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Memorandum No. 918

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October 25 2001
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference on the Appropriateness of the Expenditure of Funds for a Special Called Session of the Western Jurisdictional Conference.

Digest of Case

The bishop’s decision of law that the request for a ruling on the appropriateness of the expenditure of funds for a special called session of the Western Jurisdictional Conference is premature and hypothetical is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

During the 2001 session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, a question of law was submitted in writing by a member of the annual conference to Bishop Elias Galvan in response to a resolution calling for the annual conference to appeal to the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops to convene a special interim session of the Western Jurisdictional Conference. The resolution states that the purpose of the special session will be: to spell out the implications of the witness contained in the “We will not be silent” declaration produced by the 2000 Western Jurisdictional Conference; to explore the meaning of our particular pattern of diversity within the Jurisdiction, and reflect upon its contribution to the General Church; to explore approaches for engaging challenging issues through respectful dialogue and discernment, reflecting on the various approaches of the Western Jurisdiction as potential contributions to the larger church; to explore opportunities for establishing coalitions with other Jurisdictions, Central Conferences, Annual Conferences, and groups within the United Methodist Church that share our commitment to diversity and seek a more inclusive church; to explore particular action steps for General Conference 2004. The resolution further provides that “[f]undings for this session may come from each Annual Conference, from the Jurisdictional Leadership Team, and from other personal contributions by delegates, participants, and non-delegates. The Jurisdictional Leadership Team will help plan creative cost-managing options for the session, and seek ways of funding the conference.” The questions submitted requested “a ruling on the appropriateness of expenditure of funds for a special called session of the Western Jurisdiction for the purposes of advocacy as outlined in the resolution adopted by the Annual Conference, if indeed the purpose is to consider ways promoting acceptance of homosexuality, as seems to be the purpose and goal of the proposed session. Please rule on the legal status of such a session based upon directive ¶ 806.9 of the Book of Discipline, and in light of Judicial Council Decisions #886 and #911.” The bishop’s decision was rendered timely as follows: Since the resolution is a request to the College of Bishops, who has the power to call a special session of the Jurisdictional Conference and define the purpose of such called session, and since the College has not called a special session nor set the purpose for the called session, and no moneys for expenditures have been approved at this time, I consider the request for a ruling on expenditure of money to be premature and hypothetical. The Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this case under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline. The question as presented to the bishop of the annual conference was not ripe for decision. Although the resolution says funds for the special session may come from each annual conference, as well as other sources, there is no indication in the records that the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference approved the expenditure of funds to support such a session. Moreover, as correctly noted by the bishop, no special session has been called. The authority to call a special session of a jurisdictional conference is given to the College of Bishops of the jurisdiction. ¶ 519.2, 2000 Discipline. Therefore, the ruling of the bishop is affirmed.

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