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Decision No. 983

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April 28 2004
In Re: IN RE: Review of Revised Structure of the Louisiana Annual Conference as Required by Decision 900.

Digest of Case

The revised and amended Conference Structure and Rules of the Louisiana Annual Conference, adopted on June 3, 2002, does not comply with the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council. When an annual conference seeks to establish its own structure, that structure must be in accordance with the requirements of the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council in order to be constitutional. The Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules is null, void and of no effect until such time that the deficiencies are cured and the Judicial Council approves the revised and amended structure and rules. The Conference Structure and Rules is remanded to the Louisiana Annual Conference for further action, with the direction that any revision or amendments be submitted to the Judicial Council for review by July 15 in the year in which the revision or amendments are made. When the Louisiana Annual Conference submits its Conference Structure and Rules to the Judicial Council for further review, the Conference is directed to identify the changes that have been made from the 2002 modifications so as to expedite review of its modifications. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction to review any subsequent action of the Louisiana Annual Conference with respect to its Conference Structure and Rules until such time as its Conference Structure and Rules conform with the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council.

Statement of Facts

On June 3, 2002, the Louisiana Annual Conference adopted revisions and amendments to its Conference Structure and Rules to comply with Judicial Council Decision 900. The Conference Structures and Rules has been before the Judicial Council for review and approval on three prior occasions in Decision 835, 878 and 900. In Decision 900, the Judicial Council found that deficiencies identified in its prior decisions continued to exist and once again returned the Conference Structure and Rules to the Louisiana Annual Conference holding that the Conference Structure and Rules was null, void and of no effect. The Conference Structure and Rules was remanded to the Louisiana Annual Conference for revision, adoption and resubmission to the Judicial Council for review and approval. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council continues to have jurisdiction over this matter under its retained jurisdiction in Decisions 835, 878 and 900. Analysis and Rationale The revised and amended Conference Structure and Rules of the Louisiana Annual Conference adopted on June 3, 2002 still does not comply with the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council. The Conference’s latest attempt to correct the deficiencies in its structure and rules falls short in the following particulars: Paragraph 2 of Decision 835 states that “[a]n Annual Conference cannot vote to approve, disapprove or modify the Discipline in development of a structure plan.” Article I, Section A of the Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules addresses apportionments, but does not require that the methods or formulas by which apportionments are to be made are to be recommended by the Conference Council on Finance and Administration as required by ¶¶ 610.3 and 613 of the Discipline. If conference rules address apportionments, such rules must follow the procedure mandated in the Discipline for recommending and adopting the apportionments and the formula for distributing such apportionments amongst districts and local churches. Paragraph 5 of Decision 835 states that the structure and rules of a conference with respect to “the prescribed number of members, the method of nomination and election, fixed terms and diversity of membership must be as exactly stated in the . . . Discipline.” In numerous instances, the Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules states that conference entities are to be organized and function as mandated and described in the Discipline, but the Conference Structure and Rules proceeds to paraphrase selectively from the relevant provisions of the Discipline. Where the Discipline contains mandatory language, the annual conference must comply with all of the mandated language. Selective paraphrasing of language of the Discipline misleads those who only refer to the Conference Structure and Rules. An annual conference should simply refer to the relevant language from the Discipline by citation or, if they choose to incorporate the language of the Discipline into its structure and rules, it should quote such language verbatim and it should indicate that the language is quoted to make clear that the language comes from the Discipline and is not subject to approval, disapproval or modification by the annual conference. The Louisiana amended conference structure and rules does not comply with this requirements in the following provisions: The lay membership of the annual conference must comply with ¶ 30 of the Discipline. Paragraph 30 requires that the conference president of United Methodist Men be a lay member of the annual conference. [Note: In Decision 924, Paragraph 602.4 of the Discipline was declared unconstitutional to the extent it was in conflict with ¶ 30.] Article II, Section F provides that the Conference Council on Finance and Administration shall elect an Audit Review Committee of not more than twenty-five persons. However, the Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules does not mandate compliance with ¶ 615.4 of the Discipline which requires that “at least half of . . . [the] members [of the Audit Review Committee] should be persons who are not members of the council and who are chosen for their expertise in areas related to the work of the committee.” Article IV, Section B, Paragraph 8 addresses the Conference Board of Trustees. However, the Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules does not mandate compliance with the requirement contained in ¶ 2512.1 of the Discipline that “lay members shall be members in good standing of local churches within the bounds of the conference.” Article IV, Section C, Paragraph 3 addresses the Conference Commission on Religion and Race. The Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules does not mandate compliance with ¶ 640.2 which requires that “[o]ne of the district representatives shall be the district director of religion and race.” Article IV, Section C, Paragraph 5 addresses the Conference Commission on Equitable Compensation. The Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules does not mandate compliance with ¶ 623.1 which requires that its membership include “at least one layperson and one clergyperson from churches of fewer than two hundred members.” Article IV, Section D, Paragraph 6 addresses the Conference Committee on Investigation for Diaconal Ministry. The Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules does not mandate compliance with ¶ 2703.3 which requires that “[t]wo alternate members shall be elected.” Paragraph 6 of Decision 835 states that direct quotations of language from the Discipline must be identified as such. Language quoted from the Discipline is not subject to vote by the conference and cannot be modified, altered, or omitted. To ensure that such language is clearly identified, language quoted from the Discipline must be set off with quotation marks or in a block quote and the source of the quoted material should be referenced. In numerous instances, the Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules contains language which is a direct quote from the Discipline, but which is not so identified, even though a particular paragraph of the Discipline might be thereafter cited. Where this deficiency exists, the Conference must revise its Structure and Rules to set off the quoted language either with quotation marks or as a block quote. Such clear identification of language quoted from the Discipline is necessary so that annual conferences do not intentionally or inadvertently seek to disapprove, modify, alter or omit such language. Finally, the role and function of committees which are unique to an annual conference, and their relationship to mandated boards, commissions, and committees must be clearly specified. Article II, Section C of the Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules permits the Conference Ministry Team to establish additional committees and task forces and define their duties and authority as it deems necessary for fulfilling its purpose and responsibilities. Such a provision, unless appropriately limited by reference to the provisions of the Discipline, contravenes the decisions of the Judicial Council to the extent that it permits an entity other than the annual conference itself to establish such committees and task forces, and to the extent that it permits the delegation of functions of mandated boards, commissions, and committees. We are mindful of the considerable time and effort the Louisiana Annual Conference has invested in seeking to develop its conference structure and rules. Many of the deficiencies identified here have been enumerated in the previous decisions involving this Conference. Where an annual conference modifies its structure and rules, and complies with the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council, we have approved such modifications and commended the annual conference for their work. We are prepared to do the same for the Louisiana Annual Conference once they correct the deficiencies in their proposed modification of their annual conference structure. The deficiencies noted herein may not be exhaustive. The Louisiana Annual Conference must review the entire plan for compliance with the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council.

Decision

The revised and amended Conference Structure and Rules of the Louisiana Annual Conference, adopted on June 3, 2002, does not comply with the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council. When an annual conference seeks to establish its own structure, that structure must be in accordance with the requirements of the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council in order to be constitutional. The Louisiana Conference Structure and Rules is null, void and of no effect until such time that the deficiencies are cured and the Judicial Council approves the revised and amended structure and rules. The Conference Structure and Rules is remanded to the Louisiana Annual Conference for further action, with the direction that any revision or amendments be submitted to the Judicial Council for review by July 15 in the year in which the revision or amendments are made. When the Louisiana Annual Conference submits its Conference Structure and Rules to the Judicial Council for further review, the Conference is directed to identify the changes that have been made from the 2002 modifications so as to expedite review of its modifications. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction to review any subsequent action of the Louisiana Annual Conference with respect to its Conference Structure and Rules until such time as its Conference Structure and Rules conform with the Discipline and the decisions of the Judicial Council.

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