Requests for decisions on resolutions related to sexuality, conference committees on investigation and an African bishop’s salary reduction are among the seven docket items the United Methodist Judicial Council will consider when it meets April 15-18 at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio.
The top court’s regular spring meeting includes an oral hearing at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 15, on a request from the North Georgia Conference for a declaratory decision regarding the constitutionality of the elimination of the clergy committee on investigation from the denomination’s law book, the United Methodist Book of Discipline.
Oral hearings are open to the public but the rest of the Judicial Council meeting is closed.
The two April docket items related to bishops’ decisions of law on annual conference same-sex marriage resolutions were deferred from the council’s October 2014 meeting.
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar ruled that a 2014 New England Annual Conference resolution urging a change in denominational policy toward same-sex marriage and an openness to all couples wanting to marry “is thoroughly aspirational in nature” and does not break church mandates.
Bishop Deborah L. Kiesey declared that language in a 2014 Detroit Annual Conference resolution to support lay members who chose same-sex marriage was aspirational, depending on the type of support. But she ruled “null and void” the call to stop filing complaints against those accused of violating church law or enforcing those laws.
Another item involves a request from the denomination’s Burundi and East Africa conferences for the Judicial Council to rule “on the decision and action of the General Council on Finance and Administration in reducing the bishop’s salary.”
The board of the denomination’s finance agency initially reduced the salary of East Africa Area Bishop Daniel Wandabula in 2012 until it received satisfactory answers to questions for how his episcopal area has used more than $757,000 in church funds. In November 2014, the board set Wandabula’s 2015 pay at an amount equal to his monthly health plan and pension contributions, but did not give a dollar figure for that.
In its request, the East Africa and Burundi Committee on Episcopacy called the finance agency board’s decision “premature, high-handed, racist, discriminatory and unjustified. GCFA failed to observe the required procedure set forth by the Book of Discipline, 2012 thereby denying the bishop a fair hearing.”