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Emily Explains: What Is the Status of the Disaffiliation Legislation?


In The United Methodist Church, what has happened since the
special called General Conference in February 2019, and what does it mean as we prepare for the next regular
General Conference in May 2020? Great question! In this video I provide an update on the disaffiliation
legislation and allegations of improper voting. In the previous video I gave an update on the Traditional
Plan legislation, and you will find a link to it at the end
of this video. [music] In February, General Conference adopted a petition that
outlined a process for churches to negotiate with their annual conference to disaffiliate from the
denomination. The negotiation includes an exception to the trust clause so that the departing churches could
take the property and assets entrusted to them. The original disaffiliation petition had been ruled
unconstitutional by the United Methodist Judicial Council, but some of the wording had been changed, so to confirm
whether the amended petition was valid, the Council of Bishops asked the Judicial Council to make a
final determination on the approved legislation. At its April 2019 meeting, the Judicial Council reviewed the
legislation and determined that it was valid when considered in combination with other parts of The Book
of Discipline that require an annual conference’s vote of approval before a local church can leave the
denomination. In June, at the Mississippi Annual Conference Session, seven
churches were approved to disaffiliate from the
denomination under the new process. However, the Council of Bishops had a new question about
whether this legislation went into effect immediately after General Conference or would adhere to the policy for
other legislation and go into effect in January 2020 in the U.S. Jurisdictions and May 2021 in the Central
Conferences. The preamble to the disaffiliation legislation said that it would go into effect
immediately, but that was not in the wording of the legislation itself voted on by delegates. At its fall
2019 meeting, the Judicial Council affirmed that the disaffiliation petition was effective at the close
of General Conference 2019. In March, The New York Times reported on questions about
whether some of the people voting at the special General Conference had not been credentialed delegates. Some
delegates known to have been absent due to visa issues were still listed on the attendance records, raising the question
of who had attended and voted in those delegates’ names. The Commission on General Conference took up the matter,
hiring independent auditing and legal firms to investigate. In August, at the conclusion of the investigation, the
Commission on General Conference determined there was sufficient evidence that four delegates were
replaced with people who had not been elected by their
annual conferences. In response to what the investigation uncovered, the
Commission adopted new measures to implement at the next General Conference to better ensure that only elected
delegates or their alternates receive badges and vote. Voting at General Conference is anonymous, so we don’t know
which was the four invalid votes were cast on any given
ballot. But at the February General Conference, one action passed by
a margin of less than four votes: The motion to substitute the minority report for the main legislation on the
disaffiliation petition passed by a vote of 402 to 400. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, when there are invalid
votes on a ballot and the number of invalid votes is greater than the deciding margin of votes, then that
ballot is ruled null and void. What does that mean when the invalidated ballot was to
change the wording of the legislation, not the final approval of the legislation? At the Commission
on General Conference’s request, the Council of Bishops asked the Judicial Council to
determine what effect voiding the minority report substitution had on the validity of the disaffiliation
petition. At its fall 2019 meeting, the Judicial Council determined it did not have sufficient
information to make a decision and postponed consideration until its meeting in spring 2020,
inviting the interested parties to submit briefs for consideration at that time. For now, the disaffiliation
legislation remains in effect. What does all this mean for The United Methodist Church and
General Conference delegates? Delegates at the next General Conference may notice some
enhanced security measures in the processes to receive a badge and voting device and to access the voting areas. In
the U.S., don’t expect to see any more churches disaffiliate through the new process until the next season
of annual conference sessions in May and June— and by then, General Conference delegates may have
considered and approved modifications to this process or even approved a new path for disaffiliation to replace
this one. The question still to be resolved is whether the Judicial Council’s review of the invalid votes will have
any effect on the actions already taken under the
disaffiliation legislation. There are links to related articles in the description
below. You can also comment with your questions. As always, subscribe to this channel to get notices about my
future videos. Thanks for watching! [music]

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