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Decision No. 323

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October 31 1969
In Re: Request of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Establishment of a Procedural Rule for Involuntary Location of Ministerial Members of the Conference.

Digest of Case

An Annual Conference may adopt rules to implement provisions of the Discipline and for its own government, not in conflict with the Discipline. A rule which substitutes discretionary for mandatory authority to that extent is in conflict with the Discipline and invalid.

Statement of Facts

The following rules were adopted, after due deliberation and debate, by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference at its annual session in June, 1969: "1.070 Involuntary Location. Whenever it is unanimously determined by the district superintendents, under Paragraph 369, that a ministerial member should be located, the following procedure should be followed: "1. A copy of their written notice to the member shall be immediately forwarded to the Board of the Ministry. "2. The member shall have the right of conferring with the Board of the Ministry before he agrees or refuses to locate as requested. "3. If the member refuses to locate, the district superintendents may certify the facts on which their request is based to the Board of the Ministry. If they do not certify such facts to the Board the matter shall be closed. "4. If the superintendents certify the facts to the Board it shall consider the matter promptly, giving the member a chance to appear again, with or without a lay or ministerial friend. "5. The Board of Ministry shall report its findings and recommendations to the Ministerial Executive Session. "6. The Ministerial Executive Session, having given the member a chance to make a statement, and having heard the recommendation(s) of the Board of the Ministry, and having questioned the superintendent(s), the Board, and the member to its own satisfaction, shall dismiss the member from the session and vote by a secret ballot. If a majority of those present agree that he should be located without his consent, he shall be suspended immediately from any and all functions of the traveling ministry, and his district superintendent shall require from him his credentials to be deposited with the secretary of the conference. "Whenever the Board of the Ministry proposes to recommend involuntary location of a member (under Paragraph 368) it shall follow the procedure outlined in paragraphs (4)-(6) of this rule. "1.071 Involuntary Retirement. Whenever the Board of the Ministry proposes to recommend a member's retirement without his consent (under Paragraph 360) it shall follow the procedure outlined in Rule 1.070, paragraphs (4) - (6)." The constitutionality of the Rule 1.070, Sections 4 and 5 was then challenged, and referred by vote of the Annual Conference to the Judicial Council for its ruling. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715. ANALYSIS The question raised here for decision seeks to limit consideration only to Sections 4 and 5 of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Rule 1.070. The Judicial Council may not accept jurisdiction to render a declaratory decision on the legality of separate sections of conference legislation out of context and without reference to the whole. Thus, jurisdiction is accepted to determine the legality, application or effect of Discipline Paragraph 369 as it relates to Rule 1.070 adopted by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference in the work of the ministry. Paragraph 369 provides: "Whenever it is unanimously determined by the district superintendents that a member of the Annual Conference should be located for any of the reasons cited in Paragraph 368, they shall notify him in writing of their judgment at least three months before the next session of the Annual Conference and ask him to request location at such session under the provisions of Paragraph 365. If he refuses or neglects to locate as requested, the district superintendent shall certify the fact to the Board of the Ministry, which committee shall proceed to recommend his immediate location without his consent. Upon such action his right to exercise the functions of the ministry shall be suspended, and the district superintendent shall require from him his credentials to be deposited with the secretary of the conference." (Emphasis added) Rule 1.070 of the Annual Conference seeks to implement and establish a procedure to comply with Paragraph 369, and safeguard due process rights of the concerned minister. The Annual Conference for its own government may adopt rules and regulations not in conflict with the Discipline of The United Methodist Church. (Paragraph 662) We have, in Decision No. 314, held that an Annual Conference may not disregard specific mandatory provisions of the Discipline. Therefore, to the extent that Rule 1.070(3) grants discretionary authority to certify to the Board of the Ministry as substitute for the mandatory language of Paragraph 369, that portion of the rule is in conflict with the Discipline. Such conflict may be remedied by substituting "shall" for "may" and striking the last sentence in part 3; and replacing the word "If" by "When" in part 4 of the Rule. Failure to correct the conflict noted would render the rule in such substantial conflict with the Discipline as to be invalid. Otherwise, given Annual Conference corrective action, we find the rule within the powers of the Annual Conference and constitutional.

Decision

An Annual Conference may adopt rules to implement provisions of the Discipline and for its own government, not otherwise in conflict with the Discipline. A rule which substitutes discretionary for mandatory authority to that extent is in conflict with the Discipline and invalid.

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