Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 1214
October 26 2012
In Re: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the North Carolina Annual Conference Regarding the Meaning, Effect, and Application of ¶¶ 613.20 and 806.9
Digest of Case
The bishop’s decision of law is modified in one minor respect. The clergy member’s request was in fact raised at the time an action was taken by the annual conference. However, in its essence and substance, the bishop’s decision of law is affirmed.
Statement of Facts
During the 2012 session of the North Carolina Annual Conference, after the full report of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration was approved, a clergy member requested that the bishop offer “clarification” regarding two paragraphs in The Book of Discipline and a ruling on four questions that purported to seek “clarification” whether an action promotes “the acceptance of homosexuality” as provided in ¶¶ 613.20 and 806.9 of the 2008 Discipline. The bishop delivered a decision of law on the matter within the time limit that the Discipline (¶ 2609.6) requires. The decision is in two parts. First, the bishop declined to give any substantive response to the questions, finding their search for a “clarification” to be tantamount to a request for the bishop to make a declaratory decision. Second, the bishop found the request and the questions to be “moot and hypothetical…because they did not state their connection to a specific action taken by the Annual Conference and were not raised during the deliberation of a specific matter upon which the Annual Conference takes action.”
It is not the duty of the presiding Bishop to rule upon any hypothetical question which may be propounded, nor to answer requests for information which involve no legal matter.In effect, the clergy member’s question sought information that would define, in the form of a bishop’s decision of law, the meaning of a legislative phrase, namely “promote the acceptance of homosexuality.” Clearly, that is moot. Indeed, it asks the bishop to make a legal ruling on a hypothetical understanding of the manner in which an action by the annual conference might fit a definition that is not legislatively established. While the request for a purported decision of law was “germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the Annual Conference” as it is stipulated in Decision 799, it did not “state the connection to a specific action taken” in regard to matters specified in the annual conference budget. Notwithstanding the nature of the request as a matter of “a hypothetical, moot or improper question,” Decision 799 clearly states that the bishop “must… rule and follow the procedure for review by the Judicial Council.” In this matter, the bishop has done so.
The bishop’s decision of law is modified in one minor respect. The clergy member’s request was in fact raised at the time an action was taken by the annual conference. However, in its essence and substance, the bishop’s decision of law is affirmed. F. Belton Joyner, Jr., recused and took no part in this decision. Beth Capen was absent. Sandra Lutz, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.