Dear Members and Friends of the West Virginia Conference,
This week, April 25 – 28, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church will be meeting. One of the items on the Judicial Council’s docket will be a petition from the South Central Jurisdiction requesting a declaratory decision on the election, consecration, and assignment of Bishop Oliveto. Bishop Oliveto, who is in a same gender marriage, was elected, consecrated and assigned as a United Methodist Bishop in July by the Western Jurisdiction.
As the Judicial Council meets I invite you to be in prayer for their discernment and their work. There has been great interest and anxiety over how this Judicial Council might handle the petition from the South Central Jurisdiction.
To that end, let me share a few facts about the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council does not have the responsibility or authority to change the Book of Discipline. Only the General Conference of the United Methodist Church can change the Book of Discipline.
The Judicial Council consists of nine members, both clergy and lay, elected by the General Conference from both inside and outside the United States. The job of the Judicial Council is to determine the constitutionality and legality of actions taken by General, Jurisdictional, annual conferences, and individuals in relation to the current Book of Discipline and previous rulings of the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council only acts to interpret the constitutionality and legality of specific actions in certain circumstances upon request, and the work of the Judicial Council is defined by the request itself.
The meeting and outcome of the Judicial Council’s discernment and decisions does not impact the on-going work of the Commission on a Way Forward. The Commission’s work remains focused on discerning how The United Methodist Church can move forward in the midst of its differences regarding human sexuality. The Commission seeks to find a way forward that will help the Church to flourish in the Church’s disciple making mission while growing vital congregations that both address the needs of God’s people and become conduits of Christ’s transforming power.
In the days ahead I invite you to pray with me. I pray for God’s help in keeping us from being distracted from Christ’s mission, and the Church’s mission of reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. I pray for The United Methodist Church as The Commission on a Way Forward does its work. I pray that I, and all of us who are followers of Christ, actively seek to have the heart, mind, and spirit of Christ.
May the power of God’s Holy Spirit breathe life, love, and hope into us and into the Church that we might discern and courageously walk and live in God’s will and God’s way.
Grace and Peace,
Sandra Steiner Ball
Resident Bishop, The West Virginia Conference