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Decision No. 878

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October 28 1999
In Re: Review of Structure of Louisiana Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

The revised structure plan adopted by the Louisiana Annual Conference on June 8, 1999 does not comply with the 1996 Discipline and Judicial Council decisions. Any annual conference structure must meet constitutional and disciplinary requirements and comply with Judicial Council decisions. The Judicial Council remands the Conference Structure and Rules of the Louisiana Annual Conference for revision, with the direction that said structure is null, void and of no effect, until such structure is revised, adopted by the annual conference and resubmitted to the council for review and approval.

Statement of Facts

The Louisiana Annual Conference voted to adopt revisions to its conference structure in June 1997 and again in June 1998. At the latter session, the bishop was asked to render a decision of law concerning the legality of the adopted structure. The bishop ruled that the structure was in compliance with the 1996 Discipline, as well as the rulings of the Judicial Council. This ruling was reviewed by the Judicial Council in Decision 835. It was found to be in violation of the Discipline and remanded to the annual conference for revision. Decision 835 states: The bishop's ruling that the structure of the Louisiana Annual Conference is in compliance with the 1996 Discipline of The United Methodist Church, as well as the rulings of the Judicial Council, is reversed. The Louisiana Annual Conference structure plan is hereby remanded to the Louisiana Annual Conference to be revised accordingly and resubmitted to the Judicial Council for review and approval. The Louisiana Conference was asked to address several specific matters related to their structure plan which was revised, adopted in June 1999 and resubmitted to the Judicial Council. The council cited Decision 815, which sets forth the constitutional and disciplinary requirements for conference structure, including the essential connectional relationships. Emphasis was placed on a structure plan that does more than simply provide an organizational chart listing all required board and agencies with names and addresses. The decisions related to a structure plan were 314, 339, 411, 417, 418, 640, 680, 815, 827, and 831. In addition to other matters, concern was raised regarding the power and authority of the bishop which had been noted in Decision 831. Further, in Decision 835 the council set forth essential guidelines for proper facilitation of any change of structure by any Annual Conference in accordance with the 1996 Discipline, which state: 1. All boards, commissions, and committees mandated by the Discipline shall be maintained, clearly identified and defined, and the connectional relationships shall be clear and obvious. The name of any equivalent structure must be defined by name, function, connection and membership. 2. An Annual Conference cannot vote to approve, disapprove or modify the Discipline in development of a structure plan. The mandated boards, commissions, and committees cannot be removed or reinstated in restructuring. The mandated boards, commissions, and committees simply must exist. 3. The delegation of functions of the mandated boards, commissions, and committees is improper. 4. The connectional relationships and functions cannot be on paper only, but must be legitimate, working connections and functions with appropriately adopted budgets finally approved by the Annual Conference. 5. The prescribed number of members, the method of nomination and election, fixed terms and diversity of membership must be exactly as stated in the 1996 Discipline. This disciplinary mandate is applicable to any equivalent for boards, commissions, and committees for which the "disciplinary name" has been changed. 6. Annual Conference rules on structure which constitute a vote on the Discipline are improper. (Decisions 476, 700 and 714.) 7. The method of funding each structure must be defined in the adopted plan, including submission in the prescribed manner in the 1996 Discipline, to the Conference Council on Finance and Administration and for final action by the Annual Conference. 8. Connectional relationships must encompass the local church, district, Annual Conference and General Conference where mandated by the 1996 Discipline. 9. Conferences are urged to give careful attention to the 1996 Discipline and review previous decisions ( See Decisions 314, 339, 411,417 ,<U> 418, 640, 680, 815, 827, and 831.) Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The Louisiana Annual Conference structure plan adopted in June 1999 complies with the guidelines in Decision 835 (See guidelines numbered 1-8 above) in relation to the following numbered guidelines: 1. Connectional relationships 3. Functions of mandated structures 4. Budgeting for the functions of mandated structure 7. Method of funding each structure 8. Connectional relationships encompass those mandated by the Discipline To comply with the Discipline, the conference plan must address the following numbered guidelines from Decision 835: 2. Revise the wording of the Conference Structure and Rules to comply with the authority of the Discipline. Articles II and III as currently stated give the annual conference an illegal vote on establishment of mandated annual conference boards, committees and commissions. Authority is not granted the annual conference to approve, disapprove or modify the Discipline. 5. Correct the number of members, the method of nominations and elections, fixed terms, and diversity on annual conference boards, committees and commissions where it is not consistent with the 1996 Discipline. In some instances the rules express improper mandatory language for quotas which properly should read "it is recommended that" one-third be laity, etc. (See Decisions 362 and 601). In addition, the number of members for Equitable Compensation does not comply with Par. 622. 6. Identify direct quotations of paragraphs from the Discipline (i.e., Pars. 633 and 637) as quotations in the "Conference Structure and Rules." (See Decisions 476, 700, and 714). Decision 476 states, "An Annual Conference does not have the prerogative to vote to approve, disapprove, or modify actions of the General Conference." The district structure related to Par. 655 is permissive and not an issue in the plan. Decision 590 affirms that the annual conference cannot delegate authority given to it by the Constitution and Discipline. (Also, see Decisions 78, 79, 380, 400, 584.) For example, that means that the functions of the council on finance and administration cannot be delegated to the Conference Ministry Team or another disciplinary board. To illustrate the concern cited in guideline number 2 above, the only option for an annual conference vote on structure under the 1996 Discipline is to vote on a substitute equivalent structure which maintains the connection and the prescribed functions and membership. If the resulting vote is a negative vote, the disciplinary structure continues without any further action by the annual conference. To illustrate guideline number 5 above, membership on the required disciplinary boards, commissions and committees or equivalent structure shall be adjusted to reflect the composition as stated in the Discipline. For examples, (1) Conference Council on Finance and Administration requires that "in every case there shall be at least one layperson more than clergy included on the council." (Par. 609.2a); ( 2) Equitable Compensation membership shall be equal laity and clergy, which means Article II B 4 with nine members requires adjustment. A review of all of the membership composition on boards, commissions and committees shall be followed to affirm compliance with the 1996 Discipline. The council reaffirms Decisions 815 and 827. (Also, see Decisions 339, 411, 640, 680, 712.) The adoption of any new annual conference structure that conflicts with requirements for structures and functions specified by the General Conference are void and of no effect. The 1996 amended Par. 15.15 of the Constitution does not provide for restructure by an Annual Conference without the existing mandatory structures and functions for boards, commissions and committees. These are found primarily in Pars. 608, 628-651, 2512, 2626 (excluding permissive structures in Pars. 636, 647 and 651). The revised structure plan adopted by the Louisiana Annual Conference on June 8, 1999 does not comply with the 1996 Discipline and Judicial Council Decisions. Any annual conference structure must meet with constitutional, disciplinary and comply with Judicial Council decisions. The cited illustrations are not purported to be exhaustive of adjustments needed in the Louisiana structure plan. Careful application of the noted guidelines must be applied to a revision of the plan.

Decision

The revised structure plan adopted by the Louisiana Annual Conference on June 8, 1999 does not comply with the 1996 Discipline and Judicial Council decisions. Any annual conference structure must meet constitutional and disciplinary requirements and comply with Judicial Council decisions. The Judicial Council remands the Conference Structure and Rules of the Louisiana Annual Conference for revision, with the direction that said structure is null, void and of no effect, until such structure is revised, adopted by the annual conference and resubmitted to the Council for review and approval.

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