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Decision No. 735

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April 27 1995
In Re: Changes in Episcopal Areas, With Reference to Possible Conflicts Between Pars. 15.10 and 51 and Par. 43 as Amended by the 1992 General Conference and Ratified by Annual Conferences.

Digest of Case

Amended Par. 43 is not in conflict with Par. 15.10 or 51. Par. 15.10 gives the General Conference authority to "fix a uniform basis on which bishops shall be elected by the Jurisdictional Conferences and to determine the number of bishops that may be elected by a Central Conference." Par. 51 gives each College of Bishops authority to "arrange the plan of episcopal supervision ... within their respective territories." Par. 43, as amended, gives to the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences authority to effect (to bring about, to cause to occur) any changes within a jurisdiction or Central Conference which may be required in order to conform to the basis fixed by the General Conference or the Episcopal Area boundaries drawn by the College of Bishops.

Statement of Facts

In the 1992 session, the General Conference approved an amended Par. 43 of the Constitution: Changes in the number, names, and boundaries of the Annual Conferences and Episcopal Areas 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 and pursuant to the respective structures of the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences. The amended paragraph later received the requisite number of affirmative votes for ratification among members of the several Annual Conferences. Petitions were received from the Council of Bishops and the General Council on Finance and Administration requesting a declaratory decision as to 'the constitutionality, meaning, application, and effect of the amendment. The petitions cited the possible conflict with Par. 15.10, which gives the General Conference authority "to fix a uniform basis upon which bishops shall be elected in the Jurisdictional Conferences and to determine the number of bishops that may be elected by the Central Conferences," and with Par. 51, which gives to each College of Bishops authority to "arrange the plan of episcopal supervision ... within their respective territories." Oral argument was heard April 27, 1995 at Dillard University in New Orleans. Bishop Benjamin R. Oliphint spoke, representing the Council of Bishops and Mary Logan appeared on behalf of the General Council on Finance and Administration. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1992 Discipline . ANALYSIS Authority is unequivocally given to the General Conference to "fix a uniform basis upon which bishops shall be elected by the Jurisdictional Conferences and to determine the number of bishops that may be elected by Central Conferences." (Par. 15.10) Par. 43, as amended, does not address the basis on which the number of episcopal areas or bishops is determined, nor the manner of their election. It addresses only the question of what body is to put into effect the governing policies established by the General Conference or a College of Bishops. The paragraph clearly recognizes the limitations binding the actions of the Jurisdictional or Central Conferences: ". . . according to the provisions underthe respective powers and pursuant to the respective structures of the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences." Perhaps the impression of conflict between the two paragraphs arises from attributing to the verb "effect" a broader meaning than is merited. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (Second Edition) defines it as "to bring about, accomplish, make happen," and cites its Latin roots as referring to the carrying out of a task. Similar definitions are in Webster's New Collegiate , The American Heritage and other dictionaries of the English language. In all of them, "effect" is a verb of action, of movement, of achieving results, rather than of thought, evaluation and decision. This is the role assigned to the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences by Par. 43. They are to act to carry out decisions made by others authorized to make those decisions. The relationship of Par. 43 to Par. 51 is to be understood in similar fashion. Judicial Council Decisions 57 and 517 affirm the constitutional authority of a College of Bishops to determine Episcopal Area boundaries. Par. 43 does not address the question of authority to determine those boundaries. It speaks only to effecting any changes those decisions may require. The meaning and application of amended Par. 43 are as described above. The effect is to establish in the Constitution that which, as a matter of practical procedure, has been practiced by The United Methodist Church throughout its history.

Decision

Amended Par. 43 is not in conflict with Par. 15.10 or 51. Par. 15.10 gives the General Conference authority to "fix a uniform basis on which bishops shall be elected by the Jurisdictional Conferences and to determine the number of bishops that may be elected by a Central Conference." Par. 51 gives each college of Bishops authority to "arrange the plan of episcopal supervision ... within their respective territories." Par. 43, as amended, gives to the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences authority to effect (to bring about, to cause to occur) any changes within a jurisdiction or Central Conference which may be required in order to conform to the basis fixed by the General Conference or the Episcopal Area boundaries drawn by the College of Bishops.

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