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Decision No. 855

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April 22 1999
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Northern Illinois Conference Relating to Legality of a Special Clergy Session of the Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

A special clergy session of the Annual Conference may be convened by the bishop, upon consultation with the Cabinet and executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry, at a different time and place from the regular session of the Annual Conference, provided that the special session shall have only such powers as stated in the call of the special session. The ruling of the bishop is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

This matter was deferred from the fall 1998 Judicial Council session to request additional material. This material has been provided. A special clergy session of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference was held on May 20, 1998, at Freeport, Illinois. The regular session of the Annual Conference was held on June 6-9, 1998, at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois. When the regular session of the Annual Conference convened, a full clergy member of the Annual Conference petitioned the bishop for a decision of law as to the legality of the special clergy session. The petitioner indicated that his position was that the holding of a special clergy session of the Annual Conference at a different time and at a different site from the regular session was in violation of that portion of ¶ 324 of the 1996 Discipline which states: There shall be an annual meeting of this covenant body in executive session of clergy members in full connection with the annual conference, including both deacons and elders, at the site of the regular session of the annual conference to consider questions relating to matters of ordination, character, and conference relations. The bishop ruled that the special clergy session of the Annual Conference held on May 20, 1998, in Freeport, Illinois was not in violation of ¶ 324 of the 1996 Discipline. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The bishop’s ruling is based on his interpretation of that portion of ¶ 324 of the 1996 Discipline which states: A special session of the annual conference may be held at such time and at such place as the bishop shall determine after consultation with the cabinet and the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry. A special clergy session shall have only such powers as stated in the call. The language in that portion of ¶ 324 upon which the bishop relied for the basis of his ruling is ambiguous. At first reading it appears that this portion of the paragraph has reference to a special session of the entire Annual Conference. However, a more thorough examination of this portion of ¶ 324 and its context leads to the conclusion that this portion of the paragraph does refer to a special clergy session. Several things support this conclusion. First, the procedures for calling a special Annual Conference session are set forth in ¶ 603.5 which says: A special session of the annual conference may be held at such time and in such place as shall have been determined by the annual conference after consultation with the bishop, or by the bishop with the concurrence of three fourths of the district superintendents. A special session of the annual conference shall have only such powers as are stated in the call. It is clear that the procedures for calling a special session of the Annual Conference are different from those specified in ¶ 324. Second, the references to consultation with the Cabinet and the executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry strongly imply that this portion of ¶ 324 refers to calling a special clergy session. Third, the last sentence in that portion of ¶ 324 which states: "A special clergy session shall have only such powers as stated in the call," gives further credence to an interpretation that the reference to a special session of the Annual Conference is intended to mean a special clergy session of the Annual Conference. The bishop indicated in his brief that proper consultation was made with the Cabinet and the executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry prior to the convening of the special clergy session. The letter calling the special clergy session clearly stated the purpose of the meeting and its powers. That being the case, there was no violation of ¶ 324 of the 1996 Discipline.

Decision

A special clergy session of the Annual Conference may be convened by the bishop, upon consultation with the Cabinet and executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry, at a different time and place from the regular session of the Annual Conference, provided that the special session shall have only such powers as stated in the call of the special session. The ruling of the bishop is affirmed.

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