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Decision No. 1212

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October 26 2012
In Re: Request from the General Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Constitutionality of Legislation Approved as Calendar Item 20 Regarding the Balance Between Clergy and Lay membership of Annual Conference

Digest of Case

Legislation approved as Calendar Item 20 of the 2012 General Conference as amended regarding the balance between clergy and lay membership of annual conference is unconstitutional.

Statement of Facts

Calendar Item 20 referring to Petition Number 20783 was adopted by the 2012 General Conference. The petition addressed ¶ 602 of the 2008 Discipline dealing with the equalization between clergy and lay members at annual conference. It added the sentence "Clergy who voluntarily indicate that they are unable to attend annual conference because of incapacity or advanced age shall not be counted in arriving at the balance between clergy and lay."

The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2008 Discipline.
Paragraph 32, Article 1 of the Constitution states: "If the lay membership should number less that the clergy members of the annual conference, the annual conference shall, by its own formula, provide for the election of additional lay members to equalize lay and clergy membership of the annual conference." This principle has been upheld by the Judicial Council in Decision 553: "An Annual Conference rule which bases the constitutional lay/clergy equalization requirement of ¶ 35 of the 1984 Discipline upon Conference clergy attendance rather than Conference clergy membership is unconstitutional." There is no compelling evidence from the Daily Christian Advocate record to view this particular legislation as breaking new ground on this issue. Paragraph 334.5 speaks specifically about retired elders and states "voting membership shall be retained in the clergy member's home annual conference" whether they attend sessions or not. Members cannot be eliminated from the count for equalization. The principle of equalization stands and cannot be subverted under the Constitution.


The legislation approved as Calendar Item 20 as amended of the 2012 General Conference regarding the balance between clergy and lay membership of annual conference is unconstitutional. Beth Capen was absent. Sandra Lutz, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.

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