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Decision No. 900

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October 26 2000
In Re: Consideration of the Amended Structure of the Louisiana Annual Conference as Required by Decision 878.

Digest of Case

The revised and amended Structure and Rules of the Louisiana Annual Conference adopted on June, 2000 do not comply with the 1996 Discipline and Judicial Council decisions. When an annual conference seeks to establish its own structure, that structure must be in accordance with the requirements of the Discipline and Judicial Council decisions in order to be constitutional. The structure is null and void and of no effect until such time that the deficiencies are cured and the Judicial Council approves the structure. The Conference Structure and Rules are hereby remanded to the Louisiana Annual Conference for further action.

Statement of Facts

On June 5, 2000, the Louisiana Annual Conference convened in annual session in Shreveport, Louisiana. During the session, the Annual Conference voted to amend its Conference Structure and Rules to comply with Judicial Council Decision 878. The structure and rules of the Louisiana Annual Conference have been before the Judicial Council for review and approval on two prior occasions. On June 5, 1997, the Annual Conference voted to adopt revisions to its structure, which became effective January 1, 1998. Due to concerns about the legality of some parts of the structure, the Annual Conference adopted certain changes at its June, 1998 session. (See Decision 835) During the 1998 session, the bishop was asked to rule on the legality of the adopted structure. The bishop ruled that the structure complied with the 1996 Discipline and the rulings of the Judicial Council. Upon review, the Judicial Council reversed the ruling of the bishop, finding the structure did not comply with the 1996 Discipline or the rulings of the Judicial Council. The structure and rules were remanded to the Annual Conference for revision and resubmission to the Judicial Council for review and approval. Decision 835 sets forth nine essential guidelines for the Annual Conference to follow in order to facilitate any change of its structure. They are: 1. All boards, commissions, and committees mandated by the Discipline shall be maintained, clearly identified and defined, and the connectional relationship 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 467,700, 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, 418, 640, 680, 815, 827, and 831.) The plan was revised June 8, 1999 in response to Decision 835 and resubmitted to the Judicial Council. The revised plan was reviewed by the Judicial Council and Decision 878 was rendered. Decision 878 held that the . . . plan adopted in June 1999 compli[ed] with the guidelines in Decision 835. . . in relation to the following numbered guidelines: 1. Connectional relationships 3. Functions of mandated structure 4. Budgeting for the functions of mandated structure 7. Method of funding each structure 8. Connectional relationships encompass those mandated by the Discipline Decision 878 additionally held that "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 ¶ 622. 6. Identify direct quotations of paragraphs from the Discipline (i.e., ¶¶ 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 Judicial Council held the structure and rules to be null, void and of no effect. The plan was remanded to the Annual Conference for revision, adoption and resubmission to the Judicial Council for review and approval. (See Decision 878) The revised and adopted structure and rules of June, 2000 are now back before the Judicial Council. Sally Curtis AsKew recused herself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has continuing jurisdiction under ¶ 2616 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The General Conference has granted to an annual conference the power to adopt rules and regulations, for its own government, that are not in conflict with the Discipline of The United Methodist Church. (¶ 604.1, 1996 Discipline) In like manner, an annual conference has the power, consistent with the Discipline, to select members of all standing committees, boards, and commissions of the annual conference. (¶ 605.3) It has the responsibility to structure "its ministries in order to accomplish its purpose . . .," (¶ 607) ". . . to make disciples for Jesus Christ. . . ." (¶ 601) A structure that does not comply with the Discipline is null and void and of no effect. (Decision 878) The Louisiana Annual Conference's latest attempt to correct the deficiencies in its structure and rules still falls short of the disciplinary mandates. The Annual Conference's composition of the boards, commissions and committees does not comply with the Discipline and Judicial Council decisions. This deficiency is noted in the membership of the conference council on finance and administration. The conference structure provides that "[t]he membership shall consist of twelve members. It is recommended that one-third of the membership be clergy, one-third shall be laywomen, and one-third shall be laymen." The Judicial Council noted in Decision 878 that the mandatory requirement of quotas in membership is unconstitutional. While the number of members set by the Annual Conference for the conference council is within the prescribed limit, the rules do not provide for or recognize the members that are mandated by ¶ 709.b) of the Discipline to sit on this conference council. This deficiency, as it relates to recognition of mandatory membership on the boards, commissions and committees of an annual conference, is noted throughout the structure and rules of this Annual Conference. The Annual Conference must bring the membership of its boards, commissions and committees in compliance with the Discipline. The conference structure must recognize and comply with the inclusiveness of membership as mandated by the Discipline. For example, ¶ 628.2 of the Discipline mandates that the guidelines of inclusiveness of ¶ 607.2 of the Discipline be followed in constituting the membership of the Board of Church and Society. Where mandated by the Discipline, these guidelines must be incorporated in the structure and reflected in the constituent membership. The fixed term of the annual conference boards, commissions and committees must not be inconsistent with the Discipline. The Judicial Council notes that the structure provided for the Board of Global Ministries members to be elected for a four year term. As mandated by the Discipline, the structure also provided for the conference secretary of global ministries to be a member of this annual conference board. The structure does not, however, provide that the holder of this office be elected annually as required by the Discipline. The amended plan fails to identify direct quotations of paragraphs of the Discipline. The structure of the Board of Ordained Ministry still has this deficiency. In Decision 476 we held that ". . .an Annual Conference may include in its own rules quotations from the Discipline with the understanding that they do not vote on the essence of such quotations. When quotations are included, they should be exact and with proper designation as to source." The amended structure and rules do not comply with the 1996 Discipline and Judicial Council decisions. The Judicial Council does not approve the structure. The deficiencies noted herein are not exhaustive. The Louisiana Annual Conference must review the entire plan for compliance with the Discipline and Judicial Council decisions. Upon review and adoption, the complete conference structure and rules must be resubmitted to the Judicial Council for review and approval.

Decision

The revised and amended Structure and Rules of the Louisiana Annual Conference adopted on June, 2000 do not comply with the 1996 Discipline and Judicial Council decisions. When an annual conference seeks to establish its own structure, that structure must be in accordance with the requirements of the Discipline and Judicial Council decisions in order to be constitutional. The structure is null and void and of no effect until such time that the deficiencies are cured and the Judicial Council approves the structure. The Conference Structure and Rules are hereby remanded to the Louisiana Annual Conference for further action.

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