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Memorandum No. 1119

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October 30 2009
In Re: Request for a Declaratory Decision from the Minnesota Annual Conference Related to the Meaning, Effect, and Application of Section II, Article IV 2, and Section VI, Article I, of the Constitution as They Apply to ¶ 316.6 and ¶ 327.2 and the Prohibition of Local Pastors and Provisional Members Voting on Constitutional Amendments

Digest of Case

The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction to consider the petition from the Minnesota Annual Conference since the matter does not relate to annual conferences or to the work therein.

Statement of Facts

During the 2009 session of the Minnesota Annual Conference, a clergy member of the conference moved that a petition be submitted to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision. His motion, which was approved by a hand vote (for which no count was provided), follows:

Whereas the Constitution of the [sic] United Methodist Church in Section II. General Conference, Article IV.2, allows the General Conference to define and fix the powers and duties of elders, deacons, supply preachers, local pastors, exhorters, deaconesses, and home missionaries; And whereas the same Constitution in Section VI. Annual Conferences, Article I, ensures the annual conference members shall be composed of equal lay and clergy members; A declaratory decision is requested on the conflict between the two articles and the prohibition of local pastors and provisional members from voting on constitutional amendments found in paragraphs 316.6 and 327.2 of the 2008 Discipline of the [sic] United Methodist Church, which results in an imbalance of the lay/clergy ratio thus giving a greater voice to the laity.
According to ¶ 2610.2j of the 2008 Discipline, the Judicial Council has jurisdiction on requests for declaratory decisions that come from “any annual conference on matters relating to annual conferences or the work therein.” Votes on constitutional amendments, while taken during the sessions of annual conferences, are not votes of the annual conference nor are they votes on the business of the annual conferences. Rather, they are aggregated and certified by the Council of Bishops on a connectional basis. The petition from the Minnesota Annual Conference concerns eligibility to vote on matters that do not specifically relate to annual conferences or the work therein, but rather on matters that are constitutional and connectional. Hence, the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction to consider the petition. Katherine Austin Mahle recused herself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision.

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