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Decision No. 884

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April 30 2000
In Re: Request from the General Conference Committee on Correlation and Editorial Revision for a Declaratory Decision on Petitions Relating to Paragraphs 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and .2 of the 1996 Discipline Which Have Been Declared Unconstitutional.

Digest of Case

All petitions to the 2000 General Conference which seek to amend Paragraphs 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and .2 of the 1996 Discipline which have been declared unconstitutional, are out of order and shall not be considered by the 2000 General Conference. The 2000 General Conference shall not re-adopt any paragraphs of the 1996 Discipline, which have been declared unconstitutional, under Par. 4 of the Constitution including but not limited to Pars. 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and .2 of the 1996 Discipline. Par. 4 of the Constitution requires every individual personally to take the appropriate vows to become a member of a local church.

Statement of Facts

A number of petitions seeking to amend Pars. 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and .2 of the 1996 Discipline were submitted to the 2000 General Conference. The four questions raised by the petitioner are: 1. Since Decision 811 restored Paragraphs 216.4, 222-224, 232.1 and .2 of the 1992 Book of Discipline, can the petition submitted, which amend the language in the 1996 Book of Discipline, be received and acted upon by the legislative committee as they are presented? 2. If so, can legislation as perfected by the legislative committee using 1996 language, be adopted by the General Conference as legislation replacing the 1992 paragraphs without re-adopting the 1996 language? 3. Would the effect of adopting this legislation be to replace the relevant 1992 paragraphs? If not, would the 1996 legislation have to be reintroduced (as amended by the legislative committee) and then re-adopted in its entirely? (sic) 4. To complete the work of these provisions would it require separately stating that it replaces the 1992 language? Pars. 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and .2 of the 1996 Discipline were declared unconstitutional by the Judicial Council in Decision 811. Decision 811 restored the provisions of the 1992 Discipline relating to membership categories, "preparatory membership" and "full membership," including Pars. 216.4, 222-224, 232.1 and 2 (1992 Discipline), which currently remain as the governing law of The United Methodist Church. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The questions raised by the committee relate to the process for amendment of provisions of the 1996 Discipline, which were declared unconstitutional in Decision 811. The rationale for declaring the 1996 paragraphs unconstitutional is set forth in Decision 811. Paragraphs of the Discipline which have been declared unconstitutional cannot be amended; nor can paragraphs or language which have been declared unconstitutional be re-adopted without constitutional change. Any legislation which is based on constitutional change cannot precede the process of amending the Constitution. Paragraph 57 states: Amendments to the Constitution shall be made upon a two-thirds majority of the General Conference present and voting and a two-thirds affirmative vote of the aggregate number of members of the several annual conferences present and voting, except in the case of the first and second Restrictive Rules, which shall require a three-fourths majority of all the members of the annual conferences present and voting. The vote, after being completed, shall be canvassed by the Council of Bishops, and the amendment voted upon shall become effective upon their announcement of its having received the required majority. A constitutional amendment adopted by the General Conference requires ". . .a two-thirds affirmative vote of the aggregate number of members of the several annual conferences present and voting. . ." An amendment shall become effective upon the announcement by the Council of Bishops. Only then can legislation on the related amended paragraphs be proposed to the next General Conference. All petitions to the 2000 General Conference which seek to amend Pars. 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and .2 of the 1996 Discipline are out of order and shall not be considered by the 2000 General Conference. The submitted petitions address paragraphs of the 1996 Discipline, which were declared unconstitutional by Decision 811. Further, any attempt to re-adopt the 1996 Discipline language of the noted paragraphs would also be out of order for the reason that the relevant paragraphs of the 1996 Discipline violated Par. 4 of the Constitution and have been declared unconstitutional. (See Decision 811.) Decision 811 states "while theological changes may have taken place in some members' understanding of how baptism is related to church membership and 'the growing ecumenical consensus' assisted the Study Committee in their thinking, and the inclusion of the provision that only professing members are to be included for statistical purposes, no change which abolishes the vow requirement can be legislated without amending the Constitution." Decision 811 further states that such legislation violates Par. 4 of the Constitution, which requires every individual personally to take the appropriate vows to become a member of a local church. All legislation based on the definitions of "baptized members" and "professing members" as set forth in the 1996 Discipline is unconstitutional.

Decision

All petitions to the 2000 General Conference which seek to amend Pars. 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and .2 of the 1996 Discipline which have been declared unconstitutional, are out of order and shall not be considered by the 2000 General Conference. The 2000 General Conference shall not re-adopt any paragraphs of the 1996 Discipline, which have been declared unconstitutional, under Par. 4 of the Constitution including but not limited to Pars. 215, 222.1-5, 227.2, 231.1 and .2 of the 1996 Discipline. Par. 4 of the Constitution requires every individual personally to take the appropriate vows to become a member of a local church.

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