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Decision No. 793

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October 24 1996
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Philippines Central Conference Concerning the Petition for Autonomous Structure of the Philippines Central Conference Being Referred to the Central Conference for Final Decision.

Digest of Case

The decision of Bishop Neil L. Irons that Central Conferences cannot remove Annual Conferences from The United Methodist Church except on the basis of an individual vote by each Annual Conference is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

This matter is before the Judicial Council regarding a decision of Bishop Irons on a petition for autonomous structure of the Philippines Central Conference in 1992 whereby, apparently, the Central Conference acted unilaterally without a resolution from the Annual Conferences that are involved. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2613 of the 1992 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale At issue is whether or not a resolution for autonomous structure of certain conferences in the Philippines Central Conference is valid even though the Annual Conferences involved did not have an opportunity of voting. It needs to be said that the Judicial Council was not provided with a copy of the resolution or petition for autonomous structure or the minutes of either the Central Conference or the Annual Conferences. However, the presiding bishop's ruling is so very clear we believe that we can rule on the basis of the content of his ruling, which we cite with favor. Par. 649 of the 1992 Discipline states: When conferences outside the United States which are parts of The United Methodist Church desire to become an Affiliated Autonomous Methodist or Affiliated United Church, approval shall first be secured from the Central Conference involved and this decision be ratified by the Annual Conferences within the Central Conference by two-thirds majority of the aggregate votes cast by the Annual Conferences. 1. The conference shall prepare an historical record with reasons why autonomy is requested and shall consult with the Commission on Central Conference Affairs (¶ 2301) on proceedings for autonomy. 2. The Commission on Central Conference Affairs and the conferences involved shall mutually agree on the confession of faith and the constitution of the new church. These shall be prepared with care and shall be approved by the conferences. 3. Preparation of its Discipline is the responsibility of the conference(s) desiring autonomy. 4. Upon recommendation of the Commission on Central Conference Affairs, when all Disciplinary requirements for affiliated autonomous relationship have been met, the General Conference through an enabling act shall approve of and grant permission for the conference(s) involved to become an Affiliated Autonomous Methodist or United Church. 5. Then the Central Conference involved shall meet, declare the present relationship between The United Methodist Church and the conference(s) involved dissolved, and reorganize as an Affiliated Autonomous Methodist or Affiliated United Church in accordance with the enabling act granted by the General Conference. The Commission on Central Conference Affairs shall assist in this process, and when the plans are consummated, report to the Council of Bishops. The proclamation of affiliated autonomous status shall then be signed by the president of the Council of Bishops and the secretary of the General Conference. 6. A plan of cooperation shall be developed in accordance with ¶ 648.6 above. The Constitution ¶ 36, Art. II states that: The Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church and as such shall have reserved to it the right to vote on all . . . matters relating to the character and conference relations of its ministerial members . . . and on such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference . . . Therefore, Bishop Irons ruled that, "Unless the Annual Conferences, one by one, request that the Central Conference grant them autonomy, the Central Conference cannot act to sever the membership of the Annual Conferences from The United Methodist Church." He says, "Furthermore, a Central Conference cannot remove all of its Annual Conferences from The United Methodist Church unless it does so case by case, Annual Conference by Annual Conference." The decision of the presiding bishop is correct.

Decision

The decision of Bishop Neil L. Irons that Central Conferences cannot remove Annual Conferences from The United Methodist Church except on the basis of an individual vote by each Annual Conference is affirmed.

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