Judicial Council Decisions Search
Memorandum No. 1158
October 29 2010
In Re: Request from the Arkansas Annual Conference for the Judicial Council on its own motion to reconsider Judicial Council Decision 1032.
In Re: Request from the Northern Illinois Annual Conference for the Judicial Council on its own motion to reconsider Judicial Council Decision 1032.
The 2010 session of the Arkansas Annual Conference adopted the following resolution requesting the Judicial Council to reconsider Decision 1032 on its own motion:
The Arkansas Annual Conference therefore respectfully requests that the Judicial Council on its own motion and pursuant to its standing Rules of Practice and Procedure (VIII.A)(sic)reconsider Decision 1032, issue a new decision finding that Decision 1032 is null and void, and direct that any prospective members denied membership in the United Methodist Church as a result of Decision 1032 be granted admission.The 2010 session of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference adopted the following resolution:
The Northern Illinois Annual Conference requests that the Judicial Council on its own motion and reconsider Decision 1032, issue a new Decision finding that Decision 1032 is null and void, and direct that any prospective members denied membership in The United Methodist Church as a result of Decision 1032 be granted admission.Under Rule IX.A of the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Council, wherever a decision of the Judicial Council is shown to be in error, or in order to prevent a manifest injustice resulting from the interpretation of a Judicial Council decision, the Judicial Council on its own motion, or on a petition filed by a party to the proceedings, may, by a majority vote, reconsider any ruling or action taken by it. Neither the Arkansas Annual Conference nor the Northern Illinois Annual Conference was a party to the case presented in Decision 1032. The Judicial Council previously considered a request for reconsideration in Memorandum 1041.
A member in good standing in any Christian denomination who has been baptized and who desires to unite with The United Methodist Church shall be received as either baptized or a professing member.But the 2008 provision cannot be given retroactive effect. This is fundamental. The remedy is not another reconsideration bid at 1032. A new case developed after the 2008 amendment or a proper petition to determine and declare its meaning, effect and application may be the suitable recourse. Some such petitions are now before the Council, with partly new members. We should be afforded a fresh look at the amendment, other related provisions and jurisprudence. Given the sharp diversity of opinions on the matter, we see no end in sight if we accommodate any further attempt to trigger an undue third look at the Decision. That will be detrimental to our function of settling legal questions with finality and it would deprive us of valuable time to devote to other cases of equal importance. As conceded in some of the briefs for the requesting annual conferences and amici curiae, Decision 1032 was valid when (enacted) rendered, the 2008 General Conference revised the language in ¶ 225 to rectify the situation and it intended to remove the discretionary power, with the word “may” in the 2004 Discipline, given to the Pastor in 1032. If so, the appropriate approach is to probe into the significance of the new Disciplinary language, not to overindulge in the old one, which is now moot and academic. At any rate, Decision 1032 will not be a persuasive precedent because of its highly divisive character with a 5:4 voting. The opinions filed either way will not be an authoritative citation, as compared to a unanimous decision or a nearly unanimous one. The best that can be said about it is it provided the Church people an excellent opportunity to exercise their freedom of thought and expression and the Council to exhibit its equanimity in the midst of turmoil and strife. Let the decision rest where it may. Changing metaphors, let us not resurrect a dead horse which, by all indications, may be further beaten up. The 2008 General Conference has given us a new donkey in the modified ¶225. Let us untie and ride on it to bring us to a desirable destination where, hopefully, there would be relative peace so direly needed in these trying times for United Methodists. Let us now move forward with new insights and optimism to face the emerging challenges that lie ahead. This way we remain on track maintaining stability in the Church legal order. There is no need to reconsider, abandon, overturn or withdraw Decision 1032. ACCORDINGLY, I vote to deny reconsideration. RUBEN T. REYES October 30, 2010
…The bishop has no authority to make substantive rulings on judicial or administrative matters. Such matters are limited to the purview of the judicial or administrative bodies such as Committee on Investigation, Trial court, Committee on Appeals or Judicial Council. The constitution (¶ 18) and the 1996 Discipline (¶¶ 358, 2623, and 2626-2628) have placed the authority to resolve such questions in these bodies. To do otherwise would violate the principle of separation and balance of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches as set forth in the Constitution [emphasis added]. Questions which are procedural or substantive matters relating solely to actions in a judicial or administrative process are not proper questions to be addressed in a substantive ruling by a bishop.…As the Council has stated previously as well as in Memorandums 1166 and 1167, issued simultaneously herewith, there continues to be confusion concerning the issue of that which is appropriately asked by an individual of a presiding bishop as a question of law and that which is improper. The confusion may perhaps be the result of the fact that until October 1999 the church had operated under a paragraph in the Discipline that permitted bishops so to rule. Paragraph 2628.1(j) of the 1996 Discipline had specifically provided:
Errors or defects in judicial proceedings shall be duly considered when present on appeal. (1) In regard to cases where there is an investigation under ¶ 2626, but no trial is held as a result thereof, errors of Church law or administration committed by those in charge of the investigation are to be corrected by the presiding officer of the next conference on request in open session, and in such event the conference may also order just and suitable remedies if injury resulted from such errors. (2) Errors of Church law or defects in judicial proceedings that are discovered on appeal are to be corrected by the presiding officer of the next conference upon request in open session, and in such event the conference may also order just and suitable remedies if injury has resulted from such errors. [1996 Book of Discipline ¶ 2628.1(j)]However, in October 1999 the issue of the constitutionality of this paragraph came before the Judicial Council. In Decision 872 the Judicial Council ruled:
This paragraph grants to a bishop and an annual conference powers and authority which are reserved to other organizational bodies and divisions in the Constitution. For the foregoing reasons ¶ 2628.1(j) is determined to be unconstitutional and is ruled to be so.Questions as to fair process, judicial process, and administrative process must be addressed in the appropriate manner and through the specific bodies set forth in the Discipline. In no event may an individual bring those delineated issues to the Judicial Council pursuant to a review of a bishop’s ruling on a question of law; to do so circumvents the process set forth in the Discipline and also violates the principle of the separation and balance of powers. It is only by vote of an authorized body for a declaratory decision that the matter might be addressed by the Judicial Council on the merits. Thus, the case at issue in Decision 1032 ought to have been decided in the same manner that previous cases have been decided, as well as the cases that were brought before this Council during this session (see Memorandum 1166 and Memorandum 1167). The Decisions of Law ought to have been “reversed and vacated” without further comment. Only by vote of the annual conference for a declaratory decision could the matter raised in Decision 1032 have properly been before the Judicial Council for consideration and comment. Beth Capen October 30, 2010