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Decision No. 837

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October 29 1998
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the North Texas Annual Conference on the Legality of the Definition of "Self-Avowed Practicing Homosexual" Passed by a Clergy Session, During a Special Session of the North Texas Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

The decision of Bishop William B. Oden in the North Texas Annual Conference is affirmed that in order to legally define "self-avowed practicing homosexual", the definition must include identification of the persons or groups to whom the self-acknowledgment is to be made.

Statement of Facts

the March 26, 1994 special session of the North Texas Annual Conference, the clergy session passed the following definition: "A self-avowed practicing homosexual is a person who engages in, and openly acknowledges, genital sexual behavior with another of the same sex." Subsequently at the June, 1998 session of the North Texas Annual Conference, Bishop William B. Oden was asked to render a decision of law concerning the legality of this definition in light of Decision 722. Bishop Oden ruled that while the definition was "helpful and instructive" it was "insufficient and does not meet Disciplinary guidelines" because "acknowledgment cannot be by hearsay or second person, but must be made directly to a bishop, district superintendent, member of the Board of Ordained Ministry, or clergy session ... The North Texas definition does not in any way identify the persons or groups before whom the acknowledgment would take place". Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The bishop is affirmed. In Decision 722, the Judicial Council ruled that "an adequate definition of 'self-avowed' must address the question of to whom the avowal shall be made so that identification is not dependent on the testimony of others." Additionally, the authority to define terms in the Discipline rests primarily upon the General Conference, and to a lesser extent upon the Annual Conferences. (See Decision 702) In the instant matter, however, the definition in question was passed by the clergy session only. Although this issue was not raised before us, and is made moot by the foregoing, there is no Disciplinary authority for a part of the Annual Conference approving a definition without presentation to and approval by the entire body of the Annual Conference.

Decision

The decision of Bishop William B. Oden in the North Texas Annual Conference is affirmed that in order to legally define "self-avowed practicing homosexual", the definition must include identification of the persons or groups to whom the self-acknowledgment is to be made.

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