South Georgia Conference Chancellor W. Warren Plowden, Jr., a member of Vineville United Methodist Church in Macon, is for the second quadrennium serving on The United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest judicial body.
He was first elected fifth lay alternate during the 2012 General Conference session, held in Tampa, Fla. and elected for a second consecutive term, this time as first lay alternate, during the 2016 General Conference session in Portland, Ore.
In what was arguably the most highly publicized and divisive case to be heard by the Judicial Council, the court recently heard a petition from the South Central Jurisdiction about the legality of an election of a gay bishop.
Representatives of both positions argued their case before the Judicial Council during their spring session, April 25-28, in Newark, New Jersey.
In a concurring and dissenting opinion, Plowden, sitting for council member Beth Capen, said that the Judicial Council does have jurisdiction and further concluded that the Western Jurisdiction “knew full well that it was acting unlawfully when it elected a self-avowed practicing homosexual as a bishop of the church.”
Plowden said the Western Jurisdiction’s action “negated, ignored and violated provisions of The Discipline and is null, void and of no effect resulting in the invalidation of Karen Oliveto’s episcopal office.”
He decided to write the opinion because he didn’t agree with the way the majority opinion had ruled regarding whether or not the Judicial Council has authority over a jurisdiction.
“I didn’t agree with the way the working draft was handling the jurisdiction question,” he said. “So I wrote my version of that, and I also did not agree with the conclusion that Bishop Oliveto was entitled to all of these protections under the constitution and the discipline and there would have to be a charge brought to review her status as a bishop. I concluded that she never became a bishop, that what the Western Jurisdiction did was null and void.”
While the two weeks the Judicial Council sits each year – one in April and one in August – are strenuous and exhausting – Plowden says they do make their time together about more than just legal proceedings.
“We try to make it as worshipful an experience as possible,” he said, stating that they start each week with Holy Communion and begin each morning with a devotion. “We try to keep focus on why we are there and what we are about.”