By Kara Witherow, Editor
It’s been an unprecedented year for the Judicial Council and South Georgia Chancellor Warren Plowden.
Plowden, who is serving as first lay alternate to the Judicial Council, recently returned from Zurich, Switzerland, where the denomination’s top court, meeting Oct. 22-26, reviewed possible plans for the future direction of The United Methodist Church and on Oct. 26 released Decision 1366, which was unanimous.
In its decision, the Judicial Council found several issues with petitions in both the One Church Plan and the Traditional Plan. Because the Connectional Conference Plan contains proposed constitutional changes required for implementation, the court ruled it has no authority to scrutinize the plan at this time.
Plowden, filling in for Ruben Reyes of Manila, Philippines, has, in the past, been known to file dissenting opinions, but was in favor of all opinions issued by the Judicial Council during this session.
It will be up to the proponents of each plan to amend or revise them before the special called General Conference session, to be held in St. Louis February 23-26, 2019, he said.
“We did our best with what we had. There’s some complicated constitutional issues involved in some of the legislation and we issued a lengthy opinion stating what we felt about each particular legislative issue,” Plowden said. “Some were approved as constitutional; some were approved as constitutional with certain things stricken, a sentence or two here or there; and several were found unconstitutional in whole.”
The business of the Commission on a Way Forward has to do with the substance of changing The United Methodist Church in very significant ways, he said, and that’s something the General Conference is going to have to tackle.
For Plowden and the Judicial Council, though, what’s next to tackle are four cases that they didn’t get to during their October meeting. They’ll discuss and decide on them when they next meet in St. Louis in February, just prior to the called General Conference session. They’ll also be on hand during the session to rule on any constitutional issues.
Plowden says this quadrennium, which is his second to serve as a lay alternate to the Judicial Council, is markedly different than the last for several reasons, but mostly because of the focus on the Way Forward.
“Our denomination benefits greatly from the spiritual commitment and legal expertise of our conference chancellor, Warren Plowden,” said South Georgia bishop R. Lawson Bryan. “He is respected across Methodism, as well as here in South Georgia. Knowing Warren as we do enables us all to have confidence in the wisdom of the Judicial Council. We thank God for him and pray for his discernment as a member of the Judicial Council.”