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Decision No. 445

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October 26 1978
In Re: Request from the Council of Bishops for a Declaratory Decision on the Constitutionality of Discipline Par. 1316.5, in the Light of Section II, Article IV.6 of the Constitution (Par. 15).

Digest of Case

The General Conference may not delegate to one of the agencies of the Church the responsibility for the performance of the function or power reserved to the General Conference by the Constitution. The General Conference has not granted to the Board of Discipleship or any of its units power or authority to amend or create new official Rituals of The United Methodist Church. Par. 1316.5 is constitutional as it restricts the authority of the Division in the preparation and development of material to be presented to a subsequent session of the General Conference for official evaluation and action. Par. 1388 of the 1968 Discipline continues in effect unless and until it is officially changed by a subsequent General Conference.

Statement of Facts

The Section on Worship of the Division of Evangelism, Worship and Stewardship of the General Board of Discipleship issued a book, Ritual in a New Day: An Invitation. (1976, Abingdon) dealing with popular rituals andsuggestions for orders of worship. Certain discussions have been held in the Section and elsewhere in the denomination concerning the possible publication of an order for the presentation or dedication of infants as an alternative to baptism of infants. The discussion of these matters by the Council of Bishops resulted in the present appeal for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council. The Council of Bishops requested a decision on two points: (1) Theconstitutionality of Par. 1316.5 in the light of Par. 15.6 (1976 Discipline); (2) Does The United Methodist Church have a definition of its official Hymnals and Rituals since Par. 1388 of the 1968 Discipline has not been printed in subsequent editions of the Discipline? At a public hearing held Thursday, October 26, 1978 at Iliff School of Theology Bishop Jack Tuell appeared for the Council of Bishops and Dr. Hoyt Hickman, Asst. General Secretary appeared for the Board of Discipleship. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2515.1 and 2(b) of the 1976 Discipline. ANALYSIS Par. 1316.5 of the Discipline fixed the following as one of the many functions of the Division of Evangelism, Worship and Stewardship in the area of worship: "To prepare new and alternate rituals and orders of worship." This paragraph is somewhat ambiguous because unlike other paragraphs in the same section, it does not indicate what is to happen when the new and alternate rituals and orders of worship are prepared. In the exercise of its perceived authority in the performance of its duties, the Section on Worship of the Division of Evangelism, Worship and Stewardship of the General Board of Discipleship published a book entitled Ritual in a New Day:An Invitation. This book was published in 1976 as the fourth item in a Supplemental Worship Resources series. It has been described by the Section as a book of "essays" to stimulate thought about worship rather than a set of alternate forms or rituals. Although none of the materials purported to be "official," some did bear the appearance of authoritative and approved Rituals of the Church. While such publications have value as resource materials or as experimental materials, the manner of distribution might have implied more official status than they possessed. The issues are (1) the limitation of powers granted to the General Board of Discipleship in regard to the preparation of "new and alternate rituals and orders of worship," (2) whether the publication of such alternate rituals indicates approval of official Rituals, (3) whether the Official Rituals are continually defined as stated in the 1968 Discipline Par. 1388. The General Conference has "full legislative powers over all matters distinctively connectional." (Par. 15). The Official Hymnals and Rituals of the denomination are connectional matters. (Par. 15.6). However, the General Conference may assign to one of the agencies of the Church the responsibility for developing such Hymnals and Rituals. In fact, Par. 1316 constitutes the assignment of such duties to the Division of Evangelism, Worship and Stewardship with limitations stated or implied. The intent of the legislation is to grant responsibility for cultivating, developing and preparing useful materials but with the ultimate official approval residing in the General Conference. Since neither the Division of Evangelism, Worship and Stewardship nor the Board of Discipleship has authority to produce Official Hymnals or Rituals without the approval of the General Conference, publication of proposed alternate rituals and orders does not carry the official endorsement of the denomination. As regards the definition of the Official Ritual of The United Methodist Church there is no record in the Discipline, Journal or Daily Christian Advocate of the 1972 or 1976 General Conferences of action concerning Par. 1388 contained in the 1968 Discipline. Therefore, in the absence of official action of the General Conferences of 1972 and 1976 replacing or specifically deleting Par. 1388 of the 1968 Discipline, it is here held that Par. 1388 continues in effect and constitutes the authoritative definition of the Official Hymnals and Rituals of The United Methodist Church.

Decision

The General Conference has not granted to the Board of Discipleship or any of its units power or authority to amend or create new Official Rituals of The United Methodist Church. Par. 1316.5 is constitutional as it restricts the authority of the Division in the preparation and development of material to be presented to a subsequent session of the General Conference for official evaluation and action. Par. 1388 of the 1968 Discipline continues in effect unless and until it is officially changed by a subsequent General Conference.

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