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Decision No. 1083

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October 26 2007
In Re: Request for Declaratory Decision from the Memphis Annual Conference with respect to Whether Candidates for Election as Delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference Can Be Compelled to Disclose Their Views on Issues.

Digest of Case

The motion adopted by the Memphis Annual Conference regarding a survey to be answered by prospective clergy and lay delegates prior to General and Jurisdictional delegate elections is unconstitutional.

Statement of Facts

During the 2007 session of the Memphis Annual Conference, the following motion was made:

I move prior to each election of delegates to a General or Jurisdictional Conference, that the Committee to Supervise the Election develop survey questions designed to determine each candidate’s views on: 1. Controversial issues currently before the church, and 2. Policy issues that are likely to come before the Conferences to which they are being elected. And further, that the results of the surveys be provided to Annual Conference delegates at least ten (10) days prior to Annual Conference. This program to be determined and implemented by the 2011 Annual Conference.
After a lengthy debate, the motion passed. Following the approval of the motion, the Annual Conference adopted a motion requesting a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of the action under the 2004 Book of Discipline. Solomon Christian 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
Recently, in a number of annual conferences, certain caucus groups have sent questionnaires to prospective clergy and lay delegates asking them to share their views on specific controversial issues. Because these questions have been sent by individuals associated with a caucus group, prospective delegates have felt free to either ignore or respond to the questions. The motion adopted by the Memphis Annual Conference authorizes its Committee to Supervise the Elections to develop survey questions:
designed to determine each candidate’s views on: 1. Controversial issues currently before the church, and 2. Policy issues that are likely to come before the Conferences to which they are being elected. And further, that the results of the surveys be provided to Annual Conference delegates at least ten (10) days prior to Annual Conference. This program to be determined and implemented by the 2011 Annual Conference.
The fact that this survey is to be developed and sent to prospective delegates by an annual conference committee makes the approved motion unconstitutional. Paragraph 34, Article III, ¶ 35. Article IV, and ¶ 36. Article V of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church sets forth the procedures for the election of clergy and lay members to General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Any attempt on the part of an annual conference to add to or change the procedures for the election of clergy and lay members to General and Jurisdictional Conferences is unconstitutional.
Decision
The motion adopted by the Memphis Annual Conference regarding a survey to be answered by prospective clergy and lay delegates prior to General and Jurisdictional delegate elections is unconstitutional. October 27, 2007 James W. Holsinger, Jr., Jon R. Gray and Shamwange P. Kyungu were absent. C. Rex Bevins, the first clergy alternate. Solomon Christian, the first lay alternate, was present at the session at which this decision was decided, but did not participate in this decision.

Decision

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