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Decision No. 978

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October 23 2003
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the New England Annual Conference on Whether it Is Proper for the Annual Conference to Provide Funds “for a Ministry Directed Specifically Towards Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, Such as the Cambridge Welcoming Ministries.”

Digest of Case

The decision of law by Bishop Susan W. Hassinger that the purported question of law, submitted by The Visioning and Administrative Board of Houlton United Methodist Church, is moot and hypothetical because it did not relate to any business before the annual conference is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

The Houlton United Methodist Church Visioning and Administrative Board, through three lay members, presented to Bishop Susan W. Hassinger in a letter addressed to her, the following purported request for a decision of law: Can the Annual Conference provide funds for a ministry directed specifically towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals, such as the Cambridge Welcoming Ministries? Such funds may be applied from the 2003/2004 budget under such line items as: Fund III, deploying clergy: Equitable Compensation, or Fund III, F — Parish Development. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline. ANALYSIS AND RATIONALE In response to the purported question of law Bishop Hassinger made the following decision of law: The Visioning and Administrative Board of Houlton, ME UMC, through three lay members, has requested a decision of law on the following question: Can the Annual Conference provide funds for a ministry directed specifically towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals, such as the Cambridge Welcoming Ministries? Such funds may be applied from the 2003/2004 budget under such line items as Fund III, deploying clergy: Equitable Compensation, or Fund III, F — Parish Development. The letter from the Visioning and Administrative Board of Houlton, ME UMC, has been shown to the conference treasurer and the conference controller. It was the opinion of both that under the current and proposed budget for this conference, no funds are currently scheduled or anticipated to be given to Cambridge Welcoming Ministries in 2003 or 2004. Because no funds are scheduled or anticipated to be given to Cambridge Welcoming Ministries, this question is not related to business before the session. Moreover, there is no information before this body that Cambridge Welcoming Ministries is either a “gay caucus or group,” or a group that “promotes the acceptance of homosexuality” within the meaning of the Discipline. For that reason as well, this question is not related to the business before the session. Where a question of law is not related to business before the session, it is considered to be moot or hypothetical, and no ruling need be made. Please refer for authority to Judicial Council decisions #747, #799, and #879. Since the purported question of law presented did not relate to any business or consideration before the annual conference, it was a moot and hypothetical question.

Decision

The decision of law by Bishop Susan W. Hassinger that the purported question of law, submitted by The Visioning and Administrative Board of Houlton United Methodist Church, is moot and hypothetical because it did not relate to any business before the annual conference is affirmed. Sally Brown Geis was absent.

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