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Decision No. 592

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April 24 1988
In Re: A Request from the North Carolina Annual Conference for a Decision on the Legality of Action Requiring General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegates to Submit a Record of Their Voting.

Digest of Case

An Annual Conference may not legislate a requirement that delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences submit a record of their voting in the General and Jurisdictional Conference to be distributed to pastors and churches in the Annual Conference. There is no authority for the action of the North Carolina Conference and it is declared null and void.

Statement of Facts

In June 1987, the North Carolina Annual Conference approved the following motion: that the delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences be required to submit a record of their voting on matters of ordination and other critical matters affecting the life of The United Methodist Church and that this record be distributed to pastors and churches through the first coordinated mailing following each of these conferences. Following this action the conference approved a motion appealing to the Judicial Council for a ruling on the "legality of the action." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under 2615 of the 1984 Discipline. ANALYSIS The question here raised is whether an Annual Conference is empowered to require from delegates to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference a written record of their individual votes in the course of the sessions of the General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference. The Judicial Council dealt with a case similar in nature in Decision 109. A resolution was adopted in 1954 by a local church as to its members of the Annual Conference instructing them to vote against " . . . any motions, Report, a Resolution that might be presented to the Annual Conference favoring any relaxation of the practice of racial segregation." The legality of that action taken in 1954 was brought before the Presiding Bishop at the request of the Central Texas Conference. (See Decision 109.) The Bishop ruled: In conformity with the generally accepted principle that delegated members of a Church Council shall be free to make decisions in the light of facts and discussions concerning issues that are considered by such body, the Discipline of The Methodist Church does not authorize an Official Board or a Quarterly Conference to order and instruct its Lay Member, or Reserve Lay Members of the Annual Conference to vote in any specified manner on matters coming before the Annual Conference. The Judicial Council affirmed that decision. The same principles apply to the question now before us. In The United Methodist Church delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences are historically and traditionally elected without instruction. All requirements for qualifications, elections and service that are contained in the Discipline are powers reserved to the General Conference. We find no language in the Constitution or Discipline, nor has any been called to our attention giving authority to the Annual Conference to require that delegates report their votes; and they need not do so. Delegates to General Conference, just as members of an Annual Conference, are bound to do as their conscience dictates what is good for the Church of Jesus Christ, The United Methodist Church in particular, and that only.

Decision

An Annual Conference may not legislate a requirement that delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences submit a record of their voting in the General and Jurisdictional Conference to be distributed to pastors and churches in the Annual Conference. There is no authority for the action of the North Carolina Conference and it is declared null and void.

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