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Decision No. 946

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October 24 2002
In Re: Review of Bishop Decision of Law in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference on Whether Prohibiting Annual Conference Members from Participating in Legislative Committees to Which They Are Not Assigned Is Constitutional.

Digest of Case

This decision of law rendered by Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. that the legislative process used at annual conference was constitutional is affirmed. During the 2002 session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, held May 30-June 1, the annual conference was operating using a legislative committee format to consider legislation to come before the annual conference. Section III of the Rules of Procedure under which the annual conference was operating stipulated that: [o]nly a member of the committee to which the member has been assigned, has a right to make a motion and vote. That section also indicated that observers (non-assigned committee members) may make presentations and participate in the discussions of the committee but were not allowed to make motions and vote. One of the clergy members of the annual conference who felt that his constitutional right to participate in the deliberations of a committee to which he had not been assigned had been abridged. He requested of the bishop a ruling of law on a question pertaining to the legislative process. The question, the ruling of the bishop and the rationale for his ruling are set forth below: Question 1. Is rule Sec. III.1 prohibiting Annual Conference Members from participating in legislative sessions not assigned too, [sic] constitutional? Referenced to ¶ 611. (2000 Discipline) Ruling: Section III.I of the Rocky Mountain Conference rules is in compliance with the Constitution and Discipline of the United Methodist Church Rationale: Members of the Annual Conference are not deprived of an opportunity to vote on all matters coming before the conference. Section III.6 states. “Final action on all petitions which affect the annual conference, including all local churches, and any board, agency or committee of the conference, will require a majority vote in favor in order to be adopted as final action of the conference.” This majority vote is also required for all matters placed on Consent Calendars. Individual petitions placed on Consent Calendars may be removed by a motion from the floor of the conference a second and support by one-third of those members present and voting. In addition I note that your reference to Judicial Council Decision 876 is moot and unrelated to this questions [sic] because “the discernment model” was not used for any decisions of legislative committees or the conference plenary. Parliamentary procedures were followed in each of these settings. Sally Brown Geis recused herself and did not participate in any discussion pertaining to this matter.

Statement of Facts

Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale Paragraph 31 of the Constitution sets forth the proposition that the annual conference is the basic body of the church, and as such, may set forth rules and procedures by which it may operate, so long as those rules and procedures are not in violation of the Constitution and other provisions of the Discipline. See ¶ 604.1. The Rocky Mountain Annual Conference chose to use a legislative process for its 2002 annual session that was similar to that used by the General Conference. The bishop ruled, in essence, that this legislative process did not abridge the right of any member of the conference to participate fully in the legislative process, and is constitutional. He set forth in a succinct manner the rationale for his decision of law. In Decision 367, the Judicial Council stated, “The Discipline grants to an Annual Conference broad freedom to adopt its own rules and regulations with regard to its committee structure, its agenda, its plan of organization, its procedure in handling reports.” Decision 367 further provides: Any organizational structure in an Annual Conference dealing with legislative matters must protect: the rights of the Annual Conference to receive and act on all proposals brought to it; the rights and requirements of boards and agencies that they report annually to the conference; and, the rights of individual members of the conference to be informed on and to participate fully in all legislative decisions. The Rocky Mountain Annual Conference rule here is similar to the rules reviewed in Decision 367. The Rocky Mountain rule permits the review, discussion and action on legislative petitions by legislative committees on matters assigned to the committee. Importantly, the rule ensures that only members of the legislative committee, and thus members of the annual conference, have the right to make motions and to vote on matters before the legislative committee. The rules of the annual conference further ensure in Section III, 6. that the annual conference can only finally act if a legislative proposal is presented to the entire annual conference and a majority of the annual conference delegates vote in favor of the proposal. The rule ensures full participation by all delegates in all legislative decisions because the final legislative decisions are made in plenary session by the total conference membership. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed. The ruling of law rendered by Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. that the legislative process used at annual conference was constitutional is affirmed.

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