Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Judicial Council elections and finishing committee work

Today started out with very excited, wonderful news. One of the first orders of the day was the election of members of our Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is the top court in our church that decides whether or not a Bishop is correctly interpreting the Discipline and also has final decision on all trials or other judgments. I'm sorry to say it, but for the last four years this court has been run by a group of ideologues who have made some horrible rulings. This is the group who decided that it was valid and acceptable for a pastor to deny someone church membership because they are gay. (decision 1032). Well, here's what happened on the floor. All five of the available seats were filled by moderate candidates who came from the group that the Council of Bishops nominated on Friday morning. Not one of the conservative candidates who were so aggressively marketed through a direct mailing campaign going back to January and the now infamous "cell phone letter" were elected. None of three of the officers of the old court (the chair, vice and secretary) are still there (although I think one is an alternate). This includes the former chair, James Holsinger, who chose not to run again (this is the same person who was nominated to be Surgeon General a few months back but withdrew his name). So in some very significant way, this is a new day for the church.
Also, my legislative committee finally completed our work today as we chugged through from 2:00 to 9:30 and handled our ninety-seven remaining petitions. Honestly, I had a few fits of uncontrollable laughter towards the end, but we did it! Our first pieces are being presented today in plenary but the big stuff should come tomorrow.
(I was typing with my eyes closed for a while and eventually retreated to bed...I'm now back and it's the morning.)
I of course could not be on the floor for all of the afternoon and evening plenary because I was seated in my committee. My understanding is that we adopted the minority report of the Conferences Legislative Committee that was a very acceptable combination of the Frank Wulf and Robbins/Okyama resolutions: the creation of a task force has been mandated to study the world-wide nature of the church and it has the flexibility to do the work it needs. This is good!


Becca Clark said...

I think the majority report of the church worldwide structure thing passed, which allows for a little less flexibility, keeps the US all one region, and insists that in matters such as ordination, all regions abide by GC decision. The smug little *ahem!* presenting that report didn't even try to hide it. He said, and I quote: "Our social principles are doctrine... We don't want some parts of the church to say homo-- slavery is okay and other parts say that it isn't."

Yeah, homoslavery. He literally tipped his hand that much. Freud would be so proud.

Still, it's a beginning, and can always be modified when the results of the study group come back. Still, I thought part of the purpose was to grant a little liberty in divisive issues.

Anonymous said...


Judicial Council Chief James Holsinger and $20 million of UMC Money
by Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D., and Lawrence H. McGaughey, Esq.

Dr. James Holsinger, principal of the UMC Judicial Council has been a major player in a contentious and controversial lawsuit involving UMC money. The litigation involved the sale in 1995 of a United Methodist Church (UMC) hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, and the disposition of the $20 million in proceeds. The hospital’s trustees refused to hand over the assets to the owner, the UMC in Kentucky. Instead, the self-appointed trustees, calling themselves the Good Samaritan Foundation (GSF) placed the funds under their sole control and withheld the money from the church for five years. The Kentucky Annual Conference commenced a lawsuit against GSF which then cross-sued the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) bringing them into the case. The two church organizations were forced to engage in a long and costly lawsuit to find out where the money was and to regain its property for the Annual Conference. Holsinger became a GSF trustee in July 2000, joining in the lawsuit against his own church.
According to several individuals intimately acquainted with the litigation, Holsinger actually became the driving force in the prolongation of the lawsuit. Shortly after GSF lost in court for the second time in 2006, Holsinger stated that the GSF trustees, which he chaired, would persist in its legal battle. In a stunning denunciation of his own church, Holsinger publicly stated his personal belief that the UMC was "only interested in the Foundation's money, not its cause” [health care for the poor and disadvantaged]. It was only when Holsinger was named as Surgeon General that the litigation came to an abrupt halt. Within a matter of days after his May 24, 2007, nomination, Holsinger resigned from the GSF trustees and the lawsuit, indicating that to continue would be incompatible with an appointment as Surgeon General. Within a mere two weeks, the suit was finally settled -- after over seven years!
What might have motivated Holsinger to be a part of long, costly litigation against his own church? Following the money offers insight. From July 1997, through June 2006, the GSF and a corporate subsidiary dispersed $8,430,363 in grants -- of which $5,314,670 (63 percent) was given to University of Kentucky (UK) programs in medicine, nursing, dentistry, and public health. This included endowing two academic chairs valued at a million dollars each -- one in nursing and the other in public health. These endowed chairs and several million in other gifts were awarded while Holsinger was fundraising for these UK programs in his job as Chancellor of the Chandler Medical Center of UK from 1994 through 2003. The grants continued to flow after he left the position of Chancellor, while he continued as a GSF trustee until May 2007.
The GSF’s contributions to UK medical and its related schools have been so significant that the foundation is listed on the highest tier of honored benefactors to the university, along with major corporations such as Alcoa, DuPont, IBM, and the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company.
What makes the GSF awards to UK more remarkable is that they were awarded in contradiction to the foundation’s own standards of grant-making. According to the grant policy guidelines of the GSF, “[m]ajor organizations” such as “[h]ospitals, [c]olleges and [u]niversities are not eligible as a general statement,” although exceptions could be made by the trustees. The exception in this case became the rule when it came to UK.
In addition, for more than a decade the return on the investments of the foundation was dismal. In May, 2005, GSF admitted in a letter to making poor return on the assets and to conflicts of interest by some of the trustees. Three GSF trustees had been involved in managing the assets of GSF while serving on the board. The church representatives told the GSF that it was “unconscionable” that after a decade the funds were not being professionally managed by experts who had no personal connection with the board.
Did Holsinger ever inform his fellow members of the Judicial Council that he was involved in a lawsuit with the Kentucky Annual Conference and GBGM? Even more to the point, we are told by persons attending the 2004 General Conference that he did not disclose to the Conference his involvement in the lawsuit and his potential for conflicts of interest with the Kentucky Conference and GBGM if elected.

Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D., is a United Methodist minister and research psychologist who has written extensively on the role of clergy in preventive mental health care. He lives in New York City. He has co-authored 14 books including: Counseling Survivors of Traumatic Events (Abingdon, 2003), Reflections on Grief and the Spiritual Journey (Abingdon, 2005), Counseling Persons with Addictions and Compulsions (Pilgrim, 2007), and Connected Spirits: Friends and Spiritual Journeys (Pilgrim, 2007).

Lawrence H. McGaughey, Esq., is an attorney practicing law in New York City with specialties in real estate, trusts and estates, and not-for-profit organizations. He has represented many United Methodist churches and organizations and is the Chancellor of the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Any views stated in this article are personal and are not intended to represent the views of any client.