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Decision No. 805

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October 23 1997
In Re: Review of Decision of Law of Bishop Bruce P. Blake on the Matter of Autonomy for Annual Conferences Within the Philippines Central Conference.

Digest of Case

The decision of Bishop Bruce P. Blake is affirmed. The five petitions from the Annual Conferences within the Baguio Episcopal Area (Northern Philippines, Northeast Philippines, Northwest Philippines, North Central Philippines, and Central Luzon Philippines) requesting that the Philippines Central Conference approve an affiliated autonomous structure for the whole United Methodist Church in the Philippines were out of order.

Statement of Facts

Bishop Bruce P. Blake while presiding at the Philippines Central Conference of The United Methodist Church meeting November 26 through December 1, 1996, in Cabanataun City was asked to make a ruling of law on whether five petitions from the Annual Conferences within the Baguio Episcopal Area: Northern Philippines, Northeast Philippines, Northwest Philippines, North Central Philippines, and Central Luzon Philippines, were in order. The petitions requested the Philippines Central Conference "to approve an affiliated autonomous structure for the whole United Methodist Church in the Philippines and that the action of the Philippines Central Conference be ratified by the other annual conferences which have not expressed any desire to dissolve their ecclesial relationships with The United Methodist Church." The bishop ruled that the five petitions were out of order because they were in conflict with Par. 649 of the 1992 Discipline and with Decision 793. This matter is before the Judicial Council for the purpose of reviewing Bishop Blake's ruling. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The basic issue in this case is whether the bishop's ruling is supported by Par. 649 of the 1992 Discipline and Decision 793. At issue is whether or not the Philippines Central Conference by its own action can remove Annual Conferences from The United Methodist Church which have not expressed a desire to become affiliated autonomous churches. Par. 649 of the 1992 Discipline states that the first step in an Annual Conference seeking to be an Affiliated Autonomous Methodist Church is for the Annual Conference to vote its desire. This is in accordance with Constitution Par. 36, Art. II, which states: "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...." Decision 793 defined the issue further when it affirmed Bishop Irons' ruling 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. 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 affirmed.

Decision

The decision of Bishop Bruce P. Blake that the five petitions from the Annual Conferences within the Baguio Episcopal Area (Northern Philippines, Northeast Philippines, Northwest Philippines, North Central Philippines, and Central Luzon Philippines) were out of order because they were in conflict with Par. 649 of the 1992 Discipline and with Decision 793 is affirmed. This copy subject to final editing and correction.

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