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Decision No. 1015

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April 28 2005
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference Concerning Structure Modification for the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

The request for a decision of law was properly made in writing and submitted during the 2004 regular session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference wherein legislation proposing a restructure of the Conference was before the Annual Conference for action. As to the underlying issue concerning the legality of the restructure of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, the record is incomplete. The matter is remanded to the Conference with instructions to submit, by July 15, 2005, to the Judicial Council the Plan of Restructure, the Conference Rules, minutes, and any other documentation which supplements the Plan that was submitted to the 2004 session of the Annual Conference. Pending a decision by the Judicial Council, the Annual Conference shall operate under the Conference structure which preceded the structure adopted at the 2004 session. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the materials required to be submitted and reviewing the bishop’s decision of law at its Fall 2005 session.

Statement of Facts

During the 2004 session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, the Bishop received on his desk at annual conference a written and signed request for a decision of law concerning the legality of the restructuring of the Conference. The request was undated and never presented on the floor. The bishop determined that the request was out of order and a ruling of law was not necessary. However, within thirty days following the adjournment of the Conference session, the Bishop answered the questions posed, stating that: “I wish to advise Judicial Council of the request and provide the Council with the answers to the request, as if it had been properly presented.” The questions of law and the Bishop’s answers were:

Q1. Is the proposed structure consistent with ¶ 608.1(b) of the 2000 Discipline? A. Yes. The Conference can structure its ministries and procedures to accomplish its vision and purpose. Q2. Is the proposed structure consistent with Judicial Council Memorandum 952 regarding the influence the Board of Stewards may exert upon committees such as the Conference Committee on Personnel and the Council on Finance and Administration which must report to the Annual Conference? A. Yes. Decision 952 states that a Conference Personnel Committee formed to establish uniform and equitable policies and practices in the employment and compensation of personnel, must be amenable and report directly to the Annual Conference. Nothing in the petition diminishes that responsibility. The Board of Stewards does not have the authority to control or influence the Personnel Committee or the Council on Finance and Administration, nor does the Council on Finance and Administration exert influence over the Personnel Committee. Q3. Has the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference specifically authorized the Committee On Personnel to provide job descriptions, support and evaluation of each staff person? A. AC12 deals with structure modification for the Board of Stewards. Without more facts, the question in its present form is hypothetical. Q4. Is the proposed structure consistent with Judicial Decision No. 983 in that each reference to the Book of Discipline must be identified properly and quoted directly? A. Yes.
Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Book of Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline requires that the request for a decision of law “be submitted to them [bishops] in writing in the regular business of a session.” In Decision 799, the Judicial Council held:
Questions of law shall be germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the Annual Conference and shall state the connection to a specific action taken, or the question must be raised during the deliberation of a specific issue of a matter upon which the conference takes action.
(Emphasis added). In Decision 928, the Judicial Council stated that questions such as those raised here are proper questions for a decision of law because
. . . legislation was pending before the Annual Conference which sought to modify the existing annual conference structure. Thus, a question for a ruling of law about the current conference structure and/or the proposed conference structure is germane to the business then pending before the annual conference. . . . A question for a ruling of law about the existing conference structure is appropriate when legislation is pending before the annual conference which would result in a change in that annual conference structure.
With respect to the bishop’s determination that the questions of law were out of order, in Decision 999, this Council held:
The question asked here was germane to the regular business of the Annual Conference …. The Judicial Council has repeatedly held that it does not have jurisdiction to review parliamentary rulings of episcopal leaders made during annual conference sessions. See Decisions 898, 941, 943, 953 …. In order for a request to be a parliamentary ruling, the chair must rule on the request in the parliamentary session affording the opportunity for an appeal from the chair’s ruling to the body. Because the Bishop did not handle the matter as a request [which was raised as a point of order] for a parliamentary ruling but rather as a request for a decision of law, the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to review the Bishop’s decision of law under ¶ 2609.6 of the Discipline.
(Emphasis added). Furthermore, as explained in Decision 763, there is no requirement in ¶ 2609.6 that the questions of law be read aloud during the session of annual conference because the questions of law become a part of the record published in the conference journal. “Reading such questions are [sic] at the discretion of the bishop or as the body decides.” (Decision 763). During the Judicial Council’s deliberations herein, the Council found that Decision 969 incorrectly quoted Decision 799. Decision 799 states:
Questions of law shall be germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the Annual Conference and shall state the connection to a specific action taken, or the question must be raised during the deliberation of a specific issue of a matter upon which the conference takes action.
(Emphasis added). The limited text of Decision 969 makes it apparent that there was no intention to create new church law. Rather, the Judicial Council misquoted Decision 799, substituting “and” for the bold “or” in the quote above. The correct wording in Decision 969 is now restated:
...questions of law shall be germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the annual conference and shall state the connection to a specific action taken, or the question must be raised during the deliberation of a specific issue of a matter upon which the conference takes action. (Decision 799).
(Emphasis added). The request for a decision of law was properly made in writing submitted during the 2004 regular session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference and was germane to the regular business of the Conference. As to the underlying issues concerning the legality of the restructure of the Annual Conference, the record is incomplete. The matter is remanded to the Conference with instructions to submit, by July 15, 2005, to the Judicial Council the Plan of Restructure, the Conference Rules, minutes, and any other documentation which supplements the Plan that was submitted to the 2004 session of the Annual Conference. Pending a decision by the Judicial Council, the Annual Conference shall operate under the Conference structure which preceded the structure adopted at the 2004 session.
Decision
The request for a decision of law was properly made in writing and submitted during the 2004 regular session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference wherein legislation proposing a restructure of the Conference was before the Annual Conference for action. As to the underlying issues concerning the legality of the restructure of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, the record is incomplete. The matter is remanded to the Conference with instructions to submit, by July 15, 2005, to the Judicial Council the Plan of Restructure, the Conference Rules, minutes, and any other documentation which supplements the Plan that was submitted to the 2004 session of the Annual Conference. Pending a decision by the Judicial Council, the Annual Conference shall operate under the Conference structure which preceded the structure adopted at the 2004 session. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the materials required to be submitted and reviewing the Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent. C. Rex Bevins, the first clergy alternate, participated in this decision.

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