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Decision No. 1009

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April 28 2005
In Re: Request from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning, Application and Effect of ¶¶ 31 and 605.6 of the 2000 Discipline with Respect to the Phrase “Conference Relations of Clergy” and the Authority of an Annual Conference Clergy Session to Create Programs, Study Teams and Task Forces on Matters Pertaining to the Maintenance, Enhancement, and Support of the Conference Relations of Clergy.

Digest of Case

The annual conference is the basic body in the Church and has reserved to it “all matters relating to the character and conference relations of its clergy members.” (¶ 31 of the Constitution, 2000 Book of Discipline). The authority of the executive session of clergy members in full connection as stated in ¶¶ 365.5 and 605.6 is limited to matters of ordination, character, and conference relations.

Statement of Facts

The 2004 session of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference requested a declaratory decision in Supplemental Resolution No. 619. During the session of the Annual Conference, the findings of the study of ministerial morale and effectiveness were reported. The request for a declaratory decision states in part:

Be it resolved, that the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference request a declaratory decision of the Judicial Conference on the definition and application of the phrase, ”conference relations of clergy” found in paragraphs 31 and 605.6 and, perhaps, elsewhere in The Book of Discipline, as it relates specifically to the question of whether or not the Clergy Session, under the rubric of the phrase, “conference relations of clergy,” has the authority, without taking the matter to the floor of the Annual Conference, to create programs, study teams, and task forces within the covenanted orders of the clergy and in cooperation with the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for the purpose of making recommendations to the Clergy Session on matters pertaining to the maintenance, enhancement, and support of the “conference relations of clergy.”
(Bold and underlining in the original).
Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2000 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 31 of the Constitution gives to the annual conference the authority to act on “all matters of ordination, character and conference relations.” In the language of the Discipline, “conference relations of clergy” is understood to be the relationship that exists between the clergy and the annual conference. Paragraph 365.5 of the 2000 Discipline states that:
There shall be an annual meeting of this covenant body, in executive session of clergy members in full connection with the annual conference, including both deacons and elders, at the site of the regular session of the annual conference to consider questions relating to matters of ordination, character; and conference relations (¶¶ 605.6, 633.2).
Under ¶ 31 of the Constitution and ¶¶ 365.5 and 605.6, the executive session of clergy members in full connection is authorized to address questions relating to matters of ordination, character, and conference relations. Therefore, the executive session of the clergy members cannot create programs, study teams, and task forces on matters pertaining to the maintenance, enhancement, and support of the conference relations of clergy. Such action can only be taken by the plenary session of the annual conference.
Decision
The annual conference is the basic body in the Church and has reserved to it “all matters relating to the character and conference relations of its clergy members.” (¶ 31 of the Constitution, 2000 Book of Discipline). The authority of the executive session of clergy members in full connection as stated in ¶¶ 365.5 and 605.6 is limited to matters of ordination, character, and conference relations. Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent. C. Rex Bevins, the first clergy alternate, participated in this decision.

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