Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Resident Bishop of The California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church has issued a Ruling of Law (below) on Resolution 13-16 that was passed at the 2013 Annual Conference Session. The Ruling has been submitted to the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church for its final determination.
Ruling of Law
California-Pacific Annual Conference
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Presiding
July 15, 2013
Parliamentary Situation and Decision
On June 15, 2013, those present and voting in the official session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted Resolution 13-16, Biblical Obedience, which states as follows:
“WHEREAS, the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church at it July 2012 meeting overwhelmingly passed a resolution entitled, “A Statement of Biblical Obedience,”
WHEREAS the Christian Church, throughout its history, has changed practice and opinion based on a fuller understanding of how God is at work and through the influence of the Holy Spirit,
WHEREAS the California Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church continues to work toward inclusion and justice for all God’s people,
LET IT BE RESOLVED that the California Pacific Annual Conference supports the action taken by the Western Jurisdiction as outlined in the following statement adopted by the Jurisdictional Conference
A Statement of Biblical Obedience
In response to our common belief that God’s grace and love is available to all persons,
the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church states our belief
that the United Methodist Church is in error on the subject of “homosexuality’s incompatibility with Christian teaching.”
We commend to our bishops, clergy, local churches and ministry settings,
the challenge to operate as if the statement in Para. 161F does not exist,
creating a church where all people are truly welcome.
The secretary of the Western Jurisdictional Conference
will submit this statement of Gospel Obedience
to the Jurisdictional College of Bishops, each Annual Conference,
and chairpersons of Boards of Ordained Ministry for discussion and implementation.
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED that the California Pacific Annual Conference will encourage Conference Leadership, The Cabinet, and the Board of Ordained Ministry to consider this resolution as a guideline should any disciplinary actions result in living out this call to be an inclusive church.” Appeal
After the adoption of Resolution 13-16, Biblical Obedience, the Rev. Paul Dinkel requested “for an appeal for a ruling of law under ¶2609.6 on the following question: Is it legal for an annual conference to take an action urging the church ‘to act as if ¶161F of The Book of Discipline does not exist’ as in Resolution 13-16?” (taken from the Annual Conference’s official Motion From the Floor Form).
Through subsequent action on the same day, the 2013 California-Pacific Annual Conference Session took action to join Rev. Dinkel in his appeal through a vote of more than one-fifth of the members of the annual conference present and voting.
Bishop’s Ruling of Law
It is clear that the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church is the church’s book of law. However, it should also be noted that the Preface to the Social Principles of the church in which paragraph 161F is found, states that the Social Principles are: “…not to be considered church law…” (page 103 of the 2012 Book of Discipline of The UMC). It is also clear that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church is the only body that can change the church’s Book of Discipline.
In the tension between Resolution 13-16 and the authority of the Book of Discipline as determined by the General Conference of the church, and considering the non-legal standing of our Social Principles, I find that Resolution 13-16 does not violate the legal authority of the Book of Discipline in that it does not require any person, office or body within the church to violate the Book of Discipline. What Resolution 13-16 does do is commend to bishops, clergy, local churches and ministry settings, the challenge to operate as if Paragraph 161F of the Book of Discipline does not exist. The act of commending and challenging persons and entities of the church to act in a particular way in response to a section of the Book of Discipline that is not intended to be church law does not in and of itself constitute an illegal action.
Resolution 13-16, Biblical Obedience, expresses the hope of many in The United Methodist Church when it speaks of inclusion and justice for all God’s people, and gives witness to the belief that The United Methodist Church is in error when it states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Resolution 13-16 gives true expression to what the General Conference has itself stated in the Preamble to the Social Principles on page 104 of the 2012 Book of Discipline of The UMC when it declares that: “…unanimity of belief, opinion, practice has never been characteristic of the Church from the beginning to this day….Therefore, whenever significant differences of opinion among faithful Christians occur, some of which continue to divide the church deeply today, neither surprise nor dismay should be allowed to separate the members of the Body from one another; nor should those differences be covered over with false claims of consensus or unanimity.” ?Resolution 13-16 serves as an acknowledgement that there are indeed significant differences of opinion among faithful Christians and tests whether The United Methodist Church will honor its commitment to not allow such differences to be “…covered over with false claims of consensus or unanimity.”
Furthermore, the spirit of Resolution 13-16 challenges The United Methodist Church to live out its own stated pledge “…to acknowledge and to embrace with courage, trust, and hope those controversies that arise among us, accepting them as evidence that God is not yet finished in sculpting us to be God’s people.” (page 104 of the 2012 Book of Discipline of The UMC) ?