Top court reviews agency structure plan

Members of the Virginia delegation huddle to discuss possible next steps after the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled the proposed "Plan UMC" for church restructuring to be unconstitutional during the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla.
Members of the Virginia delegation huddle to discuss possible next steps after the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled the proposed "Plan UMC" for church restructuring to be unconstitutional during the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla.

In 2012, one word — unconstitutional — brought an abrupt end to a compromise plan to restructure The United Methodist Church.

Known as “Plan UMC,” the legislation was the result of many hours of discussion and debate by delegates at the 2012 General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body, in Tampa, Florida.

When the United Methodist Judicial Council was asked to review the approved legislation, however, its members unanimously voided the plan, chiefly because the court ruled that the way it delegated authority was unconstitutional. The May 4 ruling occurred on the last day of the 2012 conference.

Now, a revised version of Plan UMC has been proposed for the 2016 General Conference, which meets next May in Portland, Oregon. On behalf of its supporters, the United Methodist Council of Bishops has asked the denomination’s top court to give the revision the constitutionality test.

The request is one of eight docket items on the Judicial Council’s agenda when it meets Oct. 21-24 at the Hilton St. Louis Airport Hotel. An oral hearing on the new Plan UMC is set for 11 a.m. CDT Wednesday, Oct. 21, and several briefs supporting or opposing the plan have been filed with the council.

The original legislation in 2012 grew out of a “Call to Action” process organized by the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table, a denominational coordinating body, to restructure the 10 church agencies that receive general church funds.

Six of the delegates who supported and drafted the compromise plan that emerged at the 2012 General Conference have crafted “Plan UMC Revised.”

The revised Plan UMC abandons the proposed General Council for Strategy and Oversight that would have overseen the work of some agencies, while beefing up responsibilities of the Connectional Table.

Other docket items

Among the other items on the council’s fall docket are several requests for reviews of a bishop’s decision of law related to the structure of annual conferences, including the 2015 unification of the Southwest Texas Conference and the Rio Grande Conference into the Rio Texas Conference.

Two items from the United Methodist Church in the Philippines involve the decisions of bishops on voting methods to elect delegates to General Conference and central conference meetings and to dismiss a district superintendent.

Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at https://twitter.com/umcscribe or contact her at (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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