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Decision No. 874

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October 28 1999
In Re: Review of Bishop's Ruling of Law on Whether the General Council on Finance Administration Should Stop All Funds (Salaries) Being Paid to Those United Methodist Bishops Who Voted in Favor of Providing University Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners.

Digest of Case

The decision of Bishop William W. Morris that the question asked was moot, hypothetical and improper is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

On June 2, 1999, during a regular session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, a lay member asked for a ruling of law as follows: In view of the fact Emory University is owned by the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church and numerous clergy within the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church are graduates of Candler School of Theology, a part of Emory University, I hereby request a Ruling of Law on Paragraph 806.12 from the 1996 Book of Discipline per the following: On July 13, 1995, the Emory University Board of Trustees voted to provide same-sex domestic partners with the same benefits given to married couples. The General Council on Finance and Administration is charged in Paragraph 806.12 to ensure that no United Methodist funds are used to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. Judicial Council Decision 665 states, Par. 806.12 "is clear in its intent that no United Methodist funds are to be used to fund any gay groups nor to promote homosexuality." Decision 665 also states, "If such is discovered, the General Council on Finance Administration has the right and responsibility to stop such expenditures." The United Methodist bishops on the Emory University Board of Trustees, whose salaries are paid from The Episcopal Fund (under direct control of the General Council on Finance and Administration) voting in favor of allowing same-sex benefits have, in fact, acted in a manner that does "promote the acceptance of homosexuality" and for them to continue receiving United Methodist funds is in conflict with Par. 806.12, 1996 Book of Discipline. Bishop Morris on the question for a ruling of law - in the application of Paragraph 806.12 - 1996 Book of Discipline per its wording and in light of Decision 665, should the General Council on Finance and Administration stop all funds (salaries) being paid to those United MethodistBbishops who voted in favor of providing University Benefits to same-sex domestic partners, since their actions clearly constitute the promotion of homosexuality? I might point out, the Southern Methodist University Board of Trustees recently voted not to allow same-sex domestic partners benefits, even though the University has included "sexual orientation" in its Equal Opportunity Policy. The bishop responded that the request was moot, hypothetical and improper. Susan Henry-Crowe recused herself and did not participate in any of the preceedings related to this decision. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under the provisions of Par. 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale Bishop Morris ruled that the request for a ruling of law was moot, hypothetical and improper and gave a brief explanation for each ruling on each part of the request. His response to each part of the request for a ruling follows: Paragraph 806.12 is stated as the basis for the request. Paragraph 806.12 has no jurisdiction over Emory University since it is owned by the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Judicial Council Decision 491 emphasizes that paragraph 806.12 of the Book of Discipline refers solely to boards, agencies, committees, commissions, and councils of the General Church. It does not apply to jurisdictional institutions. Therefore, the interpretation given is moot (see Judicial Council Decision 491). Secondly, the request is speculative and hypothetical since it asks "what should the General Council on Finance and Administration do if bishops voted for benefits for same-sex domestic partners." It is also hypothetical in that no bishops are named and it is assumed they voted for it when no record of the vote is presented thereby establishing how the votes were cast. The request for a ruling states that the salary of the bishops who signed should be withheld. Paragraph 413.1, 2, 3 indicates the proper procedure for dealing with bishops who violate the law. Consequently, this aspect of the request is improper. Par. 49 of the 1996 Book of Discipline gives bishops the power to rule on matters of law. Decisions 33 and 799 indicate that the request must relate to "some action taken or proposed to be taken by the conference where there is doubt about the legality of the action taken or proposed (see Judicial Council Decision 33). There was no action taken or proposed by the Annual Conference, consequently the request continued to be improper. Based upon Judicial Council Decisions 33, 799, and the most recent Decisions 396, 651, 747, 762, and 763, the ruling is that the request for a ruling of law is moot, hypothetical and improper. We affirm the bishop's ruling, on the basis of the analysis and rationale as stated.

Decision

The decision of Bishop William W. Morris that the question asked was moot, hypothetical and improper is affirmed.

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