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Decision No. 491

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October 30 1980
In Re: Right of an Annual Conference to Create a Task Force to Study Homophobia.

Digest of Case

The establishment of a task force by an Annual Conference to study homophobia and to develop and implement a program to deal with the effects of homophobia in the church is not in conflict with the Discipline of 1980, Par. 906.13.

Statement of Facts

Under date of July 8, 1980, Bishop R. Marvin Stuart, Resident Bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, provided the Judicial Council with a paragraph from the "short minutes" of the conference, and a document designated as Item XXIX which embodies a Resolution to establish a three-year task force to study homophobia (the non-understanding of fear of homosexually oriented persons) and develop and implement a program dealing with the effects of homophobia in the church. The paragraph reads: Roy Dunn asked the Bishop to rule whether the action taken on mimeographed Item XXIX, dealing with the establishment of a Task Force to study Homophobia was in conflict with the Discipline, 1980, Paragraph 906.13. Bishop Stuart ruled that it was not in conflict. Mr. Dunn then moved that this matter be referred to the Judicial Council; and after some discussion, it was referred to the Judicial Council for decision. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2611 of the 1980 Discipline. ANALYSIS Par. 906.13 of the 1980 (1976) Discipline reads: The Council should be responsible for ensuring that no board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any "gay" caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. The Council shall have the right to stop such expenditures. Item XXIX presents the Resolution, describes the membership of the task force, and outlines a three year program with phases for each of the three years. Par. 906.13 of the (1976) 1980 Discipline is legislation pertaining to the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church and that Council's administration of general Church funds. It is the last of thirteen functions under the heading "Fiscal Responsibilities" that are to be carried out by the Council, governed by the introductory statement: "The Council shall be accountable to The United Methodist Church through the General Conference in all matters relating to the receiving, disbursing, and reporting of general Church funds, and all agencies receiving general Church funds shall be fiscally accountable to the Council. In the exercise of its fiscal accountability role, the Council shall have authority and responsibility to perform the following functions:" In all the legislation, references are to the general church: The use ofgeneral Church funds by general Church bodies and to treasuries and agencies receiving general Church funds, except in the instance of 906.12 wherein the Council may make a recommendation to an Annual Conference. Thus the legislation has reference to the Annual Conference only to the extent that some conference agency may receive general Church funds. There is no reference to the disbursement of funds that are singularly those of the Annual Conference. Even though the pertinent part of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church which would appear to govern such matters (Par. 15. Article IV.9), unlike the Constitution of The Methodist Church (Par. 8. Article IV.9, 1964 Discipline), does not contain the word connectional, the arguments of Decision 196 in drawing a distinction between a connectional agency in relation to general Church funds over against an Annual Conference and its own funds remain persuasive. Relevant sections from Decision 196 are: ... Although the General Conference defines and fixes the broad powers and duties of the Annual Conference, these functions are administered by the Annual Conferences and are in no way subject to the influence or control of other Annual Conferences. Thus, the Annual Conference is an entity in the administration of its own affairs within the limitations of the Discipline. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The General Boards hold only an advisory relation to the Annual Conference Boards which are defined by the Discipline but constituted and administrated by the Annual Conference, being thus neither composed of nor administrated by the connectional structure of the Church. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Procedures are defined by the Discipline whereby the Annual Conference may provide funds to carry on the work on the Annual Conference level, but Annual Conference Boards do not by right share in the distribution of the funds provided by the General Conference 'to carry on the connectional work of the Church.' The financing and administration of the enterprises of the Church on the Annual Conference and District level are strictly Annual Conference responsibility. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inasmuch as Annual Conference Boards are not composed of 'connectional' personnel, and do not derive their support from the funds ordered and distributed by the General Conference 'to carry on the connectional work of the Church,' we can only conclude that the Constitution and legislative paragraphs of the Discipline do not construe 'the administrative service on the Annual Conference or District level' as being a connectional office. Thus the Annual Conference as the basic body of the Church (Par. 37. Article II) has reserved to it such powers as are not pre-empted by the General Conference. It is clear that Par. 906.13 of the Discipline concerns the funding of boards agencies, committees, commissions, or councils of the general church. It does not refer to the Annual Conference. It is also clear that the resolution adopted by the California-Nevada Annual Conference is not in conflict with Par. 906.13 in that it does not fund any "gay" caucus or group or promote the acceptance of homosexuality.

Decision

The establishment of a task force to study homophobia and to develop and implement a program to deal with the effects of homophobia in the church is not in conflict with the Discipline of 1980, Par. 906.13.

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