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Decision No. 525

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April 21 1983
In Re: Appeal from the Philippines Annual Conference on a Bishop's Ruling on Attachment of Palawan District to that Conference.

Digest of Case

The bishop's ruling, that the recommendation tentatively and experimentally to attach the Palawan District of the Southwest Philippines Provisional Annual Conference to the Philippines Annual Conference was in order, is unconstitutional and illegal. The bishop's ruling is reversed. The resultant action of the Philippines Annual Conference to adopt the recommendation is null and void. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Pars. 61, Article II.2 and 2611 of the 1980 Discipline.

Statement of Facts

During a regular meeting of the Philippines Annual Conference, in session May 12-16 , 1982, the following recommendation of the Cabinet was presented: That in accordance with the action of this conference 81-86 (OJ 1981) to wit: That Palawan District be attached as Missionary District of the Philippines Annual Conference and the same action was approved and confirmed by the Coordinating Council in its meeting on August 14, 1981, authorizing the change of boundaries of the Philippines Annual Conference of the Manila Area as experimental and tentative; subject to referral to, review and final action by the 1984 Central Conference in accordance with par. 639 (sic), Article II of 1980 Discipline that Palawan be tentatively and experimentally attached to Philippines Annual Conference as a missionary district and that it be formally recognized as such. After the reading Bishop Emerito Nacpil stated and put the question. Thereupon a member of the conference raised a point of order with respect to the constitutionality of the recommendation. Upon the basis of Par. 56, Article VII of the 1980 Discipline he requested the bishop to "decide on the questions of law herewith presented." Then, after a promise to comply with the request by the bishop and a statement by another conference member, still another member of the conference reiterated the point of order. In response to this reiteration the bishop stated: . . . "I rule that the matter is in order. It is before you." (Emphasis added). Voting on the recommendation ensued, resulting in its adoption, whereupon "A motion to appeal the action of the Conference to the Judicial Council was made." Following a postponement of action on the motion to appeal it was voted by the requisite number: To appeal to the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church the ruling of the Presiding Bishop on the point of order raised that the temporary and experimental attachment of Palawan District in compliance with the order of the Coordinating Council is a violation of the provisions of the United Methodist Church Constitution, paragraph 45, Article IV, page 33 of the 1980 Book of Discipline, since it refers to change of boundaries and this power exclusively belongs to the Philippines Central Conference. The Judicial Council is recipient of the following documents: 1) letter fromthe Secretary of the Philippines Annual Conference, dated July 10, 1982, reporting to the Judicial Council the action of the conference in voting to appeal, giving the wording of the appeal, and explaining the ruling of the bishop; 2) letter from the Reverend Jose P. M. Cunanan dated August 6, 1982, informing the Council of a forthcoming brief for the appeal; 3) a second letter from Mr. Cunanan, dated August 10, 1982, submitting a formal brief dated July 26, 1982; 4) the "Bishop's Report to the Judicial Council," dated October 7, 1982, and accompanied with required supporting documents; and 5) copies of pertinent pages from the Daily Proceedings of the conference sessions. ANALYSIS In his "Report to the Judicial Council" the bishop states under "Subject": Whether it was in order for the conference to take action approving a decision made by the Coordinating Council of the Phil. Central Conf. attaching Palawan District tentatively and experimentally-subject to review and final action by 1984 Central Conf.-to the Philippines Annual Conf. since a constitutional question is raised thereby. Under "Summary of Decision" he says: The bishop ruled that the matter was in order, but that ruling on a point of order, did not and was not intended to decide the issue of the constitutionality of the matter that was ruled as in order for the conference to consider and act on. The conference accepted the ruling on the point of order, approved the matter that was ruled as in order, and then took action to appeal the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision with respect to the Constitutionality of the matter it approved. In the supporting documents, under "Decision," the bishop explains his ruling, in part, as follows: The Presiding Bishop ruled as follows: As to the point of order raised, the matter (i.e. the proposal stated above) is in order and the conference may consider and act on it . . . . . Further, under "Reasoning behind the Decision, 2 (c)," the bishop notes: ... And so the comment in the Minutes by the secretary of the Conference to the effect that "The ruling of the Presiding Bishop which was appealed is that this matter is not in violation of the said provisions of the Constitution" is a misconstrual and misunderstanding of the nature and intent of what the Bishop said. And, in his "Conclusion" the bishop avers: The Presiding Bishop made a ruling having to do with order; the ruling was not meant to decide the issue of the constitutionality of the matter that was ruled to be in order; the conference, accepting the matter as in order, subsequently took action on it by approving it, and then made a decision to appeal to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision concerning the constitutionality of what it approved. The explanation of the appeal by the Secretary of the conference, the brief in support of the appeal, and the Daily Proceedings represent the ruling of the bishop to have been that the recommendation of the Cabinet was not in violation of the Constitution, that it was in order. Fundamentally, in his "Report" the bishop is in agreement that his ruling was that the recommendation was in order. The appeal submitted to the Judicial Council then is on this ruling by the bishop and is worded the same in all the documents including the bishop's "Report." According to Par. 45, Article IV of the 1980 Discipline: Changes in the number, names and boundaries of the Annual Conferences may be effected by the Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States of America and by the Central Conferences outside the United States of America according to the provisions under the respective powers of the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences. Further, Par. 638.11, dealing with the powers of a Central Conference reads, in part: A Central Conference shall fix the boundaries of the Annual Conferences, Provisional Annual Conferences, Missionary Conferences, and Missions within its bounds, proposals for changes first having been submitted to the Annual Conferences concerned as prescribed in the Discipline of The United Methodist Church; ... The recommendation of the Cabinet thus was in violation of both the Constitution of the Church and the legislation; and the ruling of the bishop that it was in order was in error. According to Robert's Rules Of Order, Newly Revised, page 91: No main motion is in order which conflicts with national state, or local law, or with the by-laws (or constitution) or rules of the organization or assembly. If such motion is adopted, even by a unanimous vote it is null and void. Already in no fewer than five instances the Judicial Council has rendered decisions which bear on the matter in hand. Decisions 28 and 217, although pertaining to Jurisdictional Conferences, are presently relevant in stating that the power of a Jurisdictional Conference to determine the boundaries of Annual Conferences may not be delegated to the Annual Conferences themselves. What is true of Jurisdictional Conferences in this respect is true of Central Conferences as well. (See Par. 45, Article IV). Therefore the bishop's ruling is of no effect because the recommendation was out of order, and the action of the conference is null and void.

Decision

The ruling of the bishop on the point of order with respect to the constitutionality of the recommendation to attach the Palawan District to the Philippines Annual Conference is in error, and his ruling is reversed. The action of the conference in adopting the recommendation consequently is null and void. Leonard D. Slutz was absent.

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