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Decision No. 1062

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April 27 2007
In Re: Request for Declaratory Decision by the College of Bishops of the Philippine Central Conference as to the Meaning and Application of ¶ 602.1 in relation to ¶ 572 of the 2004 Book of Discipline.

Digest of Case

Deacons and elders in full connection, local pastors under appointment, probationary clergy members, and associate clergy members have the right to vote on ratification of the decision of a central conference approving the petition of an annual conference for affiliated autonomous relationship to the General Conference. The vote must be taken separately for each petition that is approved. The votes of the annual conferences in the Baguio and Manila Episcopal Areas are void and of no effect. These annual conferences must recast their votes in accordance with this decision.

Statement of Facts

The 2004 regular session of the Philippine Central Conference approved the petition of nine annual conferences to become an affiliated autonomous Methodist Church. The decision of the Philippine Central Conference was then returned to the nine annual conferences for ratification. Each of the nine annual conferences voted on ratification during the 2005 or 2006 session of their respective annual conference. In the annual conferences within the Manila Episcopal Area, only clergy members in full connection and lay members, including deaconesses with official annual conference appointment, were allowed to vote. Each petition was voted upon separately. The rationale for allowing only these members of the annual conference to vote was that the petition for affiliated autonomous relationship is equivalent to a constitutional amendment. In the annual conferences within the Baguio and Davao Episcopal Areas, all clergy members in full connection, associate and affiliate members, full-time and part-time local pastors under appointment, and lay members, including deaconesses with official annual conference appointment, were allowed to vote. All nine petitions in the annual conferences in the Baguio Area were adopted in a single vote. The rationale for allowing these members of the annual conference to vote was that the petition for affiliated autonomous relationship to the General Conference is not a constitutional amendment and all were therefore eligible to vote. The College of Bishops of the Philippine Central Conference requests the Judicial Council to render a declaratory decision as to the meaning and application of ¶ 602.1 in relation to ¶ 572 of the 2004 Book of Discipline. Specifically, four questions are presented: 1. Who are allowed to vote on the petition for affiliated autonomous relationship? Who are not? 2. The same question on ratification. 3. If associate members and full-time and part-time local pastors can vote for affiliated autonomous relationship, can retired associate members, retired local pastors who have been given official appointment to a pastoral charge during the conference year be allowed to vote. 4. Can an annual conference’s vote for ratification of each annual conference’s petition for affiliated autonomous relationship be done once or one by one? Rodolfo C. Beltran recused himself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision.

Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2004 Book of Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 572 of the 2004 Discipline states:
When conferences outside the United States that are parts of The United Methodist Church desire to become an autonomous Methodist, affiliated autonomous Methodist, or affiliated united church, approval shall first be secured from the central conference involved and this decision be ratified by the annual conferences within the central conference by two-thirds majority of the aggregate votes cast by the annual conferences.
Original emphasis; footnote omitted.) Paragraph 602 of the 2004 Discipline sets forth the composition of an annual conference by category of membership and the voting rights of each category. In Decision 1034 the Judicial Council held that “[a]mendment VII to the Constitution defines clergy membership in an annual conference.” There are no categories of clergy other than those enumerated in ¶ 32, as amended. The voting rights of a clergy member who is in a category that remained after the amendment are unchanged. See Decision 1034. Pursuant to ¶ 32, the categories of clergy membership in an annual conference are now deacons and elders in full connection, probationary members, associate members and local pastors under appointment. Paragraph 602 gives deacons and elders in full connection the right to vote on all matters in the annual conference except in the election of lay delegates to the general and jurisdictional or central conferences. Paragraph 602 does not give local pastors under appointment, probationary clergy members, and associate clergy members the right to vote on constitutional amendments. The bishop of the Manila Episcopal Area allowed only clergy members in full connection to vote on ratification of the decision approving the petitions of the nine annual conferences to become an affiliated autonomous Methodist church. Local pastors under appointment, probationary clergy members, and associate clergy members were not allowed to vote because the petition was deemed to be equivalent to a constitutional amendment. The petition for affiliated autonomous relationship is not a constitutional amendment. Deacons and elders in full connection, local pastors under appointment, probationary members, and associate clergy members are eligible to vote on ratification of a petition of an annual conference for affiliated autonomous relationship to the General Conference. The vote of the annual conference to ratify the decision of the central conference must be taken separately for each petition.
DECISION
Deacons and elders in full connection, local pastors under appointment, probationary clergy members, and associate clergy members have the right to vote on ratification of the decision of a central conference approving the petition of an annual conference for affiliated autonomous relationship to the General Conference. The vote must be taken separately for each petition that is approved. The votes of the annual conferences in the Baguio and Manila Episcopal Areas are void and of no effect. These annual conferences must recast their votes in accordance with this decision. April 28, 2007 Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent.

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