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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

The Rev. Fitzgerald Reist, secretary of the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, reads a Judicial Council ruling stating that efforts to mandate membership in various church bodies are unconstitutional.

Language on board membership is unconstitutional, Judicial Council says

By Neill Caldwell*
April 25, 2008 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)

Petitions that seek to guarantee membership of certain types of people to General Conference and to United Methodist general agencies are unconstitutional, the Judicial Council ruled.

Responding to a request for a decision from the floor of the opening plenary session of 2008 General Conference, the council cited previous rulings Decisions 594 and 601 in which the denomination's supreme court forbade "any legislation which would guarantee a preferred status not extended to others."

In Decision 1090, the Judicial Council cited its ruling in Decision 601 that disciplinary provisions that "recommend" or ask that "special attention" be given to membership of certain categories of persons on general boards are constitutional. The council cited Paragraph 705.3i of the 2004 Book of Discipline as an example.

Kevin Goodwin, delegate from the Peninsula-Delaware Annual (regional) Conference, asked for the ruling April 23. He cited six petitions that mandate agency membership for disabled persons, youth and central conference members, and that guaranteed representation of youth, young adults and central conference as delegates at General Conference.

The Judicial Council ruled that if any of the petitions were to be adopted, they would "guarantee a preferred status and are, therefore, unconstitutional."

Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent. C. Rex Bevins, the first clergy alternate, participated in this decision.

*Caldwell is editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate and covers the Judicial Council for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Kathy Noble or Tim Tanton, e-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.

Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405(817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470(615) 742-5470.

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