June 5, 2018
Brothers and Sisters of the Arkansas Annual Conference,
The highest court of our denomination, the Judicial Council, has released guidance related to petitions to be submitted to the specially called session of General Conference. By way of reminder, a petition generally asks the General Conference to revise the Book of Discipline through calling for wording in the Discipline to be changed, or removed, or in some cases added.
The Digest of recent Judicial Council Decision 1360 states:
The purpose of the special session of the General Conference 2019 stated in the Bishops’ call is limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward. Petitions to the special session of the General Conference 2019 may be filed by any organization, clergy member and lay member of the United Methodist Church as long as the business proposed to be transacted in such petition is in harmony with the purpose stated in the call. It is the obligation of the General Conference to determine, in the first instance, through its committees, officers and presiders, acting in accordance with The Discipline and the rules and procedures of the General Conference, whether any such petition is “in harmony.” However, business not in harmony with the purpose as stated in the call is not permitted unless the General Conference by a two-thirds vote shall determine that other business may be transacted. See ¶ 14.
The Bishops’ report mentioned above will not be available until after the Arkansas Conference Session. Early information released suggests the report will reference all three plans put forth by the Commission on a Way Forward in some fashion, with a recommendation of the “One Church Plan.”
Where does this leave us regarding the submission of petitions to General Conference? First, all petitions must be properly formatted in order to be considered. Specific information on how petitions are to be formatted can be found on our conference website in a document entitled “2019 General Conference Petition Submission Instructions” or at http://www.umc.org/contact/2019-general-conference-petition.
Individual lay and clergy members as well as official organizations of our denomination may submit petitions directly to General Conference. However, for a petition to be sent to General Conference from the Arkansas Conference it must first be acted upon and approved by the conference.
Petitions to the 2019 General Conference must be in the proper format in order to be considered by the Annual Conference. Per the plan shared earlier this year, the Annual Conference will print properly formatted petitions received by June 10 and make the copies available at the Conference Session. Petitions received any time from June 11 until 3 pm June 17 with 1300 copies at the submitter’s expense will be distributed at Conference. The Conference Office will post online all petitions received starting June 10 to make them available before Annual Conference.
Ten signatures from lay or clergy members of the 2018 Annual Conference are required for petitions unless submitted by a Conference Agency. Footnotes are required for all petitions to support facts or generalizations stated in said documents. Additional parameters are described in par. 14 and 507, 2016 Book of Discipline.
Please email your submissions to me at Aubrietta.email@example.com and also to Yvonne Armstrong, firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to assist you in interpreting the rules to offer the best possibility that your work will be deemed in order at both the Annual and the General Conference level.
Rev. Aubrietta Jones
Secretary of the Arkansas Annual Conference