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Digest of Recent Decisions and Memorandums

 

 

DECISIONS OR MEMORANDA MADE IN OCTOBER 2017

NOTE: The full body of each decision and memorandum is available at UMC.org/decisions or by clicking on "Read full Decision."
 
 
 

 

 


 

MEMORANDUM 1345

 

In Re: Request for Reconsideration of Judicial Council Decision 1341

DIGEST

Reconsideration denied. Request denied.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1346

 

IN RE: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law regarding the authority of the Western Jurisdictional Conference to adopt rules and the effect of those rules on nominations to the jurisdictional pool.

DIGEST

In Judicial Council Memorandum 1338, we remanded the matter to Bishop Warner H. Brown with the request “for a decision of law to be made in accordance with the constitutional requirement in ¶ 51, Art. VII and submitted to the Judicial Council within thirty (30) days.” After the passing of thirty days, the Judicial Council received neither a decision of law nor response nor a request for an extension from the bishop.

A bishop may agree or disagree with a ruling, “but is still subject to the Constitution, The Book of Discipline, and the decisions of the Judicial Council” (JCD 1120). The disregard of a judicial ruling by a bishop (retired or otherwise) is troubling because it not only undermines the constitutional separation of powers and the principle of legality, but also contributes to the erosion of unity in The United Methodist Church.

Absent an episcopal response providing us with information, we reverse and modify in part the decision of law of Bishop Warner H. Brown.

Question 1 is not “moot and hypothetical”. The record shows that the matter is germane to the business and consideration of the 2016 session of the Western Jurisdictional Conference. We reverse the ruling and find that ¶ 705.1(a) of The Book of Discipline 2012 authorizes the Western Jurisdictional Conference to provide that members of the Jurisdictional Committee on Nominations may not be nominated for service on general and jurisdictional agencies by adopting Rule XV.e.1(b) in 2012.

Regarding Question 2, we modify the ruling as follows: Rule XVe.1(b) as adopted by the 2012 session of the Western Jurisdictional Conference was a valid part of the Rules of Order at the convening of the Western Jurisdictional Conference in 2016 and at the time the Question of Law was delivered to the bishop.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1347

 

IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the Denmark Annual Conference regarding the legality of the language added to The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶ 161.G) stating “…and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” in particular if it violates the First and Second Restrictive Rules (Constitution ¶¶ 17-18).

DIGEST

The Judicial Council lacks jurisdiction to consider this petition because the Denmark Annual Conference has failed to make any showing that the addition of the language “…and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” to ¶161(G) of The Discipline in any way relates to actions taken or to be taken by the annual conference.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1347

 

IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the Denmark Annual Conference regarding the legality of the language added to The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶ 161.G) stating “…and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” in particular if it violates the First and Second Restrictive Rules (Constitution ¶¶ 17-18).

DIGEST

The Judicial Council lacks jurisdiction to consider this petition because the Denmark Annual Conference has failed to make any showing that the addition of the language “…and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” to ¶161(G) of The Discipline in any way relates to actions taken or to be taken by the annual conference.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1348

 

IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the Alaska Conference regarding the constitutionality of the relevant portion of ¶ 2008 of The Book of Discipline 2016.

DIGEST

The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction since the matter does not involve annual conferences or the work therein. ¶ 2610.2(j). There is no showing in the record that the question was germane to the work of the Alaska Conference. Our longstanding jurisprudence has interpreted ¶ 2610.2(j) to mean that a request that comes from an annual conference must be germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the annual conference and must have a direct and tangible effect on the work of the annual conference session. See Memorandum 1277.

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DECISION NO. 1349

 

IN RE: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference concerning if the cabinet’s process for initiating part-time appointments meets the requirements of The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶ 338.

DIGEST

The request for a decision of law concerning the cabinet’s process for initiating part-time appointments is not a valid request.  Judicial Council Decision 799 clearly states the principle:  “Questions of law shall be germane to the regular business, consideration, or discussion of the Annual Conference and shall state the connection to a specific action taken, or the question must be raised during the deliberation of a specific issue or a matter upon which the conference takes action.” [emphasis added]   The appropriate ruling by the bishop should have been that the request for a decision of law was not a proper request.  The bishop’s decision of law is reversed.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1350

 

IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference concerning the constitutionality, application, meaning, and effect of The Book of Discipline 2012 ¶¶ 355, 362.2, 363, 636, and 2701 regarding the placing of a clergy member on involuntary leave of absence without a fair process hearing.

DIGEST

We are presented with a petition for declaratory decision that, in most, part raises issues of a judicial nature. In their briefs, Petitioner, the Bishop, and his Dean of Cabinet indicated that (1) the concerned clergyperson is under complaint, (2) a Counsel for the Church has been appointed and is expected to file a judicial complaint with the Committee on Investigation sometime in the Fall of 2017, and (3) it is a matter of time until this case goes to trial since all attempts at a just resolution have failed.

In JCD 1336, we declined jurisdiction in the Petition for Declaratory Decision from the Texas Annual Conference because the concerned clergyperson did not appeal the trial court decision within thirty days as required by ¶ 2715.1 of The Book of Discipline 2012. The purpose of the petition was “to seek an appeal from the decision of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry charged with implementing the penalties imposed by the Trial Court.” (JCD 1336).

In the instant case, the matter is still pending and has not yet been adjudicated by the proper judicial bodies. It must go through the requisite judicial and appellate processes first before coming to us as the body of last resort. The petition for declaratory decision is not the appropriate way to litigate a pending judicial matter. Therefore, it is improper for the Judicial Council to take up a matter that is currently the object of a judicial process in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference.

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DECISION NO. 1351

 

IN RE: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Iowa Annual Conference regarding the complaint procedure involving a clergy member who was reported to have publicly declared to be “a self-avowed practicing homosexual.”

DIGEST

The Rulings of the Bishop on all five questions presented are affirmed.  Questions 1, 2, 3, and 5 are clear efforts to relitigate a complaint procedure that was closed and completed by the previous Bishop.  The current Bishop correctly determined that she has no authority to reopen or otherwise disturb the outcome in the earlier complaint proceeding.  The Bishop found Question 4 to be hypothetical on the ground that no actual situation has occurred.  The record before us fails to show that any of the statements of a self-avowed, practicing homosexual occurred since September 1, 2016.  In the absence of that showing and in the absence of any action by this Bishop, the Bishop correctly concludes that she has no duty or authority to act.  The rulings of the Bishop are affirmed.

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DECISION NO. 1352

 

IN RE: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference concerning if, under The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶ 324.14, the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry has the authority to create a new category of candidates who are approved by the requisite three fourths majority of the Board members, but not brought forward for a vote of the clergy session.

DIGEST

A certified candidate must be recommended in writing by three-fourths majority vote of the Board of Ordained Ministry to be eligible for election to provisional membership under ¶ 324.14. It is the duty of the Board of Ordained Ministry to conduct a careful and thorough examination and investigation of a candidate, not only in terms of depth but also breadth of scope to ensure that disciplinary standards are met. The Board is not required to present to the clergy session a candidate who is not eligible. The clergy session may not elect a candidate who does not meet this requirement. The bishop’s Decision of Law is affirmed.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1353

 

IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the College of Bishops of the Africa Central Conference concerning if the General Council on Finance and Administration complied with Judicial Council Decision 1298.

DIGEST

The Judicial Council ceased to have jurisdiction over the question of the salary of Bishop Daniel Wandabula, when it determined that the GCFA had fully complied with its ruling in JCD 1298.  Since that matter was resolved through GCFA’s compliance, there is no jurisdiction that can be retained or “carried over” to the instant case. Because this petition raises a different issue (i.e. the payment of housing and office expenses), the question of jurisdiction needs to be examined separately. Par. 2610.1 delineates the power and scope of judicial review as follows:

2610.  Declaratory  Decisions-1.  The  Judicial  Council,  on petition as hereinafter provided, shall have jurisdiction to make a ruling in the nature of a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof or of any act or legislation of a General Conference; and the decision of the Judicial Council thereon shall be as binding and effectual as a decision made by it on appeal. [emphasis added]

The College of Bishops of the African Central Conference is not petitioning us to review the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof or of any act or legislation of a General Conference. They are asking us to rule on whether “the failure of GCFA to restore housing and office expenses for 2013 to 2017 violate[s] Decision 1298.” (Petition for Declaratory Decision, supra) If found to be in violation of said decision, GCFA should be ordered to make payment to Bishop Wandabula. The jurisdictional grant under ¶ 2610.1 does not include the authority to issue a judicial remedy of the sort requested by the College of Bishops. For this reason, we lack jurisdiction to review this matter.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1354

 

IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the California-Pacific Annual Conference regarding the legality of the language added to The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶ 161.G) stating “…and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” in particular if it violates the First and Second Restrictive Rules (Constitution ¶¶ 17-18).

DIGEST

The record does not indicate that the voting procedure was proper, so it is not clear that the petition was duly adopted by the annual conference.  In any case, the Judicial Council has no jurisdiction to answer questions from an annual conference that do not relate to annual conferences or the work therein.

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DECISION NO. 1355

 

IN RE: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law concerning if the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference is required to retroactively pay full salary and benefits to a clergy member who was placed on involuntary leave of absence.

DIGEST

Church law distinguishes between prospective and retroactive actions of the clergy session for the approval of involuntary leaves of absence. The prospective vote needs a two-thirds majority and the retroactive vote a simple majority to pass. These two types of action are separate and independent and cannot be combined; nor can one be substituted for the other. They must be marked distinctly under Disciplinary Question No. 50b on the Board of Ordained Ministry Report, introduced to the clergy session by differently worded motions, and acted upon separately and independently. Equitable minimum compensation is the basis for calculating compensation for the elder in this case placed on involuntary leave of absence, which was rendered invalid when the interim action was not retroactively approved. The bishop’s Decision of Law is affirmed.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1356

 

IN RE:  Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the South Carolina Annual Conference concerning if Decision 1340 of the Judicial Council or some part of the Book of Discipline 2016 render it out of order for an annual conference to petition the General Conference for enabling legislation to allow the Annual Conference to alter its relationship with the General Conference.

DIGEST

The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction.  The request for a Bishop’s decision of law arose out of a parliamentary ruling that the resolution or petition was out of order.  We have no jurisdiction to review a parliamentary determination by a bishop.

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MEMORANDUM NO. 1357

 

IN RE: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference concerning if the statement in Petition 307 is aspirational in nature and is a true statement in accordance with The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶¶ 17, 103, 104.

IN RE: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference concerning if the statement in Petition 611 is a) a true statement, b) aspirational in nature, and c) in violation of provisions of The Book of Discipline 2016.

DIGEST

The Judicial Council has consistently held that it has no jurisdiction to review a parliamentary ruling made by a presiding bishop in an annual conference. In Judicial Council Decision 1117, the Judicial Council stated: “There is no disciplinary authority for the Judicial Council to assume jurisdiction of a parliamentary ruling by a presiding bishop.”  The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction to review this matter.   See also JCD 834, 941, 943, and 1163.

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