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Decision No. 1030

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October 28 2005
In Re: Request from the Western Michigan Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning, Application and Effect of ¶ 612.19 of the 2004 Discipline with Respect to the Addition of Domestic Partner Benefits to the Conference Health Benefits Plan.

Digest of Case

The annual conference council on finance and administration is charged, under ¶ 612.19 of the 2004 Discipline, with the responsibility of determining whether United Methodist funds are being used to supply domestic partner benefits under a conference health benefits plan, and, if so, whether such expenditure promotes the acceptance of homosexuality.

Statement of Facts

At its 2004 session, Western Michigan Annual Conference amended its Conference Health Benefits Plan to provide benefits to dependents defined as “Spouse, Surviving Spouse or Domestic Partner of the Participant.” The amendment also provided that “[t]he definition of domestic partner would be determined in accord with the policies of the insurance carriers.” At its 2005 session, the Conference adopted a motion requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council “on the meaning, application and effect of the 2004 Book of Discipline, ¶ 612.19, for the action of the annual conference in its 2004 session and the now current policy of the addition of Domestic Partner Benefits to the Conference Health Benefits Plan.”

Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2004 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 612.19 of the Discipline provides that the annual conference council on finance and administration shall have authority and responsibility:
To ensure that no annual conference board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality. The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures. This restriction shall not limit the Church’s ministry in response to the HIV epidemic, nor shall it preclude funding for dialogs or educational events where the Church’s official position is fairly and equally represented.
The annual conference council on finance and administration has the primary responsibility for enforcing ¶ 612.19. No indication exists in the materials provided to the Judicial Council as to whether the Western Michigan Annual Conference Council on Finance and Administration has evaluated whether United Methodist funds are being used to supply domestic partner benefits under the Conference Health Benefits Plan. Normally, the cost of the benefits provided to dependents, including domestic partners, are paid entirely by the plan participant. If the Conference Council on Finance and Administration determines that United Methodist funds are being used to pay for domestic partner benefits, the Conference Council would then have to determine whether such expenditure promotes the acceptance of homosexuality.
Decision
The annual conference council on finance and administration is charged, under ¶ 612.19 of the 2004 Discipline, with the responsibility of determining whether United Methodist funds are being used to supply domestic partner benefits under a conference health benefits plan, and, if so, whether such expenditure promotes the acceptance of homosexuality. October 29, 2005 Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent.

Decision

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