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Decision No. 382

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April 18 1974
In Re: Petition Of the Board of the Ministry of the Little Rock Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision in the Matter of an Application for Probationary Membership.

Digest of Case

An Annual Conference cannot delegate to its subordinate bodies its authority to petition the Judicial Council.

Statement of Facts

On Wednesday, May 10, 1973, after the examination and election of those received as probationary members of the Little Rock Annual Conference, a member asked for a declaratory decision (of the Judicial Council) concerning certain persons who have been denied membership in the conference. A motion was made as follows: "That upon petition by any candidate for any conference relationship who can document that changes in disciplinary requirements have resulted in an injustice to him or her, the Board of Ministry or the executive committee of the Board of Ministry, upon concurrence, be empowered to petition the Judicial Council in the name of the Little Rock Conference for a declaratory decision as to the candidate's eligibility." After a statement by the Registrar of the Board of the Ministry the motion was passed. Pursuant to this action by the Little Rock Annual Conference a petition was presented by the Board of the Ministry to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the eligibility of Asa Richard Poss for probationary membership in the Little Rock Annual Conference. JURISDICTION There is a basic jurisdictional question before the Judicial Council with this petition, namely: can the Little Rock Annual Conference delegate to itsBoard of the Ministry the authority of the Annual Conference to petition the Judicial Council (Par. 1515.2) ? To this question the intent of the resolution or appeal was to vote to the Board of the Ministry or its executive committee the right to act in the name of the Little Rock Annual Conference. This intent was affirmed in a letter dated October 9, 1973 to the secretary of the Judicial Council. The 1972 Discipline of The United Methodist Church in Paragraph 1515 provides that certain bodies in The United Methodist Church are authorized to petition the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision ". . . . as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof or of any act of legislation of a General Conference . . ." An Annual Conference itself may make such a petition, but the Board of the Ministry as a subordinate body of the Annual Conference may not. See Judicial Council Decision No. 309. Jurisdiction is vested in the Judicial Council only when the petition arises from an authority in the church that has the right of appeal directly to the Judicial Council. Judicial Council Decision No. 29. The Little Rock Annual Conference cannot delegate its authority under Paragraph 1515.2 (i) of the Discipline, to the Board of the Ministry. No Annual Conference can delegate to its subordinate bodies its authority to petition the Judicial Council. Therefore, the Judicial Council declines to accept jurisdiction.

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