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Decision No. 692

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October 29 1993
In Re: Constitutionality, Meaning, Application, and Effect of the Action of the 1992 General Conference in Adopting Calendar Item No. 671, Providing that the Bishop of The Methodist Church in Puerto Rico Will Sit With Voice but No Vote in the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

Digest of Case

All connectional matters affecting work both within and without the United States are decided by the General Conference. Therefore, the General Conference may provide that the bishop of The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico will sit with voice but no vote in the United Methodist Council of Bishops as herein defined.

Statement of Facts

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, . . ." subject to certain provisions. The Judicial Council approved that action in Decision 470. The Discipline provides in Par. 648.6 that: The Council of Bishops, in consultation with the General Board of Global Ministries, shall work out plans of cooperation with that church. The General Board of Global Ministries shall serve as the agent of The United Methodist Church for a continuing dialogue looking to the establishment of mutual mission priorities including, but not limited to, the exchange of personnel and financial resources. It further provides in Par. 650.2 that: The Council of Bishops shall represent The United Methodist Church in developing an Act of Covenanting with a prospective partner church. The Council of Bishops shall make recommendations to General Conference as to the specific covenanting agreements. When approved by General Conference and by the chief legislative body of the partner church, the Act of Covenanting becomes effective when signed by the president of the Council of Bishops and the secretary of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church and by the authorized persons in the covenanting church. The text of each Act of Covenanting as adopted shall be printed in the appropriate General Conference Journal. Pursuant to those efforts, an interim petition was filed with the General Conference and adopted on May 11, 1992, entitled "Relationship between United Methodist Church and new Affiliated Autonomous Methodist Church of Puerto Rico." This petition appeared on page 1225 of the Daily Christian Advocate (white book) and was adopted as Calendar Item 671 on page 392 of the Daily Christian Advocate. One paragraph of that petition provided: To facilitate the coordination of mission efforts between The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and The United Methodist Church, a provision is made in order that the bishop of The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico will sit with voice but no vote in the United Methodist Council of Bishops ... JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1992 Discipline. ANALYSIS The action taken by the General Conference was the approval of an interim procedure under the provisions of Section 5, being Par. 467, et seq. of the Discipline. The Judicial Council ruled in Decision 470 that: 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. It is clear that the Constitution gives the power to the General Conference to allow the bishop of Puerto Rico "to sit" with voice but no vote in the United Methodist Council of Bishops. This does not affect the composition of the Council of Bishops. It merely means that the bishop of The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico may sit with the United Methodist Council of Bishops for coordination of mission efforts only. This is an interim position which would carry with it the normal courtesies given to an invited guest with the understanding that that particular bishop could speak to matters relating to The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico to the United Methodist Council of Bishops for the interim period of 1992 through the year 2000 and limited to that period unless extended by the General Conference. Since the Episcopal Fund is restricted to expenses of United Methodist Bishops, the fund is not available to bishops of an Affiliated Autonomous Church. It is worthy of note that the Affiliated Autonomous Church of Puerto Rico affirms the time frame of 1992-2000 for a transitional period. Also, The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico is willing to assume the cost of travel expenses of the bishop.

Decision

All connectional matters affecting work both within and without the United States are decided by the General Conference. Therefore, the General Conference may provide that the bishop of The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico will sit with voice, but no vote in the United Methodist Council of Bishops as herein defined.

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