COB President's letter regarding Judicial Council Decision # 1472

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Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton is the president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church.

DATE: March 22, 2023
TO: Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church
FROM: Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, President 
RE: Judicial Council clarification on JC1451
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
Yesterday the Judicial Council issued the long-awaited clarification that we requested on Judicial Council decision 1451. I felt that it was important to write this morning to make sure that we have alignment in our interpretation and understanding of the clarifications provided by the Judicial Council.
  1. Election of Delegates to the Postponed 2020 General Conference:
The Judicial Council’s decision is that annual conferences are permitted to hold elections to fill vacancies in the General Conference delegation due to death, resignations, or otherwise, up to the maximum number of allocated delegates, provided vacancies cannot be filled with reserve delegates. This does not mean that elections can be held to re-populate the reserve delegate pool. The Judicial Council’s precise holding was this: “vacancies shall be filled by advancing reserve delegates in the prescribed sequence until the pool of reserve delegates is completely emptied. The pre-condition for new elections is the depletion of the reserve delegate pool. When that point is reached, and only then, ¶ 33 grants annual conferences ‘the right to vote…on the election of clergy and lay delegates to the General and the jurisdictional or central conferences’ and to elect new delegates up to the maximum number of allocated delegates.”
It is also important to note that the holding does not mean that a new slate of delegates can be elected. 
The current delegations remain intact for General Conference through Jurisdictional Conference in 2024. Only reserve delegates can be elected if the reserve pool has been depleted.
  1. The status of delegates who have changed status since their election
The Judicial Council is clear that if a delegate has changed status since their election, they are no longer eligible to serve as a delegate. If a person has moved from laity to clergy since they were elected or if they have left the denomination/withdrawn their membership, they are no longer eligible to serve as a delegate.
  1. The status of delegations in areas where mergers have taken place:
The Judicial Council has ruled that in areas where mergers have taken place, the current slate of delegates in the previous Annual Conferences at the time of their election remains intact. Both delegations are preserved, and no new elections to represent the newly merged Annual Conference will be permitted. As an illustration, the former Memphis Annual Conference and Tennessee Annual Conference delegations are still in place. There cannot be a new election for the recently created Tennessee/Western Kentucky Annual Conference.
Future Sessions of the General Conference: 
The Judicial Council ruled that since the upcoming meeting is the postponed 2020 General Conference, there must be an additional General Conference scheduled before the convening of the 2028 General Conference.  
Specifics of the timing and agenda of this additional General Conference remain unknown, as well as whether or not an additional Jurisdictional Conference will need to be scheduled are unknown at this point. However, plans will need to be made for the election of delegates to this additional General Conference. This will, in all likelihood, take place in the 2025 Annual Conference sessions.
I hope that these brief explanations will provide clarity with regard to the manner by which we plan and execute our responsibilities in the areas where we are serving. There will, no doubt, be further clarification and conversation that will take place regarding these and subsequent matters when we are together later this spring in Chicago.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out.
The Journey Continues,…

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton
Council of Bishops, President

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