Judicial Council and Process/Procedure

There were over 65 questions on the subject matter of the Judicial Council and the process and procedures of the 2019 Called Session of General Conference. The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body or "court" of The United Methodist Church. Its nine members are elected by the General Conference.

The Judicial Council heard and responded to the 2016 election and consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto in 2017 in which they referred the issue back to the Western Jurisdiction with specific directions. We are currently in the midst of that process which has yet to be completed by the due process of our United Methodist church law.

1. Who makes up the Judicial Council and what do they do?

The Judicial Council determines the constitutionality of acts or proposed acts of the General, jurisdictional, central and annual conferences. It acts on these either on appeal of lower rulings or through requests for declaratory decisions. It also rules on whether acts of other official bodies of the denomination conform to The 2016 Book of Discipline. This is done in accordance with procedures established in The 2016 Book of Discipline. To view the members of the Judicial Council, view their dockets and learn more click here.

2. Where can I find the Constitution of The United Methodist Church?

The Constitution can be found in The 2016 Book of Discipline beginning on page 25 and concluding on page 44. The Constitution establishes the basic outline for the organization of the denomination as well as establishing the office and role of the bishop. The Constitution establishes the Judicial Council as the body to rule on matters of church law as passed by the General Conference.

3. What’s the status of the petition to maintain the current language in The 2016 Book of Discipline on homosexuality that was submitted to the 2018 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference?

At the 2018 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference, the majority of the members voted to refer the petition to the delegation for their prayerful consideration. Since the delegation is going to the 2019 Called Session of General Conference and they represent the Mississippi Conference, the petition was viewed as expressed concern from some of the people the delegation is being sent to represent.

4. Can the results from the Called Session of General Conference in 2019 be changed by the 2020 General Conference?

Yes. A future General Conference could change anything done in the 2019 General Conference by a simple majority—50 percent of the delegates plus one, unless the change is a constitutional amendment. Whether it is to change something or change it back, the constitutional amendment process—once it begins—will take approximately three years to finish and would require a two-thirds majority from the General Conference delegates as well as a combined two-thirds majority from all the clergy and lay members of all U.S. annual conferences and central conferences.

5. What if no petition gains a majority and how many votes are needed to adopt a petition?

If no one gets a majority—if nothing passes—we then continue under the 2016 Book of Discipline with the current language intact.

A piece of legislation that is not requesting a change to the constitution only requires a simple majority—50 percent of the delegates plus one. In order to adopt a constitutional amendment, there must be a two-thirds majority from the General Conference delegates as well as a combined two thirds majority from all the clergy and lay members of all U.S. annual conferences and central conferences.

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