Judicial Council stands by decision

Richard A. Marsh (left) and the Rev. Keith Boyette visit one another after making oral arguments about whether a gay pastor can serve as a bishop in The United Methodist Church before the United Methodist Judicial Council, meeting in Newark, N.J., on April 25, 2017. The two argued opposite sides of the issue. ~umns photo/Mike DuBose

The Judicial Council rejected a motion to reconsider its ruling in the case of a gay bishop.        

KATHY L. GILBERT
United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist Judicial Council was unanimous in rejecting a motion by the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops asking the denomination’s top court to reconsider its ruling in the case of a gay bishop.

In an email to interested parties, the Rev. Luan-Vu “Lui” Tran, secretary of Judicial Council, wrote “after careful review and prayerful consideration, the Motion to Reconsider JCD 1341 of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops has been denied.”

The Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops filed the motion on June 12, contending that Decision 1341 unlawfully changes the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”

Tran said the Judicial Council usually does not disclose the vote to the requesting party but was doing so because the vote was unanimous. The request will not be placed on the fall docket but will be reported as a memorandum at the October meeting.

“The denial was expected, but it does not mean that the issues are resolved or that the struggle is over,” said Richard A. Marsh, chancellor of the Rocky Mountain Conference who was part of the counsel for the Western Jurisdiction during an oral hearing on April 25.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, who was counsel for Dixie Brewster, the maker of the original motion for a declaratory judgment, said he was gratified that the judicial council had denied the motion.

Boyette said the status of Bishop Karen Oliveto, the denomination’s only openly gay bishop, “continues under a cloud.”

“It is in the best interest of the church, the episcopal area where she is assigned and herself that the issues that give rise to this cloud be resolved as expeditiously as possible and in conformity with the requirements of the Discipline. I urge the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops to fulfill their responsibilities under the Book of Discipline expeditiously.”

The Judicial Council decision found that an openly homosexual and partnered bishop may be charged with disobedience to church law. Oliveto, who was consecrated as a bishop by the Western Jurisdiction on July 16, 2016, was not named in the ruling.  Oliveto now oversees the Mountain Sky area.

“Self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from episcopal office but is a sufficient declaration to subject the bishop’s ministerial office to review,” the decision said. The council said it had no jurisdiction over the nomination, election and assignment of a bishop.

The secretary must receive all petitions for consideration by the court this fall by July 15. The full docket will be posted on the council’s website at least 90 days before its Oct. 24-27 session in Los Angeles.

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