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Decision No. 873

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October 28 1999
In Re: Review of Bishop's Ruling of Law in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference on Whether the Conference Structure Is in Compliance with the 1996 Book of Discipline.

Digest of Case

The decision of Bishop George W. Bashore that the request for a ruling of law was improper because it did not relate to the business, consideration or discussion of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference in its 1999 session is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

A clergy member of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference submitted the following request for a ruling of law to Bishop Bashore during the 1999 session of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church: WHEREAS, The Book of Discipline provides for a connectional structure for our Annual Conference (¶ 607); and WHEREAS, ¶¶ 608, 622, 628, 629, 630, 631, 632, 633, 634, 635, 636, 637, 638, 639, 640, 641, 642, 643, 644, 645, 646, 648, 649 and 650 provide for specific groups and functions and mandates their inclusion; and, WHEREAS, some but not all of the above agencies are specifically named in our Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference structure; and WHEREAS, The Book of Discipline also permits the Annual Conference to provide for these functions and maintain the connectional relationship (¶ 607). THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that our resident Bishop George Bashore rule on the question of law as to whether our present annual conference organizational structure fulfills the requirements of the above paragraphs In response to this request, Bishop Bashore made the following ruling of law on July 1, 1999: This question of law did not relate to the business, consideration or discussion of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (the "Conference") during its 1999 session, nor was this question raised during deliberations of any specific matter upon which the Conference took action and therefore it is an improper question of law. Even if the question were proper, the Conference has in place a structure that provides for the functions and the General Conference connections with all agencies required by the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church-1996. The Conference has organized units, which provide for the required ministries while preserving the connectional relationships that are required of each annual conference in accordance with Judicial Council decisions 815; 835 and 848. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under the provisions of Par. 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale A clergy member of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference posed a question that was not germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the 1999 session of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference, and Bishop Bashore ruled that the request for a ruling of law, in this instance, was improper because it failed to state the connection to a specific action under consideration by the conference. He further stated that the question was not raised during the deliberation of a specific issue or matter upon which the conference took action, citing Decision 799. The Judicial Council affirms the ruling of the bishop with this word of caution concerning future rulings. It would have been better if the bishop had chosen not to comment on the question posed by the clergy member since it was clearly an improper request for a decision of law. In choosing to answer the question raised by the clergy member as an accommodation to him, and in an effort to be responsive to an inquiry of a conference member, the bishop confused the issue of whether the question was indeed an improper question. The Judicial Council did not review the conference structure because it was not properly before us.

Decision

The decision of Bishop George W. Bashore that the request for a ruling of law was improper because it did not relate to the business, consideration or discussion of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference in its 1999 session is affirmed.

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