Judicial Council Decisions

Decision No. 1149

In Re: Request for a Declaratory Decision from the Supervisory Committee of the College of Bishops of the Philippines Central Conference and the Committee on the Episcopacy of the Philippines Central Conference Regarding the Authority of the Philippines Central Conference College of Bishops to Handle a Complaint Against One of Its Members Under ¶ 413.

DIGEST OF CASE

The sentence in ¶¶ 413.2, 2704.1d and 2712.7 of the 2008 Discipline, which reads, “For the purposes of this paragraph, the United Methodist bishops of the central conferences shall constitute one college of bishops,” is unconstitutional. Any complaint against a bishop of the Philippines Central Conference shall be handled under the remaining provisions of ¶ 413.2 of the 2008 Discipline.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The Supervisory Committee of the College of Bishops and the Committee on Episcopacy of the Philippines Central Conference requested a declaratory decision regarding the authority of the Philippines Central Conference College of Bishops to handle a complaint against one of its members.
On July 2, 2009 a letter of complaint was received by Bishop Rudolfo Juan, the President of the College of Bishops of the Philippines Central Conference, alleging misconduct under ¶ 2702 of the 2008 Discipline of the part of Bishop Lito C. Tangonan.

Jurisdiction


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610.2(i) of the 2008 Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale


Does the Philippines Central Conference College of Bishops have the authority to receive a complaint against a bishop of the Philippines Central Conference, to oversee the supervisory response, that results in the resolution of the matter or if unresolved advance the complaint as an administrative complaint or judicial complaint to the Committee on Investigation (see ¶ 413.)?
The Constitution in ¶ 48. Article IV. states:
The bishops of each jurisdictional and central conference shall constitute a College of Bishops, and such College of Bishops shall arrange the plan of episcopal supervision of the annual conferences, missionary conferences, and missions within their respective territories.


Each of the following paragraphs, 413.2, 2704.1d, and 2712.7, of the 2008 Discipline states: “For the purpose of this paragraph, the United Methodist bishops of the Central Conferences shall constitute one college of bishops.” This sentence is contrary to ¶ 48. Article IV. of the Constitution. There is no provision in the Constitution for “bishops of the Central Conferences [to] constitute one college of bishops.” The only colleges of bishops are those provided for in ¶ 48. Therefore, the statement “For the purpose of this paragraph, the United Methodist bishops of the Central Conferences shall constitute one college of bishops” in ¶¶ 413.2, 2704.1d and 2712.7 is unconstitutional.

The College of Bishops of the Philippines Central Conference has authority to handle a complaint against a bishop of that central conference under ¶ 413.

DECISION

The sentence in ¶¶ 413.2, 2704.1d, and 2712.7 of the 2008 Book of Discipline, which reads, “For the purpose of this paragraph, the United Methodist bishops of the central conferences shall constitute one college of bishops” is unconstitutional. Any complaint against a bishop of the Philippines Central Conference shall be handled under the remaining provisions of ¶ 413.2 of the 2008 Discipline.


Ruben T. Reyes recused himself and did not participate in this decision.

Jay Arthur Garrison, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.

April 24, 2010


CONCURRING OPINION

I concur in the result; however, I do not believe that it is necessary to reach a constitutional issue. The provisions of ¶ 413 direct that a complaint against a bishop is to be submitted to the President of the College of Bishops in “that jurisdictional or central conference”. The last sentence of ¶ 413.2 can be read at least two different ways. Our task is to interpret the Discipline, to give effect to all of its provisions and to avoid an absurd result. It is not the intent of the General Conference that bishops of all central conferences constitute one college of bishops. The central conferences of the Philippines, the continent of Africa and Central and Eastern Europe are unable, due to distance and language barriers to function effectively as a close collegial body.

The central conference obviously refers to the central conference in which the complaint originates. The last sentence of ¶ 413.2 is mere surplusage and can be disregarded in order to avoid an absurd result.

Jon R. Gray
April 24, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010.


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