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Memorandum No. 1219

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October 26 2012
In Re: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Tennessee Annual Conference Regarding the Resolution “Working Together to End Bullying”

During the June 13, 2012, plenary session, the Tennessee Annual Conference amended and adopted a resolution entitled “Working Together to End Bullying.” A clergy member of the Annual Conference asked the presiding bishop for a decision of law, stating, “I’m requesting a ruling on whether Resolution 13a violates the current Discipline.” The bishop ruled, “No, the Resolution does not violate the 2008 Book of Discipline” and noted that the Judicial Council would review his decision. Following this ruling, another clergy member of the Annual Conference asked if the resolution “fell under…the Restrictive Rules, Paragraph 17.” The bishop replied that the resolution was not a matter of doctrine and would not fall under the constitutional section mentioned. Subsequently, the bishop submitted a brief that supported his ruling that the resolution was not in violation of Discipline. He argued that (1) the decision of law is correct in that resolution 13a does not speak to a matter of doctrine; (2) the decision of law is correct because resolution 13a does not negate, ignore, or violate provisions of the Discipline; and (3) resolution 13a is consistent with the principles stated in the Discipline. In commenting on the way in which the matter was brought to him, the bishop observed that the question of law was not presented in writing prior to the conclusion of the regular business of the Annual Conference. The bishop states: “However, I did rule on the question and requested the written question from the inquiring party after the fact.” Paragraph 2609.6 states in relevant part: “The Judicial Council shall pass upon and affirm, modify, or reverse the decisions of law made by bishops in central, district, annual, or jurisdictional conferences upon questions of law submitted to them in writing (emphasis added) in the regular business of a session…” The official Minutes of the Tennessee Annual Conference do not refer to a written submission of the question. Although the clergy member who asked the question did “after the fact” present a written statement of the question, she has not challenged the bishop’s statement that “the question was not presented in writing prior to the conclusion of the regular business of the Annual Conference.” The bishop was not required to make a decision of law.

JURISDICTION
Because the submission of the question fails to meet the requirement of ¶ 2609.6 of the 2008 Discipline, the Judicial Council lacks jurisdiction in this matter.
DIGEST
The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction over a purported request for a decision of law at an annual conference if the request is not presented in written form in the regular business of a session. Beth Capen was absent. Sandra Lutz, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.

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