July 18, 2018
Clergy and Lay Members of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference,
Greetings! On July 9th, I shared with the AWF Conference about the delay in the release of the Commission on A Way Forward Report. Originally, I had communicated, along with the entire Council of Bishops, that the release date would be July 8th. Several factors were involved in the delay, but the primary reason is around the ongoing translation work. The report includes the three models and accompanying legislation. It was our understanding that a revised timeline of the completion of the translations would be forthcoming from the Commission on the General Conference soon.
You may have seen and read an article by the leadership of the Commission on the General Conference about this delay. A follow-up article posted last week on United Methodist News Service shared that the anticipated translation completion date is now July 30.
In addition, the Council of Bishops has requested a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of the three plans. This is to help the General Conference know in advance of our February 23-26, 2019, meeting of constitutional issues with any of the plans. This will hopefully prevent us from experiencing a situation like the one in 2012 in Tampa when the Judicial Council determined that legislation which had passed during the General Conference session was unconstitutional. The 2016 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church ¶ 2608.1 states that requests for declaratory decisions, including relevant documents such as legislative petitions, shall be posted on the Judicial Council website thirty (30) days prior to the filing date of briefs. Since the date for the filing of briefs is August 15, the posting date was yesterday, July 17.
It has been the long-standing practice of the Judicial Council to post the docket and all relevant documents in English only. Thus, though the Council of Bishops and Commission on the General Conference will wait and release the report in all four General Conference languages simultaneously around July 30, a public version in English only was posted on the Judicial Council website yesterday. (Docket No. 1018-12)
I appreciate your patience and grace during this process. I, too, struggle at times when things don’t happen in a timely manner. Moreover, communication around this process has been confusing. I am grateful for each of you and to my colleague in the North Alabama Conference, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, for her assistance in helping craft this informational letter to you.
As you have heard me say many times, “keep focused on our mission of making disciples for Jesus.” It will be amazing what God does in the midst of all that is happening in our world, our nation, and our churches.
I am thankful for you!
David W. Graves
Resident Bishop, Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church