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Decision No. 951

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October 24 2002
In Re: Review of the Restructure and Related Documents of the West Virginia Annual Conference as Required by Decision 914.

Digest of Case

The amendments made to the West Virginia Annual Conference restructure plan which were approved at its 2001 annual session have satisfied the concerns of the Judicial Council as indicated in Decision 914. The West Virginia Conference Restructure Plan conforms to the 2000 Discipline and prior Judicial Council decisions.

Statement of Facts

At the 2001 session of the West Virginia Annual Conference a “New Structure for Mission and Ministry” was adopted by the annual conference. In accordance with ¶ 49 of the 2000 Discipline, a member of the Conference Rules Committee requested an episcopal ruling of law as to the validity of the adopted “Structure for Mission and Ministry.” The 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). Within the required thirty days following the close of the annual conference session, Bishop S. Clifton Ives issued his decision by responding to 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. On October 26, 2001 the Judicial Council issued Decision 914 upholding the bishop on all questions except number four. The Council retained jurisdiction and remanded the restructure plan to the West Virginia Annual Conference and directed the following actions: 1. Revise the Conference Rules so as to reflect the new structure 2. Clarify the funding process for the new structure including a new budget that reflects the appropriate line items 3. Clarify the roles of the conference staff and how they relate to the various ministry teams 4. Clarify the function of the Covenant Council 5. Clarify the function of the Vision Accountability Team Jurisdiction The Judicial Council retained jurisdiction in this matter in Decision 914. Analysis and Rationale The West Virginia Annual Conference is to be commended for its careful attention to detail in addressing the five issues and concerns mentioned above. The changes the annual conference made to bring their restructure plan into conformity with the 2000 Discipline and prior Judicial Council Decisions are stated below. STANDING RULES AMENDMENTS On June 15, 2002, the West Virginia Annual Conference moved the amendment of annual conference rules, constitutive of changes that were made by the proposed restructuring. The rules were amended to include the Covenant Council, the Ministry Teams and Special Tasks Groups and the staff job descriptions and responsibilities. The West Virginia Annual Conference has acted reasonably as it has legislatively outlined the new annual conference structure within its Standing Rules. FUNDING PROCESS The conference council on finance and administration produced a budget which was reflective of the changes that had been made to program and administrative areas and ministry teams. Particular line items have been adopted which reflect the changes that are within the new structure. The Covenant Council also proposed a new process for funding the ministry of the West Virginia Annual Conference. The Budget Review Committee of the conference council on finance and administration has developed a process whereby it collaborates with the Covenant Council in order to hear and decide upon budget requests for the coming year. The Budget Review Committee presents these requests to the full conference council on finance and administration which determines the final total in consultation with the boards, committees, agencies and ministry teams. This is consistent with the provisions of ¶ 610.7 of the 2000 Discipline that requires “coordinated annual conference policies in the areas of fiscal management and administrative services… .” ROLE OF CONFERENCE STAFF AND RELATIONSHIPS TO MINISTRY TEAMS In its adoption of Standing Rules amendments the West Virginia Annual Conference has adequately outlined the roles and relationships of its program staff. This is inclusive of the Director, Office of Connectional Ministries, The Associate Directors of the Office of Connectional Ministries, the Director of Congregational Development and the Director of Volunteers in Mission. The information provided explanations of staff functions and their relationship the new structure. We find this effort to be in compliance with the need to define and clarify staff functions and their relationships to the Ministry Teams, boards, and agencies of the annual conference. COVENANTING COUNCIL The West Virginia Annual Conference has also delineated the membership, roles and decision-making process that provide for general church relationships by relating to the General Council on Ministries. The Covenant Council resources the work of the annual conference in cooperation with the ministry teams, boards and agencies. The Judicial Council affirms the structure of the Covenant Council and determines that it is in compliance with church law inasmuch as it provides for connectional linkages. A key component is the bishop’s role as a non-voting member with voice. This is consistent with the requirements of Decision 831 which affirms the bishop’s role as one of oversight and supervision. The other key component included in the proposed restructure is the linkages between the Ministry Teams, board and agencies and general church connections. VISION ACCOUNTABILITY TEAM The West Virginia Annual Conference has also provided an outline detailing the role and responsibilities of the Vision Team. The role of the Vision Team as a vision and strategy group is also in compliance with church law. The annual conference has provided an explanation of the Vision Accountability Team’s relationship to the Covenant Council, which includes the Ministry Teams, boards and agencies. This relationship is primarily supportive and advisory as it resources the work of the Covenant Council. Furthermore, the bishop’s role is one of oversight and support. For all of the foregoing reasons the West Virginia Plan for restructuring does comply with the 2000 Discipline and prior Judicial Council Decisions.

Decision

The amendments made to the West Virginia Annual Conference restructure plan which were approved at its 2002 annual session have satisfied the concerns of the Judicial Council as indicated in Decision 914. The West Virginia Conference Restructure Plan conforms to the 2000 Discipline and prior Judicial Council decisions.

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