From the Bishop: A Response to the Judicial Council’s Declaratory Ruling

October 26, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Arkansas Annual Conference,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Many of you have seen various accounts of the Judicial Council’s decision that was released earlier today concerning the constitutionality of the three plans included in the report of The Commission on a Way Forward.

It is a lengthy ruling that will necessitate additional study and understanding. But while it may be dangerous to simplify a complex ruling, I want to offer you my best understanding of the Judicial Council’s unanimous action. First, a significant number of the accountability mechanisms included in the Traditional Plan are unconstitutional in their current form. Second, the One Church Plan is for the most part in harmony with the Constitution in its major provision. Third, since the Connectional Conference Plan includes constitutional amendments, the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction at this time to issue a decision. Here is the link that will take you to the complete ruling.

I am aware that some of you are excited and others of you are deeply concerned by the Judicial Council’s decision. This is why it’s important to remember several things. The Council of Bishops sought a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council in order to facilitate the work of the General Conference next February. To that end, the Judicial Council’s clarity is helpful. The Council’s decision concerning constitutionality is not a statement about the value of any of the plans. That is the General Conference’s work to prayerfully discern. Both those who support the One Church Plan or the Traditional Plan now have the opportunity to create amendments to be offered at General Conference that will perfect the plan they prefer.

Life is complicated and often painful. The United Methodist Church is experiencing this now. I hope the laity and clergy of Arkansas will not become even more polarized over this issue, but will instead find ways to reach out, pray for each other and stay connected. I also pray that we will all remember that our main work is not settling difficult issues; it is making disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.

Come, Holy Spirit, come!

Grace and peace,

Gary E. Mueller

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