On Friday, May 25, 2018, the Judicial Council (JC) of The United Methodist Church (UMC), the denomination’s highest court in matters of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, ruled that petitions, in addition to the bishops’ recommended One Church Plan, will be allowed at the special called 2019 General Conference. What does this mean?

The constitution of The United Methodist Church states: “The purpose of [a] special session shall be stated in the call, and only such business shall be transacted as is in harmony with the purpose stated in such call…” In its call for the 2019 conference, the Council of Bishops stated, “The purpose of this special session of the General Conference shall be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.” Accordingly, many were hoping that the called session would convene with only the One Church Plan, the bishops’recommendation, properly before us. Instead, today’s ruling means that the called General Conference will convene under a potentially massive legislative burden of thousands of competing petitions. Not a hopeful prospect.

The One Church Plan, the bishops’ recommendation, removes all restrictive and prohibitive language related to human sexuality from the Discipline and allows for local and regional decision making related to weddings and ordination. Even if it passed, it would represent a huge compromise on the part of those who reject as immoral the regional and local discrimination permitted by the plan. On the other hand, those who wish to make the Church even more restrictive than it is now find it unacceptable that weddings and ordinations would be permitted anywhere in the Church. It is difficult to see how the addition of thousands of petitions makes our way forward more plain.

As you are reading this, I am en route to Houston for the Texas Annual Conference. I’m sorry that I do not have better news to share, but I thought it was important to report on this development. In the days ahead people from around the globe will be in conversations that will be clarifying and helpful. I will do my best to keep you apprised and to offer my honest assessment.

Regardless, here is one thing that I know. There will always be a way forward for St. John’s United Methodist Church. So do not allow fear to reign. We’re going to be alright.

Peace and love to all my beloved church family. Kevin