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Decision No. 914

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October 25 2001
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the West Virginia Annual Conference on Questions Related to a Restructure Plan Adopted by the Annual Conference in its 2001 Session.

Digest of Case

The decisions of law of Bishop S. Clifton Ives are affirmed for questions 1 – 3 and reversed for question 4. The proposed plan for restructuring the West Virginia Annual Conference is remanded for revision of the restructuring plan and the Standing Rules of the Conference as well as completion of the supporting budget. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction and the final plan for restructuring the Annual Conference, Standing Rules of the Conference and enabling budget plan are to be submitted to the council for its approval.

Statement of Facts

The West Virginia Annual Conference began its effort to restructure the Conference with its 1996 session. At this time a task force was established which over the next several years was modified as far as its composition was concerned. The first meeting occurred in September 1997 and a series of meetings continued in preparation for the 2001 session of the Annual Conference at which time the Vision Team offered the report of the Task Force on Restructuring. With one amendment the plan for restructuring was approved by the Annual Conference. Subsequently, on June 16, 2001, Bishop S. Clifton Ives was requested to make a decision of law on the “Structure for Mission and Ministry” approved by the West Virginia Annual Conference. This request was composed of four questions: 1. Does paragraph 15.15 of the 2000 Book of Discipline give the West Virginia Annual Conference full authority to re-structure itself as it sees fit? 2. Does the Proposed Structure for Mission and Ministry, adopted yesterday, Friday, June 15, 2001, in plenary session of the West Virginia Annual Conference meet the requirements of paragraph 15.15 of the 2000 Book of Discipline? 3. Does the adopted structure fully meet the requirements of paragraph 608 of the 2000 Book of Discipline? 4. Does the adopted structure fully meet the requirements of precedent setting portions of previous Judicial Council Decisions? (See Decision Numbers 314, 339, 411, 417, 418, 640, 815, 827, 831, 835, 848, 878, 893, and 909). The bishop responded to each of the four questions as follows: 1. The annual conference has authority to structure itself as defined by ¶ 15.15 and ¶ 608. It may not restructure itself "as it sees fit.” 2. The "Proposed Structure" as adopted is allowed by and meets the requirements of ¶ 15.15 of the 2000 Book of Discipline. 3. The "Proposed Structure" document adopted by the annual conference does meet the requirements of ¶ 608. 4. The Vision Task Force in presenting the "Proposed Structure" was mindful of previous Judicial Council Decisions regarding conference restructuring and has been faithful to The Discipline and to previous Judicial Council Rulings. The Standing Rules of the Annual Conference were not changed to meet the requirements of the “Proposed Structure” and the council on finance and administration was requested to conform the annual conference budget to the new structure at its October 2001 meeting. Both of these requirements were set forth in the report on the “Proposed Structure.” Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale A review of the “Proposed Structure” as adopted by the 2001 West Virginia Annual Conference reveals that it meets the requirements for structuring an annual conference as set forth in ¶ 15.15 and ¶ 608 of the Discipline. The Annual Conference is to be commended for its efforts at meeting the requirements of Decision 878. However, the Annual Conference failed to meet the requirements of Decision 909, which requires an annual conference to “act legislatively to define these relationships by amending its Standing Rules.” It does not meet the requirements of Decision 835 which states that “the method of funding each structure must be defined in the adopted plan, including submission in the prescribed manner…to the conference council on finance and administration and for final action by the Annual Conference.” The “Proposed Structure” as presented and adopted by the West Virginia Annual Conference states that these requirements have yet to be approved by the Annual Conference. In order to meet the requirements set forth in Decisions 909 and 835, greater specificity in functions and relationships is required. Particular areas where the need for specificity still exists include: 1. The relationship between and the interaction of the Ministry Teams and the Covenant Council - The West Virginia Annual Conference must define with particularity the powers and authority of the Covenant Council with respect to the Ministry Teams and Special Task Groups. Key in this development is the need to define the role and responsibilities and interaction of the leadership of the Covenant Council’s “Facilitating Team.” In this regard the role of the bishop should be specifically identified. 2. Delineation of the role of the Vision Accountability Team – What specific roles will this body play? Who has voting rights within the group? The Annual Conference must indicate the manner in which decisions by the Vision Accountability Team impact the function and work of the Covenant Council. Distinguishing the separation of executive and legislative authority is required. 3. Staff configuration – The plan must delineate in greater detail the roles and responsibilities of staff and how they interact within the proposed structure. The bishop’s decisions of law for questions 1-3 are affirmed. The bishop’s decision of law for question 4 is reversed. The proposed plan for restructuring the Annual Conference is remanded for completion of the work by the West Virginia Annual Conference, the conference council on finance and administration and the Conference Committee on Rules. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction. The Annual Conference is required to submit its final plan including its revised Standing Rules and Budget Plan for approval by the council.

Decision

The decisions of law of Bishop S. Clifton Ives are affirmed for questions 1 – 3 and reversed for question 4. The proposed plan for restructuring the West Virginia Annual Conference is remanded for revision of the restructuring plan and the Standing Rules of the Conference as well as completion of the supporting budget. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction and the final plan for restructuring the Annual Conference, Standing Rules of the Conference and enabling budget plan are to be submitted to the council for its approval.

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