The impending retirement of Bishop Innis of the Liberia Annual Conference has ignited debate over the past two years about a long-standing rule in the Liberian UMC that prohibits divorced candidates from being considered for the position of bishop. I present the following summary of the events not to comment on the morality of divorce or validity of the rule but as a interesting case for those thinking about localism, connectionalism, and the role of Book of Discipline in church polity.
James Armah Massaquoi and Cletus A. Sieh initially raised questions about the validity of this role two years ago, citing in part concerns that the rule was not in the Book of Discipline and therefore went against about global United Methodist governance, concerns expressed in this editorial.
At the Liberian Annual Conference last year, the rule was overwhelmingly affirmed by both clergy and laity, as Julu Swen reported on.
Thus, the conference lay leader confirmed that the rule banning divorced clergy from the episcopacy would be in effect during the 2016 Annual Conference, as Swen reports here.
This rule then was used to disqualify Rev. Julius Nelson from consideration during annual conference voting, though he did receive write-in nominations and the issue may arise at the West Africa Central Conference, as this UMNS story indicates.
While there are many ways to view this debate, Darryl Stephens looks at the issue through the lens of connectionalism in this commentary.