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Memorandum No. 1171

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October 29 2010
In Re: A Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law as to Whether the Structure of the Indiana Annual Conference Complies with Paragraph 634 Regarding Higher Education and Campus Ministry

On June 11, 2010, at the Indiana Annual Conference the report from the Conference Rules and Structure Committee was presented, voted on, and adopted by the Annual Conference. Following the adoption of the report, a lay member requested a bishop’s decision of law, stating:

Given that paragraphs (sic) 634.2, 634.3, and 634.4 of the 2008 Book of Discipline requires every Annual Conference to have a Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry or “an equivalent structure,” and that the Judicial Council has defined “equivalent structure” as “parallel, comparable, unvarying and match” (Decision 815), and that the Judicial Council has further defined the guidelines for acceptable conference structure (Decision 835 with particular reference to guideline 4): I respectfully request a Rule of Law concerning whether the action just taken by this Annual Conference in passing the “Standing Rules and Rules of Order” report places the Indiana Conference in compliance with the 2008 Book of Discipline and the relevant Judicial Council decisions in the way it has provided for the election, membership, funding, functions and connectional relationships mandated for the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry (2008 Book of Discipline, paragraph 634).
The Bishop ruled:
In response to the request for a rule of law presented yesterday by Charles Roth, lay member from Brookston UMC, I rule that the structures of the Indiana Conference for the functions of the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry are in compliance with Para. 634.1 of the 2008 BOD which authorizes an Annual Conference to develop an “other structure” to perform the functions and maintain the connectional relationships required by Para. 634 and the relevant Judicial Council decisions. Further, I rule that the more permissive language authorized by Para. 634.1 (“or other structure”) has been properly applied in interpreting the succeeding sub paragraphs (634.2, 634.3, 634.4,) of this paragraph of the Discipline. The Judicial Council in several recent rulings (900 and 1147 for example) has made it clear that there are some mandated structures (e.g. CFA, Board of Ordained Ministries) which simply must exist as stated, but in other cases where the BOD indicates that a conference may use “other structures” or “other equivalent structures” then what is mandatory is for the functions and connections to be clearly assigned to those other structures. I find that the Indiana Conference structure meets that requirement because it assigns those Disciplinary requirements to this “other structure” which is described as the Discipleship Leadership Development Team.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609 of the 2008 Discipline. The record does not indicate that the provisions of Paragraph 634.2, .3, .4 are provided for in the Standing Rules and Rules of Order as adopted on June 11, 2010. The Structure of the Indiana Conference includes representatives of Higher Education on the Discipleship Leadership Development Team and the (New) *Young Adult Ministry Team. The Task as stated in the document as approved is “to create opportunities for young adults across the conference to grow in ministry and mission, as well as to participate in the governance of the congregations of the Annual Conference and other connectional opportunities.” This does not satisfy the extensive requirements of ¶ 634.2, .3, and .4 of the 2008 Discipline. Further, it is noted that the Bishop chaired the Conference Leadership Table. On such a matter Decision 831 states:
Contrary to the long-established traditions of Methodism that bishops preside over, but are not members, voting or otherwise, of Annual Conferences, the Interim Model creates an Executive Steering Team, appointed by the bishop, which includes the bishop as a voting member. The powers of the Executive Steering Team include the management and deployment of all budgeted funds and the day to day administrative responsibility over the Annual Conference for the three years of the Interim Model. The provision of the Model to include the bishop as a voting member clearly and improperly expands the authority of the episcopal office by a body, the Annual Conference, which is not empowered to do so. Inasmuch as a bishop is not a member of the Annual Conference, there is no authority for the Annual Conference or any other board or agency to grant the right of vote to a bishop in matters relating to the Annual Conference.
DIGEST
The Indiana Annual Conference plan entitled The Structure of the Indiana Conference does not comply with the provisions of ¶ 634. The plan does not maintain connectional relationships as required by the 2008 Discipline. The Structure of the Indiana Conference plan is hereby remanded to the Indiana Annual Conference to be revised and brought in compliance with ¶ 634. The ruling of the bishop is reversed.

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