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Decision No. 842

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October 29 1998
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Virginia Annual Conference on the Legality of Adding to the Qualifications for Lay Members of General Conference as Outlined in ¶ 34 of the 1996 Discipline.

Digest of Case

The decision of Bishop Joe E. Pennell, Jr., that a $25 fee from each nominee for delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences would be unconstitutionally adding to the qualifications outlined in ¶ 34 of the1996 Discipline is affirmed. The part of the ruling that states that such fee paid by the district or agency does not add to the qualification of the individual nominee is not affirmed. Regardless of the source of payment of the fee, such a required fee would add to the qualifications in ¶ 34.

Statement of Facts

At the 1998 session of the Virginia Annual Conference a new provision was proposed for the rules of the Annual Conference. The rule stated in pertinent part that $25 per lay nominee for General and Jurisdiction Conferences would be forwarded along with the completed forms for nomination. The purpose of this fee was "to defray the cost of printing and distributing the nominee booklet." The Rev. James Hundley requested the bishop to rule on whether such a fee unconstitutionally adds to the requirements for Lay Members of General Conference as outlined in ¶ 34 of the 1996 Discipline. Bishop Joe. E. Pennell, Jr., ruled that the Annual Conference has no authority to add to the qualifications set by ¶ 34. He further ruled that the fee is not unconstitutional if paid by the district or agency which forwards the nomination, but the fee would be unconstitutional if the nominee were required to pay it. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis Par. 34 of the 1996 Discipline states the qualifications for election as delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences. It provides that they shall be elected by the lay members of the Annual Conference without regard to age so long as the persons elected shall have been members of The United Methodist Church for at least the two next preceding years and active participants for at least four years next preceding their election and are members of a church within the Annual Conference at the time the General and Jurisdictional Conferences take place. The purpose of the booklet was to provide lay members an opportunity to know who the candidates for election as delegates were and to provide information about those candidates. While the purpose is laudable, apparently there were persons who felt the cost of printing and distributing the booklet should be paid by some entity other than the conference itself. The $25 fee per nominee was intended to defray these costs. The proposed rule does not state explicitly who is to pay the fee, just that each district or agency shall submit the forms for nominations along with $25 per nominee. Clearly, the nominee may not be required to pay the fee. However, asking the district or agency to pay such a fee also adds to the qualifications for nominees. The implication is that if the fee is not paid, the person will not be a nominee. This is a clear contravention of ¶ 34. If the Virginia Annual Conference wishes to have a standing rule which requires it to have a booklet of the nomination forms for all persons meeting the qualifications listed in ¶ 34, the conference should bear the cost of producing and distributing the booklet just as it does for all other reports and documents.

Decision

The decision of Bishop Joe E. Pennell, Jr., that a $25 fee from each nominee for delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences would be unconstitutionally adding to the qualifications outlined in ¶ 34 of the1996 Discipline is affirmed. The part of the ruling that states that such fee paid by the district or agency does not add to the qualification of the individual nominee is not affirmed. Regardless of the source of payment of the fee, such a required fee would add to the qualifications in ¶ 34.

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