UMC top court throws out administrative process for involuntary leave; rules on effective date of disaffiliation paragraph

Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Judicial Council Secretary Rev. Dr. J. Kabamba Kiboko, President N. Oswald Tweh Sr. and Ruben T. Reyes listen during an oral hearing at their meeting in Evanston, Ill., early this week.

By Maidstone Mulenga*

The Judicial Council, the highest court in The United Methodist Church, has released decisions from its October 2019 docket. Here are some of the key rulings:
In Decision 1383, the Judicial Council ruled:
 The provisions in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016 setting forth the administrative process leading to involuntary leave of absence (¶ 354), involuntary retirement (¶ 357.3), administrative location (¶ 359), and discontinuance from provisional membership (¶ 327.6) violate the guarantees of a fair and unbiased process in ¶¶ 20 and 58 and are unconstitutional, null and void. The effect of this ruling shall be prospective and shall not affect pending administrative cases that were filed prior to this date.
In Decision 1385, the Judicial Council ruled:
 The effective date of ¶ 2553 is immediately upon the close of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference (the “Special General Conference”).
¶ 2553 is the new disaffiliation paragraph.
In Memorandum  1390,  the Judicial Council  did not issue an opinion on the Council of Bishops request for a Declaratory Decision on the Constitutionality, Meaning, Application or Effect of Certain Petitions Adopted as the Traditional Plan by the 2019 General Conference. It noted “The votes of the Council Members were insufficient to declare unconstitutional any of the provisions before us. Our rulings on the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the various provisions will await the specific facts of applications of these provisions in cases to come before the Council after January 1, 2020.”
In Decision 1391, the Judicial Council affirmed Bishop LaTrelle Easterling’s ruling, noting that: “The clergy members in full connection have the constitutional prerogative to determine if ministerial candidates are eligible for commissioning and ordination. The vote of the clergy session to approve ministerial candidates is a binding administrative action that cannot be nullified, except through the proper administrative or judicial process.”

The other decisions of the Judicial Court can be found by clicking this link.

*The Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga is the director of Communications for the Council of Bishops. He can be reached at