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Decision No. 424

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April 22 1977
In Re: Petition of the General Council on Ministries for a Declaratory Decision on the Apparent Conflict between the 1976 General Conference actions in Calendar Items 191and 527 Regarding the Study Committee on Native American Ministries, and as to the Authority of the General Council on Ministries to Establish such a Committee.

Digest of Case

The previous adoption by the 1976 General Conference of a resolution recommending that, except for highly unusual circumstances, it refrain from establishing study commissions, etc., to do work already assigned to the general agencies, did not prevent the 1976 General Conference from subsequently authorizing establishment of a Quadrennial Study Committee on Native American ministries. The General Council on Ministries was not authorized by that action (Calendar Item 527, pages 477-8 1976 Daily Christian Advocate, partially printed in the 1976 Discipline as Par. 2201) to select the members of the Committee. The Committee is not amenable to the Council but is to report directly to the General Conference. In the absence of any other provision for election of the Committee members, the Council of Bishops has power to select them.

Statement of Facts

On May 3, 1976 the General Conference adopted (DCA 556) Report No. 9 of the Committee On Council On Ministries, Calendar Item 191 (DCA 369) which reads: A RESOLUTION "We recommend that the 1976 General Conference, except for highly unusual circumstances, refrain from establishing study Commission, (sic) committees, or task groups to do work already assigned to the general agencies of our church by The Book of Discipline." In its final session, the night of May 7, 1976, the General Conference approved (DCA 958) Report No. 28 of the Committee On Council On Ministries, Calendar Item 527 (DCA 477-8) which reads in pertinent part: "That the General Conference authorize the establishment of a Quadrennial Study Committee on Native American Ministries to be composed of twenty-one voting members, including one Council of Bishops representative........ Staff will be composed of three Native Americans...... The Committee would report recommendations to the General Conference in 1980. If, during the 1977-1980 quadrennium, it is possible to implement specific findings, it should be done and made a part of the report to the General Conference in 1980." Paragraph 2201 of the 1976 Discipline sets forth much of the latter action of the General Conference, changing the first few words to read "There shall be a Study Committee* * *" instead of "That the General Conference authorize the establishment of a Quadrennial Study Committee * * *. " The Discipline as printed omits several words from the action as adopted. The most important omission probably is that of the last paragraph quoted above, which relates to implementation. The General Council on Ministries has forwarded to the Judicial Council a document captioned: "A Resolution requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on the seeming conflict between the action (sic) taken by the 1976 General Conference. In the body of the resolution it is stated that there is a conflict between the two actions of the General Conference. The resolution goes on to say: "BE IT RESOLVED, by virtue of the material reported on Calendar Item 527 and Section 2201 of the 1976 Book of Discipline as printed, the Study Committee on Native American Ministries be established, that it be funded by the Ethnic Minority Fund and that the Study Committee be amenable to GCOM and reported through GCOM to the 1980 General Conference, and BE IT RESOLVED, that the GCOM petition the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to the legality of such action." Briefs were filed and oral arguments were presented on April 21, 1977 on behalf of the General Council on Ministries and others. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 2515.2(c) of the Discipline. ANALYSIS There are two basic questions involved: First, did the General Conferenceviolate its own resolution by authorizing the establishment of the Study Committee; Secondly, does the General Council on Ministries have authority to establish the Committee, arrange for its funding, and require amenability to the General Council on Ministries and reporting to General Conference through the General Council on Ministries? The brief submitted by the General Council on Ministries contends that the proposed committee was not prohibited by the earlier action of the General Conference because that restriction applied only to: "* * *Commission, committees, or task groups to do work already assigned to the general agencies of our church by The Book of Discipline." We would have some difficulty if that were the only basis for upholding the later action, since it might be contended that the proposed committee is to do work already assigned to the Commission on Religion and Race or the Board of Global Ministries. We see, however, at least four other reasons for recognizing the validity of the later action. Here we are not dealing with any provision of the Constitution, but only with two actions of the General Conference. Like any other legislative body, the General Conference has the right to change its mind. It can specifically rescind its own prior action, or it can just ignore it and rescind it by implication, especially when the earlier action consists only of a recommendation to itself. Secondly, and based largely on the same logic, there is a long-established principle repeatedly followed in the secular courts that in case of direct conflict between two items of legislation adopted by the same body the later action prevails, for it must be assumed that the body was aware of its own actions, and intentionally made a change. Thirdly, there is another rule of statutory construction that as between general and specific legislation the latter controls. Fourthly, the resolution recommended against establishing a new study committee "except for highly unusual circumstances." The presumption of validity that attaches to all legislation of the General Conference would require us to assume that the General Conference considered the circumstances to be so highly unusual as to justify disregarding its own recommendation. We are convinced that the General Conference was acting within its powers when it authorized the establishment of a Quadrennial Study Committee. The second question is much more difficult. We are convinced from study of all the available information that the General Conference intended that such a Committee not only be authorized but also created, that it should function in the 1977-80 quadrennium and that it should report directly to the 1980 General Conference. The problem is that the General Conference neither established such a committee nor specifically delegated to any other body the authority to do so. During oral argument of this case we were told that the General Council on Ministries has recently named such a Committee. We assume it must have been relying on Par. 1005.2(c)3 of the Discipline which authorizes the GCOM: "In cooperation with the General Council on Finance and Administration to designate the general board or agency to undertake a special study ordered by the General Conference when that Conference fails to make such a designation" There are at least three problems. First, we were told there was no consultation or cooperation with the General Council on Finance and Administration regarding either the decision that the Committee should be selected by the GCOM or regarding the actual naming of members of the Committee. Secondly, the action of the General Conference was not just to order a study. This Committee, particularly in the portion of the legislation omitted in the printing of the Discipline, is authorized to take action, "to implement specific findings." Thirdly, it is clear that the General Conference intended the creation of a new, independent body, directly amenable to the General Conference, not just to order a study by an existing general board or agency. Both in the brief and the oral argument of the GCOM we are told the Committee was intended to be amenable to the GCOM and report through it. No such intent appears in the legislation that was adopted. In it there is no mention of GCOM or of reporting to or through it. On the contrary, the legislation twice speaks of the Committee reporting to the General Conference (one of those references is not printed in the Discipline.) Seeking to effectuate the intent of the General Conference, we look for authority to create the Committee and elect its members. We find specific authority with respect to one member, the representative from the Council of Bishops. In the absence of any other delegation of authority by the General Conference, we find implied authority in the Council of Bishops. Par. 52 of the Constitution says: "* * * The council shall meet at least once a year and plan for the general oversight and promotion of the temporal and spiritual interests of the entire Church and for carrying into effect the rules, regulations, and responsibilities prescribed by the General Conference * * *."

Decision

The previous adoption by the 1976 General Conference of a resolution recommending that, except for highly unusual circumstances, it refrain from establishing study commissions, etc., to do work already assigned to the general agencies, did not prevent the 1976 General Conference from subsequently authorizing establishment of a Quadrennial Study Committee on Native American Ministries. The General Council on Ministries was not authorized by that action (Calendar Item 527, pages 477-8 1976 DCA, partially printed in the 1976 Discipline as Par. 2201) to select the members Of the Committee. The Committee is not amenable to the Council but is to report directly to the General Conference. In the absence of any other provision for election of the Committee members, the Council of Bishops has power to select them. TOM MATHENY, President HOOVER RUPERT, Secretary

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