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Memorandum No. 1180

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October 29 2010
In Re: Request from the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference Council for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning, Application and Effect of ¶ 31.4 in Relation to ¶¶ 581 and ¶ 582 Regarding Establishment of a Provisional Annual Conference

Digest of Case

Although the 2008 Discipline is not clear in ¶ 581 and ¶ 582, the Judicial Council is bound to interpret those provisions. Any missionary conference or mission established under the provisions of the Discipline may be constituted as a provisional annual conference by the General Conference in consultation with the central conference, provisional central conference, or jurisdictional conference within which the missionary conference or mission is located. Paragraph 581 lists additional provisions which must be honored as well. A provisional annual conference does not qualify for annual conference status.

Statement of Facts

The Northern Europe Central Conference, meeting in Strandby, Denmark, in February 2009, debated whether a central conference has the authority to organize a district in one of its provisional annual conferences as a new provisional annual conference. At issue was the Central Asia District (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) of the East Russia and Central Asia Provisional Annual Conference. This provisional annual conference is part of the Northern Europe Central Conference. Two questions were raised: “(1) Is the provision described in ¶ 581 for missionary conferences and missions exclusively, while turning a district into a provisional annual conference falls under ¶ 543.8? (2) Is the regulation ‘by the General Conference’ in ¶ 581 in conflict with Section VII, Article IV of the Constitution (¶ 40) which gives central conferences the power to ‘(effect) changes in number, name and boundaries of annual conferences?” Unable to resolve the matter, the Northern Europe Central Conference referred the issue to the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference Council, meeting in March 2010 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Based on the provisions of ¶ 2610.2i, the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference has asked the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the authority of a central conference to organize a district in one of its provisional annual conferences as a new provisional annual conference.

Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2008 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 31, Article IV 4 of the Constitution states :
The central conferences shall have the following powers and duties and such others as may be conferred by the General Conference…: 4 To determine the boundaries of the annual conferences within their respective areas.
Paragraph 40, Article IV states:
Changes in the number, names, and boundaries of the annual conference and Episcopal areas may be effected by the jurisdictional conferences in the United States in America and by the central conferences outside the United States of America according to the provisions under the respective powers and pursuant to the respective structures of the jurisdictional and central conferences.
The provisions in Paragraph 40, Article IV of the Constitution must be balanced with Paragraph 16, Article IV which states:
The General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional…
Paragraph 580 states:
A provisional annual conference is a conference that, because of its limited membership, does not qualify for annual conference status.
Paragraph 581 states:
Any missionary conference or mission established under the provisions of the Discipline may be constituted as a provisional annual conference by the General Conference, in consultation with the central conference provisional central conference, or jurisdictional conference within which the missionary conference or mission is located, provided that: 1. No provisional annual conference shall be organized with fewer than ten clergy members or be continued with fewer than six clergy members. 2. The total financial support from the General Board of Global Ministries, including the Advance, shall not exceed an appropriate percentage as determined in consultation with the board. 3. The membership and contributions of the conference have shown a reasonable increase during the previous quadrennium and give evidence of an aggressive program for continued progress in both areas.
Paragraph 582 sets forth the following:
Organization—A provisional annual conference shall be organized in the same manner and have the same powers and functions as an annual conference, subject to the approval of the presiding bishop; and its members shall share pro rata in the proceeds of The United Methodist Publishing House with members of the annual conferences, with the following exceptions: 1. The bishop having episcopal supervision of a provisional annual conference in a foreign or a home mission field may appoint a representative as superintendent, to whom may be committed specific responsibility for the representation of the General Board of Global Ministries in its relation to the indigenous church and also in cooperation with other recognized evangelical missions. Such duties shall be exercised so as not to interfere with the work of the district superintendent. This superintendent may also be a district superintendent, provided the superintendent is a member of the said conference. The superintendent shall be responsible directly to the bishop appointed to administer the work in that episcopal area and shall make adequate reports of the work and needs of the field to the bishop and to the secretaries of the General Board of Global Ministries immediately concerned.
The Judicial Council notes the confusion that may exist between ¶ 580 and ¶ 581 and ¶ 582 as stated above. However, the powers granted by ¶¶ 580 and 581 are in light of ¶¶ 40, Article IV and ¶ 16, Article IV of the Constitution. The Discipline states that, any missionary conference or mission established under the provisions of the Discipline may be constituted as a provisional annual conference by the General Conference in consultation with the central conference, provisional central conference, or jurisdictional conference…The General Conference in consultation is the body with whom the authority rests for the establishment of provisional annual conferences. The boundaries of the Annual Conference are not the same as the establishment of a provisional annual conference. The Discipline is clear that a provisional annual conference does not qualify for annual conference status.

Decision

Although the 2008 Discipline is not clear in ¶ 581 and ¶ 582, the Judicial Council is bound to interpret those provisions. Provisional annual conference does not qualify for annual conference status. Any missionary conference or mission established under the provisions of the Discipline may be constituted as a provisional annual conference by the General Conference in consultation with the central conference, provisional central conference, or jurisdictional conference within which the missionary conference or mission is located. Paragraph 581 lists additional provisions which must be honored as well. A provisional annual conference does not qualify for annual conference status. F. Belton Joyner concurs dubitante.

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