Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 117
July 28 1955
In Re: Request of Council of Bishops for a Declara- tory Decision on the Question "Whether or Not a Retired Bishop of a Central Conference Is Authorized to Attend Meetings of the Council of Bishops with Expenses Paid"
Digest of Case
A retired Bishop of a Central Conference is authorized to attend meetings of the Council of Bishops with expenses paid.
Statement of Facts
At a meeting of the Council of Bishops held in Seattle, Washington, April 19-22, 1955, the Council voted to request the Judicial Council to render a Declaratory Judgment upon the following question: "Is a retired Bishop of a Central Conference authorized to attend meetings of the Council of Bishops with expenses paid?" JURISDICTION Paragraph 914 of the 1952 Discipline states in part as follows: "When the General Conference shall have passed any act or legislation that appears to be subject to more than one interpretation, or when any Paragraph or Paragraphs of the Discipline seem to be of doubtful meaning, or application, the Judicial Council, on petition as hereinafter provided, shall have jurisdiction to make a ruling in the nature of a Declaratory Decision as to the meaning, application, and effect of such act, legislation, or Paragraph or Paragraphs of the 1952 Discipline. . . . ... (1) The Council of Bishops.... From the facts indicated above the Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this matter. ANALYSIS Paragraph 36, Article III, of the Constitution, 1952 Discipline states: "There shall be a Council of Bishops composed of all the Bishops of all the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences. . . ." Paragraph 555, 1952 Discipline states: "A Bishop elected by a Central Conference shall have the status, rights, and duties within his territory of a Bishop elected by or functioning in a Jurisdictional Conference. A Bishop elected by a Central Conference shall have membership in the Council of Bishops and shall have the privilege of full participation with vote in the meetings of the Council whenever the interest of his Central Conference or the interests common to all Central Conferences are involved. Attendance upon the annual meetings of the Council of Bishops by Bishops elected by Central Conferences shall be left to the option of the Bishops in each Central Conference." Paragraph 437, 1952 Discipline referring to a retired bishop, states: ". . . He may participate In the Council of Bishops, but without vote.... From the Paragraphs of the 1952 Discipline quoted above, it would seem that a retired Bishop of a Central Conference is a member of the Council of Bishops, has the right to attend the meetings of the Council if he so desires, and may participate in the meetings whenever the interest of his Central Conference, or the interests common to all Central Conferences, are involved, but without vote. Paragraph 574, 1, 1952 Discipline provides that: "A Central Conference shall participate in the General Episcopal Fund upon payment of its apportionment on the same basis as that fixed for Annual Conferences in Jurisdictional Conferences . . . . Paragraph 773, 1952 Discipline provides that: "The Treasurer of the Council on World Service and Finance shall pay monthly the claim for the official travel of each Bishop or Missionary Bishop, upon presentation of an itemized voucher. . . ." Since travel to the meetings of the Council of Bishops, which retired Central Conference Bishops are authorized to attend, is clearly official travel, they are entitled to payment of travel expense. A Central Conference Bishop who has not been re-elected and later retires and returns to his Annual Conference, is no longer a Bishop, even though he receives an allowance from the General Episcopal Fund for the years during which he served as Bishop. He is therefore not a member of the Council of Bishops and not entitled to attend its meetings. (See Decision No. 61 of the Judicial Council.)
It is therefore the Decision of the Judicial Council that a retired Bishop of a Central Conference is entitled to attend the meetings of the Council of Bishops, with expenses paid, and participate in such meetings whenever the interest of his Central Conference, or the interests common to all Central Conferences, are involved, but without vote.
SUBJECT TO FINAL EDITING JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH MEMORANDUM 1117 IN RE: Review of Decision of Bishop Warner Brown of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference Not to Recognize as a Request for a Decision of Law a Written Request That Was Not Introduced During the Business of the Annual Conference. During the 2008 session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, the presiding bishop entered a parliamentary note into the record of the annual conference session. The verbatim record of the bishop’s parliamentary ruling as announced in the annual conference session is as follows: Let me make a parliamentary note at this time before we move to the other announcements. Earlier in this session there appeared on the desk a packet of information labeled “point of law.” I have not said anything about it, because I was waiting for someone to formally request that I consider this. It was not properly presented unless that happens, according to our Book of Discipline. But that has not happened as we come to the end of business. I would note having reviewed this document, that I am ruling it out of order. It does not properly meet the requirements of ¶ 2609.6 that calls for questions of law. And it is unrelated to any business that we have been conducting during this session of the annual conference, and for that second reason it is also out of order. So, it is out of order and we will note that and proceed. Thank you. The bishop reported his parliamentary ruling to the Judicial Council, and review of the ruling was docketed in the normal course. Our longstanding jurisprudence is that the Judicial Council has no jurisdiction to review a parliamentary ruling of a bishop in an annual conference. Parliamentary rulings by a presiding bishop may be challenged only by an appeal to the body during the annual conference session. There is no disciplinary authority for the Judicial Council to assume jurisdiction of a parliamentary ruling by a presiding bishop. Decision 999 held that the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction to review parliamentary rulings of episcopal leaders made during annual conference sessions. See Decisions 898, 941, 943, and 953. In order for a request to be a parliamentary ruling, the chair must rule on the request in the parliamentary session affording the opportunity for an appeal of the chair’s ruling to the body. Notwithstanding the foregoing principle, we have conducted our own review of the packet of information that was labeled “Point of Law”, and submitted to the bishop during the annual conference session and of the “Supplement Point of Law” submitted after the annual conference session concluded. We are unable to determine the actual question or issue for which a ruling was sought. We are likewise unable to determine that the issue of concern was germane to the business, consideration, and discussion of the annual conference or that the issue related to some action taken or to be taken by the annual conference. The “Point of Law” fails to present a proper question of church law and, therefore, fails to comply with ¶ 2609. Decision 799 remains a useful guide and an authoritative precedent for persons who seek a bishop’s decision of law. DIGEST The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction to review parliamentary rulings. Ruben T. Reyes was absent. Jay Arthur Garrison, first lay alternate, participated in this decision. April 24, 2009