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Memorandum No. 1114

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April 23 2009
In Re: Request for a Declaratory Decision from the West Ohio Annual Conference on the Meaning, Application, and Effect of ¶ 405.2 (c) adopted by the 2008 General Conference regarding the relationship between the Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy and the General Conference.


The 2008 session of the West Ohio Annual Conference requested a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council regarding action taken by the 2008 General Conference to amend ¶ 405 of the 2004 Book of Discipline. The record supplied by the secretary of the West Ohio Annual Conference contains the following excerpt of the annual conference action:

John Edgar asked that the West Ohio Conference request a Declaratory Ruling from the Judicial Council regarding the action taken at the 2008 General Conference to amend ¶ 405 of the Book of Discipline. Motion to adopt was passed. The General Conference adopted Calendar item No. 790 as amended. This calendar item amended Paragraph 405 to read in part: Paragraph 405.2c: “If the number of church members in a jurisdiction shall have decreased by at least ten percent below the number of church members which had previously entitled the jurisdiction to its number of bishops, then the number of bishops to which it shall be entitled shall be determined on the basis of missional needs, as approved by the General Conference on the recommendation of the Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy,…” The Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy made no recommendation to the 2008 General Conference recommending the number of bishops for the North Central Jurisdiction” based on missional needs and therefore the General Conference had no opportunity to approve such a recommendation. Does this mean that the General Conference has not yet taken action to reduce the number of bishops to which the North Central Jurisdiction shall be entitled?
Under ¶ 2610, the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to make a ruling in the nature of a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof or of any act or legislation of a General Conference. The Judicial Council’s jurisdiction to make such a ruling upon request of an annual conference is limited by the language of ¶ 2610.2 (j) which requires that a request from an annual conference must relate to annual conferences or the work therein. Our longstanding jurisprudence has interpreted ¶ 2610 to mean that a request for a declaratory decision that comes from an annual conference must be germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the annual conference and must have a direct and tangible effect on the work of the annual conference session. See Decision 452. In order for the Judicial Council to have jurisdiction, an annual conference request for a declaratory decision must relate to some action taken or to be taken by the annual conference. In Decision 452, the Judicial Council determined that to have jurisdiction, the question submitted for declaratory decision must have a direct and tangible effect on the work of the body submitting the petition. This principle has never been reversed or modified. There is no showing in the record supplied that the request for a declaratory decision was germane to annual conferences or the work therein, or that the request related to some action taken or to be taken by the annual conference. The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction to answer questions from an annual conference that do not relate to annual conferences or the work therein. See Decisions 33, 301, and 452. The Judicial Council has only such jurisdiction as is expressly granted to it by the Constitution and by the General Conference. Our lodestar principle has been that we may not assume jurisdiction to render a declaratory decision unless jurisdiction has been clearly vested in the Judicial Council. See Decision 29. Our long-standing policy is to construe our jurisdiction strictly and with restraint. See Decisions 255 and 535.
DIGEST
The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction. Ruben T. Reyes was absent. Jay Arthur Garrison, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.

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