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Decision No. 893

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October 26 2000
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference Related to the "New Model" for the Structure of the Annual Conference and its Conformity with the 1996 Discipline.

Digest of Case

The decision of law of Bishop C. Joseph Sprague that the "New Model" structure approved by the Annual Conference on June 3, 2000, is constitutional is not affirmed and the Northern Illinois Annual Conference is directed to continue to operate under the requirements of Decision 831. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction over any plan for restructuring the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. The final plan is to be submitted to the Judicial Council for review and approval prior to implementation.

Statement of Facts

On June 3, 2000, the Northern Illinois Annual Conference adopted a motion to approve the Report of the New Model Task Force as a basic structure of the Conference. This report called for the creation of an Implementation Team to develop the organizational structure for the Conference and to report back at a special called session of the Annual Conference in November, 2000. A ruling of law was requested and the bishop ruled that "[o]n the basis of Judicial Council decisions regarding those models and actions of the General Conference, I rule that the 'New Model' as adopted by the Northern Illinois Annual Conference June 3, 2000, is in conformity with the Discipline of The United Methodist Church." Larry Pickens recused himself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale In Decision 831, the Judicial Council ruled, "An Annual Conference cannot adopt a plan of restructure under constitutional authority given to the General Conference without General Conference enabling legislation. . . ." Although the 2000 General Conference passed certain legislation that may be construed to be enabling in character, this legislation is not in effect until January 1, 2001. Thus, the 1996 Discipline applies in the instant situation as well as all previous Judicial Council decisions concerning annual conference restructuring including Decision 831, which pertains specifically to the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. Likewise, Decision 831 states, ". . .All restructuring of an Annual Conference must preserve the connectional relationships of the denomination and recognize the separation of the legislative and executive branches under the Constitution." In the current case brought to the Judicial Council by the Northern Illinois Annual Conference, no specific structure has been approved which meets these criteria. The "New Model" approved by the Annual Conference on June 3, 2000, is not a completed product but has been referred to an Implementation Task Force to complete the structure for future approval by the Annual Conference. The Judicial Council is unable to rule at this time since the Annual Conference structure is incomplete. Therefore, the decision of the bishop is not affirmed and the Northern Illinois Annual Conference is directed to continue to operate under the requirements of Decision 831.

Decision

The decision of law of Bishop C. Joseph Sprague that the "New Model" structure approved by the Annual Conference on June 3, 2000, is constitutional is not affirmed and the Northern Illinois Annual Conference is directed to continue to operate under the requirements of Decision 831. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction over any plan for restructuring the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. The final plan is to be submitted to the Judicial Council for review and approval prior to implementation.

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