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Decision No. 470

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October 26 1979
In Re: The Right of the Puerto Rico Annual Conference to Become an Affiliated Autonomous Church, According to an Action of the 1972 General Conference; or to Become a Central Conference under Par. 650 of the 1976 Discipline.

Digest of Case

The Puerto Rico Annual Conference may become an Affiliated Autonomous Church or an Affiliated United Church upon compliance with the 1968 Discipline Pars. 640-646 and 1414 and the Constitution. The General Conference has the power to decide whether the Puerto Rico Annual Conference may become a Central Conference.

Statement of Facts

The Puerto Rico Annual Conference in session decided to file a petition for a declaratory decision as follows: 1-In 1972 the General Conference passed an enabling act authorizing the Puerto Rico Annual Conference "to become an Affiliated Autonomous Church or an Affiliated United Church with all the privileges and responsibilities of that relationship, upon compliance with the 1968 Discipline Par. 640-646; 1414" (See Report No. 17-Status of Puerto Rico Annual Conference, page 1165 of the Journal, Vol. II.) May the Puerto Rico Annual Conference become an "Affiliated Autonomous Church", of the United States? (Puerto Rico is neither a Federal State nor an Independent country. It is a unincorporated territory, with its own Constitution, known in the Spanish language as "Estado Libre Asociado". Literally translated into the English language it would read: "Free Associated State". Said special relationship arose of a compact between Puerto Rico and the United States.) 2-What is the meaning of the phrase, "in territory outside the United States ", of Paragraph No. 650 of the 1976 Discipline of the United Methodist Church? May the Puerto Rico Annual Conference become a "Central Conference", being Puerto Rico a political dependency of the United States? (Puerto Rico is neither a Federal State nor an Independent country. It is an unincorporated territory, with its own Constitution, known in the Spanish language as "Estado Libre Asociado". Said special relationship arose of a compact between Puerto Rico and the United States.) Briefs were received and oral presentations were made to the Judicial Council on Thursday, October 25, 1979 by the Reverend Gildo Sanchez, District Superintendent; the Reverend Benjamin Santana, Committee on Autonomy; the Reverend Andres Marrero Cortes, Board of Ordained Ministry; all of the Puerto Rico Annual Conference, and by the Reverend Eli Samuel Rivera, National Division, Board of Global Ministries. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2515 of the Discipline. ANALYSIS The Constitution Par. 15 Article IV states: The General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional, and in the exercise of this power shall have authority as follows: 3. To define and fix the powers and duties of Annual Conferences, Provisional Annual Conferences, Missionary Conferences and Missions, and of Central Conferences, and Congregational meetings. 4. To provide for the organization, promotion, and administration of the work of the Church outside the United States of America. The General Conference of 1972 was acting within its powers when it adopted the report authorizing the Puerto Rico Annual Conference to become an Affiliated Autonomous Church or Affiliated United Church upon compliance with the 1968 Discipline. The General Conference of 1976 did not change or rescind that action. Therefore that authorization remains in effect. Par. 650 reads: 1. In territory outside the United States, Annual Conferences, Provisional Annual Conferences, Mission Conferences and Missions in such numbers as General Conference by a two-thirds vote shall determine may be organized by the General Conference into Central Conferences or Provisional Central Conferences, with such duties, privileges, and powers as are hereinafter set forth and as the General Conference by a two-thirds vote shall prescribe. 2. There shall be such Central Conferences as have been authorized or shall be hereafter authorized by the General Conference; ... Since the Constitution gives it the power to legislate on all connectional matters including those affecting work both within and without the United States, the General Conference is the appropriate body to decide whether the Puerto Rico Annual Conference may become a Central Conference. If the Puerto Rico Annual Conference decides to proceed towards either of these relationships it must be careful to do so according to all the pertinent constitutional and legislative provisions of the Discipline.

Decision

The Puerto Rico Annual Conference may become an Affiliated Autonomous Church or an Affiliated United Church with all the privileges and responsibilities of that relationship upon compliance with the 1968 Discipline Pars. 640-646 and 1414, unless and until that permission granted by the 1972 General Conference is rescinded. The General Conference has the power to decide whether the Puerto Rico Annual Conference may become a Central Conference.

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