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Decision No. 1208

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May 02 2012
In Re: Request from the Council of Bishops for a Declaratory Decision on the Constitutionality of Proposed Legislation before the 2012 General Conference concerning a Report from the General Council on Finance and Administration and recommended amendments adopted by the Legislative Committee on Financial Administration

DIGEST
The parts of GCFA Report No. 8 in items 5 and 6 that authorize the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) to negotiate apportionments with the Rio Grande Annual Conference, the Alaska Missionary Conference, the Red Bird Missionary Conference, the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, and the annual conferences of the central conferences, and the parts of the Legislative Committee amendment to the same report in item 2 that establish a jurisdictional apportionment for the Episcopal Fund are unconstitutional, violating ¶¶ 27 and 45.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
During the 2012 General Conference, the Council of Bishops submitted a request for a declaratory decision on the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of proposed legislation that includes GCFA Report No. 8 and amendments recommended by the Legislative Committee on Financial Administration. The full text of the Council’s request is as follows:
The Council of Bishops, with the support of the Interjurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy, requests a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the proposed legislation before the General Conference under Calendar item 479. Calendar item 479 (found on page 2194 in the DCA) amends GCFA's recommended apportionment formula by removing the Episcopal Fund from those funds apportioned to all of the annual conferences. Under this amendment the Episcopal Fund would be apportioned to the jurisdictions under a different formula. The full cost for the missional allocation of bishop would be shifted to the jurisdiction in which the bishops serve. This change appears to be in conflict with the Restrictive Rules, Paragraph 19. Article III: The General Conference shall not change or alter any part or rule of our government so as to do away with episcopacy or destroy the plan of our itinerant general superintendency. This amendment shifts the church from our itinerant general superintendency in to direction of a diocesan form of episcopacy. Furthermore, the General Conference has authority over all matters distinctively connectional including: To determine and provide for raising and distributing funds necessary to carry on the work of the Church. (Paragraph 16, Article IV.9) Additionally, the Powers and Duties of the jurisdictional conferences under paragraph 27. Article V, authority is not extended for negotiating, administering, apportioning or collecting general church funds.
Calendar Item 479 includes the original Report No. 8 from GCFA and the amendments submitted by the Legislative Committee on Financial Administration to apportion the Episcopal Fund to jurisdictions and to amend the language that authorizes GCFA to negotiate apportionments with the Rio Grande Annual Conference, the Alaska Missionary Conference, the Red Bird Missionary Conference, the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, and the annual conferences of the central conferences. An oral hearing was conducted in Tampa, Florida, on May 3, 2012. Bishops Warner Brown, Paul Leeland, Rosemarie Wenner, and Jack Tuell represented the Council of Bishops. Bonnie Marden represented the Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy. Don House represented the Legislative Committee on Financial Administration.
JURISDICTION
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction pursuant to ¶ 2609.2 of the 2008 Discipline.
ANALYSIS AND RATIONALE
This request for a declaratory decision comes from the Council of Bishops, with support from the Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy. The 2008 Discipline authorizes the Judicial Council to determine the constitutionality of any proposed legislation when such a decision is requested by the General Conference or the Council of Bishops. There is no provision under ¶ 2609.2 that allows the Judicial Council to receive requests on proposed legislation from any entities or bodies other than the General Conference or the Council of Bishops. Although the Interjurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy supports this request for a declaratory decision, the Judicial Council cannot receive such requests from that body. Moreover, although the Council of Bishops has submitted a request for a declaratory decision concerning “the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the proposed legislation,” the limit of authority for the Judicial Council is to determine the “constitutionality” of the proposed legislation, not its meaning, application, or effect. The Council of Bishops cites three constitutional provisions in the request for a declaratory decision: ¶ 19; ¶ 16; and ¶ 27. With regard to ¶ 19 (Restrictive Rule, Article III), the considerations listed in Calendar Item 479 do not propose an alteration of church government or a destruction of the plan of itinerant general superintendency. Hence, ¶ 19 of the Constitution is not pertinent to this matter. With regard to ¶ 16 (Article IV), the Constitution authorizes the General Conference to “determine and provide for raising and distributing funds necessary to carry on the work of the Church” (¶ 16.9). Based on that constitutional authority, the General Conference has enacted legislation (¶¶ 806.1, 810.1, and 817) that addresses the matter in question. Paragraph 16.9 of the Constitution states that the General Conference shall have the power:
To determine and provide for raising and distributing funds necessary to carry on the work of the Church.
The 2008 Discipline provides the following:
The [General Council on Finance and Administration] shall be accountable to The United Methodist Church through the General Conference in all matters relating to the receiving, disbursing, and reporting of such funds…(¶ 806) It shall submit to each quadrennial session of the General Conference, for its action and determination, budgets of expense for each of the general funds of the Church, as listed or defined in ¶ 810.1, and such other general funds as the General Conference may establish. It shall make recommendations regarding all funding considerations to come before General Conference. (¶ 806.1) The council shall make recommendations to the General Conference as to the amount and distribution of the Episcopal Fund and General Administration Fund… (¶ 806.1a)
Hence, the General Conference, acting under the authority of the Constitution, provides the legislative process for action on the Episcopal Fund. In so doing, however, the General Conference is constrained by well-established principles. It cannot act in any manner that is contrary to the Constitution. It cannot delegate any of its authority to another body. It cannot delegate any of its legislative powers to its subordinate bodies. (See Decisions 30, 142, 147) With regard to ¶ 27 (Article V), which addresses the powers and duties of jurisdictional conferences, there is no constitutional authority for jurisdictions to bear responsibility for funds that are not collected otherwise. Further, there is no constitutional authority for the General Conference or any of its subordinate bodies (such as GCFA) to engage in negotiating the apportionments of Church funds. Moreover, ¶¶ 28-31 (Section V) also lack any authorization to negotiate apportionments. Under ¶ 45, the Constitution specifies “that a unified superintendency and episcopacy is hereby created and established of, in, and by those who now are and shall be bishops of The United Methodist Church.” The proposal in Calendar Item 479 creates a funding mechanism that is dependent upon raising funds from jurisdictions and that invades and undermines the “unified” nature of the episcopacy. According to ¶ 806.1d, GCFA has the authority to “recommend the formulas by which all apportionments to the annual conferences shall be determined, subject to the approval of the General Conference.” But the constitutional authority and legislative responsibility for these matters remain with the General Conference, which cannot delegate or assign them elsewhere. The “Apportionment Formula” in Report No. 8 submitted by GCFA to the 2012 General Conference and the proposed amendments adopted by the Legislative Committee on Financial Administration violate the Constitution in that they claim authority for imposing apportionments on a jurisdictional basis and that they purport to have the General Conference delegate authority that it is not constitutionally permitted to do.
DECISION
The parts of GCFA Report No. 8 in item 5 and 6 that authorize the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) to negotiate apportionments with the Rio Grande Annual Conference, the Alaska Missionary Conference, the Red Bird Missionary Conference, the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, and the annual conferences of the central conferences, and the parts of the Legislative Committee amendment to the same report in item 2 that establish a jurisdictional apportionment for the Episcopal Fund are unconstitutional, violating ¶¶ 27 and 45. May 3, 2012

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