To Be United Methodist: What is the Judicial Council?
The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body or "court" of The United Methodist Church. Each General Conference elects four or five of the nine members for eight-year terms. Membership alternates between a mix of five laity/four clergy and four laity/five clergy. General Conference also elects alternate members.
N. Oswald Tweh Sr., a layman from the Liberia Conference, is the current president and the first person from a central conference to fill that office. Other members of the 2016-2020 Judicial Council are the Rev. Dennis L. Blackwell, Greater New Jersey; Beth Capen, New York Conference; Lídia Romão Gulele, Maputo, Mozambique; the Rev. Øyvind Helliesen, Norway; the Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, Southern Congo, a member of the Texas Conference; Ruben Reyes, Manila, Philippines; Deanell Reece Tacha, Great Plains; and the Rev. Luan-Vu Tran, California-Pacific.
General Conference establishes the powers of the Judicial Council, which are found in The Book of Discipline.
Among its other powers, the Judicial Council determines the constitutionality of acts or proposed acts of the General, jurisdictional, central and annual conferences and of bodies created by General Conference. It acts on these either on appeal of lower rulings or through requests for declaratory decisions. It also rules on whether acts of other official bodies of the denomination conform to The Book of Discipline. The Judicial Council also reviews and affirms, modifies or reverses decisions on questions of law submitted to bishops in central, jurisdictional, annual or district conferences. All decisions of the Judicial Council are final.
The Rev. Kathy Noble is editor of Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.