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Memorandum No. 791

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October 24 1996
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Southwest Texas Annual Conference on Whether a Person May Be Denied the Right To Lead and/or Participate in Activities and Programs of the Church in Accordance With Article 4 of the Constitution and ¶ 113 of the 1992 Discipline.

Digest of Case

At the 1996 session of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference a question was presented to Bishop Raymond H. Owen asking whether a person may be denied the right to lead and/or participate in activities and programs of the church in accordance with Article 4 of the Constitution and ¶ 113 of the 1992 Discipline. Bishop Owen's decision is not affirmed. The question is remanded to Bishop Owen for a decision of law responding to the request.

Statement of Facts

At the 1996 session of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference Bishop Raymond H. Owen was asked to rule on the following question: In accordance with Article 4, as amended, of the Constitution and Paragraph 113 of the 1992 Book of Discipline, can a person be denied the right to lead and/or participate in activities and programs of the church on the basis of his or her sexual orientation? Bishop Owen ruled "Question of law was not properly presented under Paragraph 2613. The question is not related to an Episcopal ruling. It is hypothetical." While Bishop Owen is correct in his ruling that to rule on a hypothetical question is wrong, this was not a hypothetical question as the one referred to in Decision 33. This question does contain a reference to ¶ 113 of the 1992 Discipline as well as a more general reference to Article 4 of the Constitution. While Roman numerals are used in numbering the parts of the Constitution in the printed Discipline and is, in fact, the preferred usage, in this case the Arabic numeral 4 clearly refers to the same thing. Par. 2613 does not require that the request for a ruling be related to an episcopal decision. It requires that the request be presented during the session of the Annual Conference and that it relate to business of the Annual Conference. Decision 33 clearly states that a hypothetical request is one which is not "based upon some action taken or proposed to be taken by such Conference, wherein under the specific facts in each case some doubt may have arisen as to the legality of the action taken or proposed." In this case the request did relate to an action taken by the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. The decision of Bishop Owen is not affirmed, and the request is remanded for a decision of law.

Decision

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