GC2019 FAQs

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Can you provide the actual texts of the Traditional Plan and One Church Plan which were debated and voted on?

The Daily Christian Advocate (DCA) is the official journal of the General Conference. You can download pdf versions of the Advance Daily Christian Advocate (ACDA), as well as each daily addition at www.umc.org/dca.

The ACDA contains all the legislation as it was first submitted. The Traditional Plan begins on page 182 and the One Church Plan begins on page 164. The additional DCAs note the changes made to legislation and the final actions of General Conference regarding pieces of legislation.

Another way to access the texts of the legislation is through the online Legislation Tracking tool. You can search for legislation by petition number, keyword, submitter, or Book of Discipline paragraph number. The tracker shows you the original text as well as any amendments or changes made during the legislative process. You can also use the Final Action tab to quickly browse items by Final Action of the committee or plenary. This resource is available at www.umc.org/calms.


If a church leaves the UMC, would they have to pay the Conference anything related to their pastor’s pension?

Yes. Our United Methodist Church pension plans have significant defined benefit components. Defined benefits are benefits paid according to a rate times years-of-service formula and are often payable for the life of the retiree. Accordingly, the cost of these benefits is born by all local United Methodist churches as an integral part of our connectional nature. In addition, funding requirements for life-time benefits can change over time based on improved mortality and fluctuating economic market conditions and other economic factors. When a church leaves the UMC, it passes its share of connectional responsibility for defined benefit obligations to those churches who remain in the UMC, and yet, the departing church may have received many years of pastoral service from numerous clergypersons who are now retired (or will retire in the future) and dependent on the full funding of their retirement benefits. Accordingly, any departing church or a church that closes will be required to pay its proportional share of the market-based unfunded liability for defined benefits.


During General Conference there was legislation related to disaffiliation of local churches. Can you give us the nuts and bolts of what was passed? What is the impact of swapping the Minority Report for the “Graceful exit” petitions approved by the Legislative body?

Petition 90066, referred to as the “Taylor Petition,” proposed to add a new Paragraph 2553 to the Book of Discipline. The proposed new paragraph would provide a streamlined way for local churches which, “for reasons of conscience” over the human sexuality issue, desire to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. The disaffiliation process would involve entering into a uniform “disaffiliation agreement” (to be drafted by GCFA) between the local church’s board of trustees and the annual conference’s board of trustees. If the disaffiliation agreement’s provisions were followed, and if the local church paid certain obligations (e.g., any unpaid apportionments for the past 12 months, 12 months of additional “forward looking” apportionments, and a pro rata portion of any unfunded pension liability as determined by the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits of the denomination), the local church would be allowed to disaffiliate from the denomination and retain all real estate and personal property which the church had possessed and used as a UMC congregation.

On February 26, 2019, the Tuesday of General Conference, the Judicial Council issued Decision No. 1377, which ruled Petition 90066 (and the proposed new paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline), unconstitutional, as an invalid infringement on authority reserved to the Annual Conference. During the day on February 26, Petition 90066 was amended, but not in a way which addressed the constitutional infirmity found by the Judicial Council. Amended Petition 90066 was adopted by the Plenary Session, just before the General Conference adjourned at the end of the day on Tuesday.

Amended Petition 90066, as finally adopted by the Plenary Session of General Council, will be considered, again, by the Judicial Council when it meets in Evanston, Illinois, from April 23-26.


When does legislation go into effect? Given the above issues with the constitutionality of the proposals that were passed, what is actually going to be enacted in the immediate future, if anything?

All legislation that is deemed constitutional by the Judicial Council will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Both the Traditional Plan and the Disaffiliation Petition passed by the General Conference have been referred to the Judicial Council for review.


When will we know the Judicial Council’s ruling on the Traditional Plan that passed?

The judicial council is scheduled to meet April 23-26 in Evanston, Illinois. The Judicial Council issues their decisions in writing. The Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Council say their decisions will be released “as soon as practicable.” United Methodist News Service will report the decision and it will be posted online at www.umc.org/judicialcouncil.


What happens to the implementation of the Traditional Plan if the Judicial Council rules that parts of it are still unconstitutional?

All legislation that is deemed constitutional by the Judicial Council will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.


What happens to the full plan when the Judicial Council finds parts of unconstitutional?

The Judicial Council has announced two docket items for its April 23-26 session in Evanston.

  • Docket #0419-1
    IN RE: Request for a Declaratory Decision from the General Conference Regarding the Constitutionality, Meaning, Application, and Effect of the adopted legislation referred to as the Traditional Plan.
  • Docket #0419-2
    IN RE: Request for a Declaratory Decision from the Council of Bishops as to the Constitutionality, Meaning, Application, and Effect of Petition 90066 As amended.

Thus, the Judicial Council will consider – separately – the Traditional Plan as adopted, and Petition 90066 (disaffiliation) as amended and adopted. However, this time it will consider the entire Traditional Plan as adopted, as a whole, rather than paragraph by paragraph or petition by petition. Here is the link to the petition for consideration of the Traditional Plan.

This UMNS article is informative and helpful. 


Can the Judicial Council, in their role, provide updates to the verbiage to be included in the published Book of Discipline document, independent of legislative body approval?

No. The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body or "court" of The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council does not have any legislative function. It 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 Book of Discipline. The General Conference is the legislative body of the General Church and is the only body that can set official policy.


Who are the members of the Judicial Council?

Members of the Judicial Council are elected for eight-year terms by General Conference and may not serve on any other United Methodist Board or Agency beyond the Annual Conference. Members are limited to two consecutive terms. They all are active in their local churches and other parts of the Connection of the United Methodist Church. However, they are not allowed to be delegates to the General, Jurisdictional or Central Conferences. Below are the current members of the Judicial Council.

President N. Oswald Tweh (Liberia) [Laity]
Vice President Ruben T. Reyes (The Philippines) [Laity]
Secretary Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko (Ohio) [Clergy]


Rev. Dennis L. Blackwell (New Jersey) [Clergy]
Rev. Øyvind Helliesen (Norway) [Clergy]
Rev. Luan-Vu “Lui” Tran (California) [Clergy]
Beth Capen (New York) [Laity]
Lidia Gulele (Mozambique) [Laity]
Deanell Reece Tacha (Kansas) [Laity]


First Clergy Alternate - Rev. Tim Bruster (Texas)
First Lay Alternate - Warren Plowden (Georgia)


What, if anything, will be done to enforce our Discipline on this issue? Without enforcement, why even have our polity and rules?

The Traditional Plan passed by the Special Session of General Conference specifically calls for minimum penalties for clergy “conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions, or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies under ¶ 2702.1(b) or (d).” If the Judicial Council deems the minimum penalties portion of the Traditional Plan constitutional, the penalty for a first offense is one year’s suspension without pay and for a second offense the penalty is termination of conference membership and revocation of credentials of licensing, ordination or consecration.

The North Alabama Conference has been consistently committed to living within our Book of Discipline.


With the traditional plan passed will the bishops now address clergy who are violating the discipline?

The complaint process for clergy violating the Book of Discipline is still intact. Legislation included as part of the Traditional Plan restored language from 2008 which says a Bishop can only dismiss a complaint if it has “no basis in law or fact.”


Does the Traditional Plan recently passed at the Special Called General Conference clear the way for accountability across jurisdictional lines?

There were petitions in the Traditional Plan regarding Episcopal Accountability by the entire Council of Bishops. These were among the petitions the Judicial Council ruled unconstitutional before and during General Conference. All of these Episcopal Accountability (#90033, 90034, 90035) petitions were passed by the General Conference in their original submitted form and not amended.


When the Traditional Plan says we will have to "certify" that we uphold the Discipline, what does that mean?

As adopted, the language in the Traditional Plan requiring annual Conferences and Bishops to “certify” was deemed unconstitutional.

During ordination clergy affirm that they will be loyal to the United Methodist Church accepting and upholding its order, liturgy, doctrine and discipline. A similar affirmation is made by those receiving license for ministry. 

As adopted after amendment the Traditional Plan asks for a further affirmation via “certification” to uphold the Discipline by persons (clergy and laity) elected to serve on the Board of Ordained Ministry. At this point we do not know what “certification” would actually entail.

This has been sent to the Judicial Council to determine if it is constitutional.


Will the Traditional Plan now go to the Annual Conferences for a vote? Do the annual conferences have to approve this plan?

No. Since no constitutional amendments were a part of the Traditional Plan Annual Conferences will not have to vote.


Will the name of the denomination remain United Methodist Church?

Yes. There was no legislation proposed at the 2019 Special Session to change the name of the denomination.

The name “The United Methodist Church” is cited in Article II of the United Methodist Constitution. A name change would require a constitutional amendment. This would first require a two-thirds vote of the General Conference. Then it would go back to the Annual Conferences across the globe for a vote. It would take a two-thirds aggregate vote of all voting members of the 129 Annual Conferences to pass the amendment.


How is the ethics investigation that was requested from the floor of GC proceeding? What will happen if ethics violations are discovered?

General Conference rules establish a Committee on Ethics, comprised of the members of the Committee of the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order of the General Conference. The Report of the Committee on Ethics appeared in the Feb. 27, 2019 DCA  below is the full report:

A delegate raised a concern regarding an alleged violation of the Rules of Order of the General Conference and moved to refer it directly to the Committee on Ethics. It was referred by a one-fifth vote of the body. The Committee on Ethics brought in several people for conversation. At this time, the committee is unable to substantiate the allegation.


Given that a number of the petitions in the Traditional Proposal were ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council, how was it allowed to go to the floor for a vote at all? Why wasn’t it ruled out of order before it was voted on?

General Conference rules of order do not require legislation coming before the Conference to be “constitutional.” Most legislation coming before General Conference is not vetted by the Judicial Council, so delegates cannot be sure of its constitutionality. As part of their work in both committee and plenary, delegates can make changes and “perfect” legislation before them. Therefore, a petition that begins the process as potentially “unconstitutional” could be amended during the General Conference process to meet constitutional standards or the General Conference could propose Constitutional Amendments to accompany the legislation.


At General Conference it was stated in speeches twice that the Social Principles were binding for all Methodists and congregations. It was my understanding that Social Principles were not rules like the Book of Discipline. Was the person who made this speech incorrect?

This question was raised in 1998 specifically related to ¶ 161f in the Social Principles. The Judicial Council ruled in Decision 833 that “some matters in the Social Principles may have the force of law” and specifically, “the General Conference has the authority to speak on connectional matters, and, when this authority results in a legislative enactment stated in mandatory language, it is the law of the church, notwithstanding its placement in the Discipline.”

Thus, generally speaking, the Social Principles are not considered church law. Rather the Social Principles are viewed as a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions. (Preface to the Social Principles BOD ¶ 160-166.) But as demonstrated in Decision 833 there are times when sections of the Social Principles may have the force of law.


Are there going to be repercussions for churches that have reconciling ministries in them?

No. The United Methodist Book of Discipline paragraph 161.G concludes “We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all people.”


What will be permissible for clergy in the North Alabama Conference with regard to participation in attendance, leading prayers, attending receptions, etc. when our members invite us to same-gender weddings? Are there any stated parameters?

District Superintendents are available to answer specific questions regarding how a clergy person might be present for those members and friends in same-gender weddings. As a Cabinet it is our hope to help North Alabama clergy and churches navigate with compassion their call and role in ministry to all the world while maintaining our commitment to uphold the Book of Discipline.


Can everything we did at the GC 2019 be undone at the GC 2020? If it can be then why did we spend the money for the GC 2019?

The General Conference has “full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional.” This means that each General Conference can review, update and change the official rules and policies of the United Methodist Church found in the Book of Discipline. Amending the Constitution requires the approval of both two-thirds of the General Conference delegates and two-thirds of the annual conference members voting, while changes to the Articles of Religion or Confession of Faith require the approval of three-fourths of those voting in both bodies.

The Council of Bishops issued the call for the Special Session in 2017. The purpose of this Special Session of the General Conference was limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward based upon recommendations of the Council of Bishops The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.


Can the One Church Plan come up again for a vote at the 2020 General Conference. It had an exit plan which was constitutional and was approved by the General Conference.

Yes. Members of the Commission on a Way Forward originally developed and submitted potential ways forward, including the One Church Plan, to the Special Session of General Conference. This Commission has completed its work and thus will not submit additional legislation to General Conference. However, any official United Methodist organization (local churches, annual conferences, general agencies), lay member, or ordained minister of The United Methodist Church has the right to send a petition to the General Conference. If an organization or individual wanted to submit the One Church Plan petitions to the 2020 General Conference, they could.


If the changes that have been approved by the Judicial Council take effect, will the General Conference continue to take up the debate and hurt over the LGBTQIA+ issue every four years or is there a time limit, a cooling off period, to allow hurts and wounds to heal before it can be brought up again?

There has been no legislation passed that sets a “cooling off” period for any topic coming before General Conference. Therefore, petitions related to human sexuality can come before General Conference 2020.


Currently, United Methodists seem to be wearing additional labels, such as “Traditionalists”, “Centrists” or “Progressives.” With so much awareness of our differences, how can we best move forward together?

“Traditionalists,” “Centrists” and “Progressives” have much in common, including a deep commitment to Jesus Christ and our beloved United Methodist Church. The breadth and width of the combined gifts and graces, spiritual maturity, theological diversity and love of Christ represented in the North Alabama Conference are remarkable. We are moving forward together by focusing on what we have in common and respecting one another in our differences.


How will this affect the support of our seminaries or what they are required to teach?

The sections of this legislation determined to be constitutional will become enforceable January 1, 2020, and incorporated into our Book of Discipline. Our United Methodist seminaries will be expected to continue to teach our Polity and Discipline as constitutionally written and support will continue.


Will you consider holding off appointments this year to let the smoke settle and give pastors and churches time to sort out their options and decisions?

No. The North Alabama Conference leadership is focusing on effective ministry and our Conference vision of “spiritual leaders empowering life-giving congregations to transform the world” and our mission of “discover, develop and deploy spiritual leaders to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Clergy appointments will continue as scheduled with the goal of moving us toward our vision and mission and also serving North Alabama Conference churches and clergy well.


How will this affect BSC and its relationship with the UMC and more specifically the North Alabama Conference housed on campus?

Decisions made at the 2019 General Conference do not directly affect the relationship of BSC with the UMC. BSC remains an outstanding United Methodist Church institution of higher learning. However, reduced giving to the North Alabama Conference’s ministry by a significant number of local churches in the Conference, in response to issues considered by the 2019 General Conference, and which may be reconsidered at the 2020 General Conference, could affect the Conference’s ability to provide ongoing scholarship support to BSC students and properly maintain the United Methodist Center building located on the campus of BSC.


How will this affect our Wesley Foundations? How will this decision be communicated to these academic institutions and their students?

Wesley Foundations have a unique role in that they are both institutions of the Annual Conference as well as, in many cases, have a close relationship with public institutions which may require adherence to nondiscrimination policies including sexuality and gender identity for recognition as a student organization. The Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, including the Conference Director of Campus Ministries, is working with Wesley Foundations to help them understand this unique context and how to navigate it in light of General Conference decisions and church law as found in the Book of Discipline. As with local churches, Wesley Foundations and clergy serving as directors and other appointed staff are subject to the same requirements in the Book of Discipline concerning marriage and conducting weddings.

Locally, as a matter of pastoral care, campus ministers are working individually with students to help them understand and process the results of General Conference as they pertain to the individual students.


Is the bishop and/or cabinet exploring new, creative ways within our polity to hold churches and pastors in the denomination such as concordat relationships, new central conferences, autonomous affiliated status, etc.?

Concordat agreements, creation of new central conferences and autonomous affiliated status must be approved by the General Conference. The North Alabama Bishop and Cabinet do not have the authority to enact such relationships.

Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.