 2023. It will become official at the end of the month that affirmation is given by the annual conference session in 2023.
If you desire more information, please contact your superintendent for an exploration session for your whole local church congregation.
As to appointment of a pastor to churches disaffiliating, this is not a concern. With the requirement that the annual conference must vote to affirm disaffiliation, churches disaffiliating after the close of annual conference is not appointed a pastor. The superintendent has oversight from moving day until the last day of the month of the annual conference. If the pastor currently appointed is turning in their credentials and leaving with the disaffiliating church, they will remain a United Methodist minister until the paperwork after annual conference is completed. Disaffiliation is effective on the last day of the month of the annual conference session.
Each year an equal number of clergy members and lay members from across Mississippi will gather for several days for a time for worship, fellowship, and to conduct the business of our conference. Our business includes receiving reports of ongoing ministry; approve future goals, programs and budgets; adopting policy, standing rule changes and resolutions. We will celebrate the ordination of clergy members as deacons and elders as well as the licensing of local pastors. We will remember the passing of our clergy, clergy spouses and lay members of the annual conference during the past conference year.
Our business will name churches who have closed over the past year, and we will vote to determine affirmation for the churches who are requesting disaffiliation according to paragraph 2553.
There are no plans to discuss or vote on matters related to a new denomination or to vote on our annual conference separating from The United Methodist Church due to the Judicial Council Ruling 1444.
Judicial Council Ruling Related to the Separation of an Annual Conference Within the United States from The United Methodist Church
What is the delegation’s role in General Conference and ultimately back to the Mississippi Annual Conference?
The General Conference is the highest legislative body of the United Methodist Church which meets every four years. It was set to meet in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 5-15, 2020. However, due to the current pandemic, it has been postponed twice. The General Conference is comprised of 862 delegates. A formula, based on lay and clergy membership, determines the number of delegates each annual conference will elect.
The Mississippi Conference has a total of ten (10) delegates – five clergy and five laity – that are elected to the General Conference. The entire delegation has met many times and will continue to meet numerous more times to review and discuss the proposed legislation to General Conference. The work of the delegation is to be well informed of all proposed legislation and be well prepared to vote on it. In addition to changes to church law, policies, and denominational statements, delegates also consider proposed changes to church structure and organization. Delegates will vote on the missional priorities and the general church budget for the upcoming quadrennium. They serve for four years. If a special General or Jurisdictional Conference is called, delegates will serve at those conferences as well.
During the first week of General Conference, delegates will meet in their assigned committees reviewing, debating, revising, and voting on legislation to present to the entire body. In the second week, the entire body of delegates debates and votes on all items approved by the legislative committees. Delegates vote by secret ballot. This allows delegates to prayerfully vote their own conscience as they seek what is best for their annual conference and the entire worldwide denomination.
The decisions made at the General Conference are reported back to the annual conference.
What are legislative committees? What do they do and how many are there?
The Commission on the General Conference has set the number of legislative committees at 14. All properly submitted petitions and reports to General Conference are assigned to legislative committees. The committees will debate the proposals assigned to them and determine whether to approve, amend, combine or reject them for recommendation to the full body of General Conference.
What role(s) do(es) members of our delegation serve in legislative committees? How are delegates assigned?
Each of our 10 delegates submitted three choices of legislative committees on which they wanted to serve. The committee assignments were made in order of their election by the head of the delegation.
What’s a typical day in the life of a delegate while serving on these legislative committees (you all have 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. days)?
During the first week, the typical day begins with inspiring worship at 8:00 a.m. A plenary session follows and then delegates will go to work in their legislative committee. Each day adjourns at 6:30 p.m. On the final day of legislative committee meetings, all work must be completed by 9:30 p.m.
During the second week, each day also begins with a worship service at 8:00 a.m. The rest of the day, General Conference will meet in plenary sessions and consider legislation sent to them from the legislative committees. There will be numerous reports, recognitions, and moments of celebration. Each day adjourns at 6:30 p.m.
How do delegates decide who governs the legislative committees (election of committee officers—chair, vice, secretary, etc.)?
Initially, for each legislative committee, a bishop appointed by the Council of Bishops serves as chairperson and an organizing secretary appointed by the Secretary of the General Conference serves as the secretary. They serve in these capacities solely for the purpose of organizing the committee.
At the first meeting of the legislative committee, the first order of business is orientation of the committee, and the second thing done is election of officers. The chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary, and sub-committee chairpersons of each committee are elected by separate sequential written ballot for each position. Consideration for diversity of geography, age, gender, ethnicity, clergy, and lay is encouraged.
Once these officers are elected, how do they know what their specific roles and responsibilities are as a committee officer?
The Secretary of General Conference is responsible for training all chairpersons, vice-chairpersons, secretaries, and sub-committee chairpersons of legislative committees. The training includes instruction in duties, all procedures in handling petitions, the times of the daily deadlines for publishing reports, and other information to expedite the work of the committee. No officer can serve without completing this training.
After sub-committees complete their work, what happens next?
Once each legislative committee is divided into sub committees, they elect their chair and secretary who will report out to the full legislative committee their work. Because every piece of legislation must be reviewed and acted on, the sub committees discuss, perfect (combine if two like or similar petitions exist) and determine their recommendation by vote on how to move the legislation forward. Then the elected persons report this to the full committee with recommendations for action by the full subcommittee. This is where the real deep dive goes into the committee work.
Then what happens next?
The legislative committee receives the actions of the subcommittee and recommendations and rational. After discussion, the legislation is dealt with. If rejected, then the petition dies. If approved, then it goes forward to the full plenary through the calendar and coordination committee. It is at this time the legislation can be placed into the consent agenda which is passed without further discussion because of the majority action on the legislation or it will go to the plenary floor for action. These presentations are presented to the full body by the legislative committee chair. It is at this time additional material and rationale reasons can be present for full action of the General Conference.
Why was the postponed 2020 General Conference further postponed to 2024?
The Commission on General Conference made the decision to further postpone the 2020 General Conference until 2024 due to COVID-related and governmental policies/constraints. Their hope is 2024 will provide the opportunity for as many delegates as possible to attend General Conference. For more information on the postponement click here.
When and where will the postponed 2020 General Conference be held in 2024?
The Commission on General Conference is finalizing work on the exact dates and location of the postponed 2020 General Conference to be held in 2024. Once they announce their decision, we will post the information in the Delegation Hub.
With the postponed 2020 General Conference being further postponed until 2024, may additional legislation be submitted?
Current legislation submitted to the 2020 General Conference will be properly before the postponed 2020 General Conference. The Judicial Council recently ruled that any postponement of General Conference resets the submission deadlines for proposed legislation. According to this ruling, new legislation may be submitted to the postponed 2020 General Conference being held in 2024.
Will a jurisdictional conference be held in 2022 to elect Bishops?
The Council of Bishops has asked the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision regarding the possibility of Jurisdictional Conferences being held to elect and assign bishops. They have tentatively set November 2-5, 2022 for Jurisdictional Conferences to meet if the Judicial Council rule in favor of the meetings being held. To read the Council of Bishops Way Forward, click here.
With the 2020 General Conference being further postponed to 2024, will the currently elected delegates serve at the postponed 2020 General Conference?
Yes. Our current delegation was elected to serve at the 2020 General Conference. Whenever the postponed 2020 General Conference is held, the current delegation will serve.
Further questions or feedback can be submitted at the link below.