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Decision No. 993

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October 28 2004
In Re: IN RE: Request from the 2004 General Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Constitutionality of Calendar Item 1167, as Adopted, with Respect to Lay Membership on the Committee on Investigation.

Digest of Case

Lay professing members can not serve on a committee on investigation of a bishop or of a clergy member of an annual conference, clergy on honorable or administrative location or a local pastor. Calendar Item 1167 adopted by the 2004 General Conference, giving lay professing members the right of voice and vote on the committee on investigation, is unconstitutional.

Statement of Facts

Calendar Item 1167, which provides for voting lay membership on committees on investigation, came before the 2004 General Conference on the consent calendar with a recommendation of concurrence by the Judicial Administration Legislative Committee. The committee’s recommended changes to ¶ 2703 of the 2000 Discipline were approved by the General Conference. Calendar Item 1167 as adopted states that when respondent is a bishop, “[t]he committee shall consist of four clergy in full connection, three professing members . . . , and ten alternate members, five of whom shall be clergy in full connection and five shall be professing members. . . .” “When respondent is a clergy member of an annual conference, a clergy member on honorable or administrative location or a local pastor” the committee shall consist of “four clergy in full connection, three professing members, and ten alternate members, five of whom shall be clergy in full connection and five be professing members. . . .” The 2004 General Conference requested a declaratory decision on the following question: Are the provisions of Calendar Item 1167, passed by the General Conference on the Consent Calendar, in violation of ¶ 31 in the Constitution by allowing lay professing members to serve with voice and vote as members of the Committee on Investigation for a bishop, clergy member of an annual conference, or a local pastor considering that ¶ 31 restricts matters of character and conference relationships to ministerial members in full connection and members of the Board of Ordained Ministry and that bishops retain their membership in the Order of Elders in the annual conference in which they held their membership at the date of their election? Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2000 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The right of lay persons to be voting members of a committee on investigation was considered by the Judicial Council during the 2000 General Conference. In Memorandum 887, the Judicial Council interpreted ¶ 31 of the Constitution which states:

The annual conference is the basic body in the Church and as such shall have reserved to it the right to vote on all constitutional amendments, on the election of clergy and lay delegates to the General and jurisdictional or central conferences, on all matters relating to the character and conference relations of its clergy members, and on the ordination of clergy and such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference under the Constitution, with the exception that the lay members may not vote on matters of ordination, character, and conference relations of clergy except that the lay members of the conference board of ordained ministry may vote on matters of ordination, character, and conference relations of clergy, except that the lay members of the conference board of ordained ministry may vote on matters of ordination, character, and conference relations of clergy, with the further exception that lay members of the district committee on ordained ministry be full participating members of the district committee on ordained ministry with vote. It shall discharge such duties and exercise such powers as the General Conference under the Constitution may determine.
Finding that ¶ 31 of the Constitution does not mention the committee on investigation, the Judicial Council determined that lay observers or lay persons on the committee on investigation do not have the right to vote. Memorandum 887 is reaffirmed. The Constitution in ¶ 15.3 authorizes the General Conference “[t]o define and fix the powers and duties of annual conferences. . . .” In accordance with ¶ 31, the 2000 General Conference voted to allow limited lay participation in the annual conference over issues of ordination, character, and conference relations. Lay members nominated by the Bishop and elected by the annual conference may vote on the Board of Ordained Ministry, and at the clergy session of the annual conference. ¶ 605.6 of the 2000 Discipline. Other than that, the 2000 General Conference voted that “[l]ay members shall serve on all committees except those on ministerial relations and for the trial of clergy. ¶ 602.6 of the 2000 Discipline. The task of the board of ordained ministry is different from the task of the committee on investigation and thus ¶ 31 cannot be expanded to include the role of the committee on investigation. Lay professing members can not serve on a committee on investigation of a bishop or of a clergy member of an annual conference, clergy on honorable or administrative location or a local pastor. Calendar Item 1167 adopted by the 2004 General Conference, giving lay professing members the right of voice and vote on the committee on investigation, is unconstitutional.

Decision

Lay professing members can not serve on a committee on investigation of a bishop or of a clergy member of an annual conference, clergy on honorable or administrative location or a local pastor. Calendar Item 1167 adopted by the 2004 General Conference, giving lay professing members the right of voice and vote on the committee on investigation, is unconstitutional.

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