Bishops seek ruling on application and meaning on Paragraph 2548.2

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COB President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton offers the opening prayer at the start of the special called meeting of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

May 12, 2022 - UPDATED JUNE 7, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church is requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on the meaning and application of Paragraph 2548.2 in the Book of Discipline

During a special meeting COB held May 12, 2022, via Zoom to discuss the recent Judicial Council decision, the bishops approved a request to ask the church’s top court to address eight questions relating to the Paragraph 2548.2.

“We are convinced that making this request for a declaratory decision will provide the clarity we need concerning a disciplinary paragraph that is very ambiguous and open for misinterpretation.  Our intention is to seek clear direction concerning the processes that can be best used to facilitate appropriate, orderly, and amicable disaffiliations even as we continue to pray and work for the unity of the church,” said COB President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton.

Here are the eight questions:
  1. What bodies within the United Methodist Church are “duly qualified and authorized representatives of both parties concerned” who must sign and approve a comity agreement under ¶ 2548.2?
  2. What bodies within the United Methodist Church are required to determine and approve whether an entity is “another evangelical denomination” within the meaning of ¶ 2548.2?
  3. What is required under the 2016 Book of Discipline to determine what is a “denomination” within the meaning of ¶ 2548.2?
  4.  Does the provision of ¶ 2548.2 that “the annual conference may instruct and direct the board of trustees of a local church to deed property to one of the other denominations represented in the Pan-Methodist Commission or to another evangelical denomination” violate the constitutional authority of an annual conference under ¶ 33 with respect to local church property, including the “constitutionally embedded separation of executive and legislative powers” noted as “settled principles of church law and polity” acknowledged in Judicial Council Decision 1257?
  5. If ¶ 2548.2 is constitutional, may ¶ 2548.2’s authority to direct the local church to deed its property in accordance with that paragraph be exercised separately from any other process that results in the merger of the local church pursuant to ¶ 2547, disaffiliation pursuant to ¶ 2553, closure pursuant to ¶ 2549, or some other disposition of the local church deeding the property that results in termination of the local church as a unit of the United Methodist Church?
  6. Must “an allocation, exchange of property, or comity agreement” within the meaning of ¶ 2548.2 comply with the connectional polity of the United Methodist Church as set forth in the 2016 Book of Discipline, including ¶¶ 206 – 213 of the Discipline?
  7. May a comity agreement within the meaning of ¶ 2548.2 include provisions not authorized or prohibited by the 2016 Book of Discipline?
  8. What vote is required for an annual conference to “instruct and direct the board of trustees of a local church to deed property” under the authority of ¶ 2548.2?

Media Contact:

Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga

Director of Communications - Council of Bishops

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