The top judicial body of the United Methodist Church has deferred two requests for declaratory decisions at General Conference until its fall meeting.
The Judicial Council received two requests for rulings from the floor. One dealt with the constitutionality of a petition approved May 6 regarding clergy pensions and “the broad, new powers it appears to grant to the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits.”
The second request dealt with the “Connectional Table” plan adopted May 5. The request centered on how the membership of this new plan of church organization would be determined.
The council also received a request during the evening session on May 6 to examine a petition dealing with Paragraph 102 of the Book of Discipline, “Doctrinal Standards in American Methodism,” but has not yet taken action on that request.
At an organizational meeting of the 2004-08 council, Dr. James Holsinger was elected president, Mary Daffin was elected vice president and the Rev. Keith Boyette was elected secretary.
Holsinger is a physician in Lexington, Ky., who currently serves as the secretary of health and family services for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Daffin is a civil law attorney in Houston, and Boyette is pastor of Wilderness Community Church in Spotsylvania, Va.
“I look forward to these next four years,” Holsinger said. “I think this will be a good council which will work well together.”
The new council will be the most international in church history when the Rev. Paul Shamwange Kyungu North-West Katanga Annual (regional) Conference moves onto the board to fill the opening created by the resignation of the Rev. Larry D. Pickens, who will become the new general secretary of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. Members of the Judicial Council are ineligible to serve on any general, jurisdictional or central conference board or agency.
Returning council member Rodolfo Beltran is from the Philippines Central Conference.
“Now we have two members from the central conferences,” Holsinger said, “which expands the internationalization of the council.”
The council will also have to adapt to the fact that Kyungu speaks French and Swahili but not English.
“We will have to become bilingual,” Holsinger said. “That will mean an adjustment in logistics, as we will need to get things done in a timely manner to make sure Paul has what he needs when he needs it.”
Holsinger said that the council would consider holding a meeting outside the United States to reflect the new global identity of the group.
Other new members are Judge Jon R. Gray of the Missouri Conference, attorney Beth Capen of the New York Conference, the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe of the South Carolina Conference, and the Rev. Dennis L. Blackwell of the Greater New Jersey Conference.
Solomon Christian of the Memphis Conference is the lead lay alternate. The Rev. C. Rex Bevins, who is a member of the 2000-04 council, will become the top clergy alternate when Kyungu joins the board to replace Pickens.
Holsinger said he looks forward to continuing the positive and friendly exchanges that have characterized the past four years.
“We’ve been a group of individuals who have become fast friends,” he said. “We’re Christian brothers and sisters who have developed great love for each other. There are times when we don’t agree, but we disagree in an appropriate way. I look forward to developing these kinds of close personal relationships. I can tell already that it is a very congenial group.
“The Judicial Council has a task of trying to –– as accurately and appropriately as possible –– decide issues based on the Discipline of the church,” Holsinger said. “The General Conference makes the Discipline; that is not our task. We do the best we can to apply church law to the cases we receive. We will continue to do that in the next four years.”
*Caldwell is a correspondent for United Methodist News Service.
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