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Decision No. 1125

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October 30 2009
In Re: Review of a Decision of Law by Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton of the Detroit Annual Conference Regarding the Reconciling Ministries Network

Digest of Case

When an annual conference votes not to suspend its rules in order to consider a resolution, that resolution is not part of the business of the conference, is not considered by the conference, and is not discussed by the conference. The bishop’s ruling that the request for decision of law is moot, hypothetical, and improper is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

During the regular session of the 2009 Detroit Annual Conference, the conference secretary read into the record a written request by a lay member for a decision of law by Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton. Two days prior to the request for a decision of law, the petitioner made a motion to suspend conference rules in order to consider a resolution that he felt had been inappropriately left out of the legislative agenda of the conference. The motion to suspend the rules was not adopted. The request for a decision of law raised four questions related to whether or not the continuing practice of congregations (and individuals) to identify and label themselves as Reconciling Congregations was in conflict with 2008 Discipline ¶ 306 and was a violation of Decisions 847, 871, 886, and 1044. Within thirty days, Bishop Keaton ruled that the requests for rulings of law were “moot, hypothetical, and improper.” Referencing Decisions 33 and 799, the bishop stated that the four questions submitted “did not relate to the business, consideration, or discussion of the conference session, nor do they involve specific facts.”

Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609 of the 2008 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The central issue raised in this docket item is whether or not the request for decision of law is moot, hypothetical, and improper. If so, the bishop has made the correct decision; if not, the matter should be remanded to the bishop for an appropriate decision. The case before the Judicial Council does not address the validity or invalidity of local church identification with the Reconciling Ministries Network. Decision 799 states “A so-called ‘question of law’, though properly presented, must relate to the business, consideration, or discussion of the conference session.” The Detroit Annual Conference voted not to suspend the rules and did not consider the resolution.

Decision

When an annual conference votes not to suspend its rules in order to consider a resolution, that resolution is not part of the business of the conference, is not considered by the conference, and is not discussed by the conference. The bishop’s ruling that the request for decision of law is moot, hypothetical, and improper is affirmed.

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