UMC Bishops agree to call regular sessions of jurisdictional conferences in 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to Judicial Council decision 1445, the Council of Bishops (COB) has formally set the dates for regular sessions of the Jurisdictional Conferences of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be convened November 2-5, 2022.

During a special COB meeting held today, the bishops approved a motion that the jurisdictional conferences will meet for purpose of the election and assignment of new bishops for the limited purpose of effectuating the continuance of the episcopacy in The United Methodist Church.

Each jurisdiction will determine how many bishops will be elected in their areas.

The President of the Council, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton said, “I was very pleased that the council engaged in a very thorough and thoughtful discussion. We weighed and balanced all of the pros and cons involved in making this decision. While there is no scenario that is without obstacles, we celebrate the ability we have been given to conduct Jurisdictional Conferences and elect bishops to serve the church in its next expression.”

In another development, the bishops voted to ask the Judicial Council for clarification on the following issues:
– Does Decision 1445 mean that only those bishops elected to fill vacancies existing as of the jurisdictional conferences in November 2022 may be assigned to fill those vacancies or may active bishops already serving in the jurisdiction be reassigned to fill the vacancies and newly elected bishops be assigned to fill vacancies created when active bishops are reassigned?

– If a bishop who must retire “on August 31 next following the regular session of the jurisdictional conference” elects to remain in the bishop’s assignment from the adjournment of the jurisdictional conference in November 2022 until August 31 of 2023, how can a newly elected bishop be assigned on an interim basis to the episcopal area served by the retiring bishop before August 31, 2023?

The Council of Bishops encourages the entire church to continue in deep, unceasing prayer for the Church and the world in this difficult time in the life of the church.

Church court: Conferences can’t exit unilaterally

By Heather Hahn for UM News

U.S. annual conferences have no authority under current church law to withdraw from The United Methodist Church, the denomination’s top court ruled.

“There is no basis in Church law for any annual conference to adopt stopgap policies, pass resolutions, take a vote, or act unilaterally for the purpose of removing itself from The United Methodist Church,” the Judicial Council ruled in Decision 1444.

The church court said only General Conference — the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly — can set the process and conditions for these regional church bodies to leave the United Methodist connection.

But as of now, General Conference has not established such a process for annual conferences within the U.S.

“Absent General Conference legislation, any vote and actions taken by an annual conference to separate are unconstitutional, null and void, and of no legal force or effect,” the Judicial Council said.

The church court released the ruling May 10 as U.S. annual conferences are about to begin their season of yearly meetings.

Judicial Council member Beth Capen issued a separate opinion that concurs in part and dissents in part. Capen concurred with the ultimate holding but approached the issue differently.

The United Methodist constitution describes an annual conference as “the basic body” of the denomination. Each consists of multiple congregations and other ministries such as camps and college groups in a geographical area. The United Methodist Church has 53 annual conferences in the U.S., and 80 spread across Africa, Europe and the Philippines. A bishop presides at each annual conference.

Decision 1444 responds to questions brought by the United Methodist Council of Bishops about U.S. annual conferences. The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, has a lengthy process for conferences outside the United States to become autonomous.

The bishops are dealing with a splintering in the denomination. After years of intensifying internal disputes around the status of LGBTQ people, the coming General Conference faces proposals for some kind of denominational separation including the disaffiliation of annual conferences. However, not one of these separation proposals has received a General Conference vote.

Complications from the pandemic have caused three postponements of the international legislative assembly, from May 2020 to now 2024. With the third postponement, some theological conservatives decided to stop waiting for General Conference action and instead launched a breakaway denomination — the Global Methodist Church — on May 1.

But with no General Conference-approved separation plan in effect, the bishops asked whether U.S. annual conferences can leave under current church law.

As the Judicial Council notes, resolutions already have been filed in at least two U.S. annual conferences — Northwest Texas and South Georgia — seeking their disaffiliation. The Northwest Texas Annual Conference, which encompasses the Texas Panhandle, held a nonbinding vote last year signaling its aspirations to leave The United Methodist Church and join the Global Methodist Church.

The Judicial Council rejected arguments made in some briefs that an annual conference should be able to set its own rules for departure. Without enabling legislation passed by General Conference, the church court said, an annual conference disaffiliation “is contrary to Church law.”

Annual conferences elect General Conference delegates, deal with matters related to clergy ordination, manage church discipline and, in the U.S., serve as pension plan sponsors for their clergy members. Annual conferences also are responsible for handling the disaffiliations of individual United Methodist congregations.

They are part of The United Methodist Church’s connectional form of church governance and any separation has “serious ramifications” for both the departing annual conference and beyond its boundaries, the Judicial Council said.

“The question of annual conference withdrawal from The United Methodist Church is a connectional matter and requires a churchwide legislative solution primarily because General Conference has ‘full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional,’” the church court said, quoting the United Methodist constitution.

Church law already spells out how an annual conference “outside the United States” can become “an autonomous Methodist, affiliated autonomous Methodist or affiliated united church.”

The bishops asked if this process, in the Book of Discipline’s Paragraph 572, can be viewed “as minimum standards” for any annual conference disaffiliation. The Judicial Council said “no” since the paragraph only applies to conferences outside the United States. “There is no parallel provision or process for U.S. annual conferences,” the church court said.

In Decision 1444, the Judicial Council also expanded on part of one of the court’s earlier rulings. Decision 1366, from 2018, repeatedly came up in briefs arguing that conferences should be able to set their own rules for exits.

The Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Annual Conference also referenced Decision 1366 in a resolution to leave The United Methodist Church for the Global Methodist Church — a move that now has led to another item on the Judicial Council docket.

In that earlier ruling, the church court was reviewing the constitutionality of proposed legislation going to the special 2019 General Conference. The decision said a proposal that set up a procedure for annual conferences to become self-governing was in line with the denomination’s constitution.

“An annual conference has the right to vote to withdraw from The United Methodist Church,” Decision 1366 said. “This reserved right, however, is not absolute but must be counterbalanced by the General Conference’s power to ‘define and fix the powers and duties of annual conferences.’”

However, the particular proposal under review in Decision 1366 never became church law. It was part of a longer petition that died in committee at the 2019 General Conference.

In short, General Conference has not approved any legislation that provides a process for U.S. annual conferences to exit The United Methodist Church.

“While an annual conference has the reserved right to vote on disaffiliation, the General Conference must first enact enabling legislation to establish the right to withdraw but has not done so for U.S. conferences,” the Judicial Council said in Decision 1444.

“Decision 1366 cannot be construed as creating a self-executing right for an annual conference to separate because the Judicial Council has no legislative authority.”

Hahn is assistant news editor for UM News. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Directory for Clergy Retreat Centers

United Methodist camps and retreat centers across the country continually strive to provide intentional, sacred spaces where the faithful can find rest and rejuvenation. The leaders of these ministries see the heavyweight that our local church leaders have been carrying, especially over these past two years. In response, they have come together to create a resource for you to share with the clergy in your Annual Conference. The Clergy Retreat Directory is a list of UM sites across the connection that offer free or reduced-cost retreat space for United Methodist clergy.

United Methodist Men Announces New Resources and Brand

Nashville, TN – April 4th, 2022 – The General Commission on United Methodist Men (GCUMM) is introducing a “modern way” of doing men’s ministry. Greg Arnold, General Secretary & CEO, said we are approaching men’s and scouting ministry with a much larger and more modern vision. The Commission has re-imaged how men’s and scouting ministry can be effectively offered, packaged, and distributed to the church and world around us.

Launching a new program and brand, “United Men’s Ministry”, along with several innovative products is quite an ambitious undertaking during a time of uncertainty within the UMC. “Our vision is to offer a credible resource which meets men and youth where they are. Discipleship has been the focus of the church for 2000 years and cannot take a back seat to the current administrative discussions of the church.”

Arnold says, “The older chartering model has been showing a steady decline over the past several years and placing its effectiveness in question. We’ll continue to offer the chartering model of service according to our book of discipline mandate, however, we’re adding these new and exciting ways to serve the men, youth, and families of the church.”

UNITED Men’s Ministry is an innovative online resource providing an easy-to-follow package of resources including leader coaching, online learning, support, topical studies, connection, and more. Each subscribed church will receive a “kick off kit” packed with items when signing up for UNITED Men’s Ministry. The goal is to help churches launch, grow, and sustain effective men’s ministry.”

The UNITED Men’s Ministry product is designed to help any local church easily provide a consistent men’s ministry. The model is wrapped around a process rather than dependent upon a program. UNITED is layered with the framework of a well developed discipleship pathway, small group support resources, and leader’s materials. All of which are deeply rooted in the Wesleyan tradition and presented in a fresh approach.

Every church leader who feels their men’s ministry effort could use a restart, and upgrade, or a boost is encouraged to visit: UnitedMensMinistry.com to get in on the launch, happening May 1st, 2022. Simply register on the website for the launch event and join the movement.

Contact:
gcumm@gcumm.org
1000 17th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
Ph: (615) 620-7266

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UMCOR collaborating to relieve the suffering of Ukrainians
Nearly $1 million of essential medical supplies and equipment sent to Ukraine thanks to joint effort between UMCOR, the Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation and Ohio Health

ATLANTA (April 20, 2022) – The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a Texas-based humanitarian organization focused on Ukraine and Ohio Health, are collaborating to send 47,895 pounds of medical supplies and equipment worth $935,000.00 to three hospitals in Kyiv, Ukraine. AEC Parcel Services is handling transport of the supplies, which are being sent in three shipments.

The effort was put together by the Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation, headquartered in North Zulch, Texas, which has links to health facilities in Ukraine. UMCOR is paying specific costs, including transportation, of approximately $160,000. Ohio Health, a not-for-profit, charitable, health care ministry of The United Methodist Church, donated the supplies through a medical surplus program. UMCOR put the foundation in touch with Ohio Health and opened the door to the United Nation’s Logistics Cluster to move the supplies into Ukraine after they arrived in Poland from the U.S. via chartered jet.

The first shipment arrived at the State Ukrainian Health Ministry Heart Institute in Kyiv on Thursday, April 14. The second shipment was shared between the Heart Institute, the Center for Pediatric Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery Clinic for Children, and the National Specialized Children’s Hospital, which is the nation’s largest children’s hospital, on April 20. The third shipment is scheduled to follow soon, according to Roland Fernandes, general secretary of UMCOR and its parent organization, Global Ministries. “UMCOR is pleased to facilitate both the procurement and the transportation of essential medical supplies to war-torn Ukraine,” he said. “We multiply our own efforts and the generosity of our contributors when we engage in creative service partnerships.”

Lena Denman, president of the Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation, expressed appreciation of UMCOR for its role in the project. “The Foundation is honored to receive the support of the United Methodist Committee on Relief for our efforts to provide medical supplies and medical equipment to the State Ukrainian Health Ministry Heart Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine,” she said. “This hospital serves not only Kyiv, but also suburbs of Kyiv that have experienced mass atrocities. It was because of the support of UMCOR and its contributors that we were able to arrange transportation for these three shipments of vital medical supplies.”

“This is the biggest shipment we have ever had,” said Dr. Vitaly Demyanchuk, deputy director of the State Ukrainian Health Ministry Heart Institute in Kyiv. “Every box contains useful supplies that give us the possibility of providing high-quality medical care to our patients, wounded individuals, and others in our area. We thank all of the American people. Together we are strong.”

Playing a vital role in the transport of these supplies is AEC Parcel Services, a Chicago-based shipping company. AEC Parcel’s long-established connections with key points and customs agencies on the Ukrainian border have made them one of the few shipping companies still able to deliver regular parcels and aid from the U.S. and Canada. When war broke out, AEC partnered with several international nonprofits to provide greatly reduced overseas shipping costs to Ukraine and other affected areas.

Items in the shipments include wound care/triage supplies, surgical kits and masks, examination gloves, mask respirators, varieties of hospital gowns, stethoscopes, sterile containers, and basic medicine.

The Arlene Campbell Humanitarian Foundation, founded in 2016, provides medical supplies for hospitals in Kyiv and helps facilitate physician training and research programs between U.S. and Ukrainian physicians. It continues the work of the late Arlene Campbell who, in 1989, started a not-for-profit agency called Russian Relief, one goal of which was to supply medical equipment and supplies to Ukrainians. The current foundation memorializes Ms. Campbell.

Ohio Health represents 35,000 associates, physicians, and volunteers, a network of 12 hospitals, more than 200 ambulatory sites, hospice, home health, medical equipment, and other health services in 47 counties of the state.

As part of the General Board of Global Ministries, the mission and humanitarian assistance agency of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR provides relief and recovery response throughout the world. UMCOR is extensively engaged in services for refugees from Ukraine both inside Ukraine and beyond in the wake of the Russian invasion in late February 2022.

To support UMCOR’s continued efforts to offer immediate relief and long-term recovery for the war in Ukraine, make a gift to Advance #982450.

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About UMCOR and the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church
Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is the global humanitarian relief agency of The United Methodist Church. A part of Global Ministries, UMCOR works in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States and its territories. The agency’s mission, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, is to alleviate human suffering with open hearts and minds to all people. Working in the areas of disaster response and recovery, sustainable development and migration, UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters that are interruptions of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community’s ability to recover on its own. Learn more about UMCOR by visiting www.umcor.org or by following www.facebook.com/umcor and www.twitter.com/umc_umcor.