In Re: Request for a Reconsideration of Decision 1152
DIGEST OF CASE
The request to reconsider Decision 1152 is denied.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
On January 6, 2010, the district superintendents of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference met as a committee to select the site of the 2010 regular session of the Annual Conference scheduled for February 22-25, 2010. Unidentified conference lay persons also were present at the meeting during which the Carmen United Methodist Church was chosen as the proposed site. An announcement of the location was published (along with a listing of the sites of other annual conferences) in MEALAB, the official publication of the Manila Episcopal Area, in its January-March 2010 issue (volume 2, number 1, page 14).
Judicial Council Decision 1149 states: “Any complaint against a bishop of the Philippines Central Conference shall be handled under the remaining provisions of ¶ 413.2 of the 2008 Discipline.”
Under that provision, the College of Bishops of the Manila Area suspended one of its members (See ¶ 413), and the Council of Bishops named an interim bishop (See ¶ 49).
On January 20, 2010, Bishop Daniel C. Arichea, Jr. was assigned as the interim presiding bishop of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference. Bishop Arichea met with the district superintendents on February 3, 2010. The superintendents agreed and the bishop consented that the Annual Conference session would be held at Wesleyan University Philippines.
On May 22, 2010, the Judicial Council released the following decision:
In Re: Review of a Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Middle Philippines Annual Conference Regarding the Designation of the Site of an Annual Conference Session Pursuant to ¶ 603.3 The Wesleyan University Philippines site of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference was validly chosen and designated by a majority of the district superintendents with the consent of the bishop in charge. Any purported Annual Conference actions taken outside of said Wesleyan University Philippines session are null, void, and of no effect. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed.
Within the forty-five day limit, one of the parties to the matter filed a motion for reconsideration. Subsequently, the bishop whose decision of law was at issue filed a response to the motion for reconsideration. Additional statements have been supplied to the Judicial Council, including some that challenge the factual base upon which the Judicial Council rendered its earlier decision. A statement filed on October 5, 2010, calls for dismissal of the reconsideration request because the individual who filed the request allegedly did not provide other interested parties with copies of his briefs by the deadline set by the Judicial Council “Rules of Practice and Procedure.”
Briefs have been filed that question whether the district superintendents who recommended the Wesleyan University Philippines venue were, in fact, the officially designated district superintendents. The interim bishop indicates that he named new interim district superintendents when the district superintendents in office when he was named interim bishop did not attend meetings he called or respond to his telephone calls. The record does not show if he consulted with the district committee on district superintendency as ¶ 417 provides.
Separate sessions, both purporting to be the legitimate sessions of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference, have been held at Wesleyan University Philippines and at Carmen United Methodist Church. The interim bishop states that the sessions at Carmen United Methodist Church were invalid, among other reasons, because the bishop under suspension presided at the clergy session and signed one set of appointments.
The Judicial Council has authority under the provisions of ¶¶ 56 and 2609 of the 2008 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
At issue in Decision 1152 was whether the interim bishop had the authority to consent to the site of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference in keeping with ¶ 603.3 that states: “The annual conference or a committee thereof shall select the place for holding the conference, but should it become necessary for any reason to change the place of meeting, a majority of the district superintendents, with the consent of the bishop in charge, may change the place.” The Judicial Council determined that the interim bishop had the requisite recommendation of a majority of the district superintendents and the interim bishop had the authority to consent to the site selected, Wesleyan University Philippines.
The “Rules of Practice and Procedure” indicates the circumstances under which the Judicial Council may choose to reconsider an earlier decision:
IX. RECONSIDERATION OF COUNCIL ACTION
Whenever a decision of the Judicial Council is shown to be in error, or in order to prevent a manifest injustice resulting from the interpretation of a Judicial Council decision, the Judicial Council on its own motion, or on a petition filed by a party to the proceedings, may, by a majority vote, reconsider any ruling or action taken by it.
Those seeking reconsideration argue (among other points) that Judicial Council decision is in error because the interim bishop did not consult with the legitimately appointed district superintendents. The interim bishop states that he named interim superintendents only when their predecessors did not respond to his call for meetings and states that, thus, the Judicial Council decision is not in error.
Is the Judicial Council in error in identifying the interim district superintendents named by Bishop Arichea as the legitimate district superintendents? Although the district superintendents named by Bishop Arichea’s predecessor continued to consider themselves the district superintendents, there is no block to Bishop Arichea’s replacing them with other persons. Paragraph 417 gives the bishop that authority. If Bishop Arichea failed to consult with the cabinet, it was because the cabinet would not meet with him. If Bishop Arichea failed to consult with the district committees on superintendency (and the record is silent on this matter), it would be a flaw that could be corrected before the final appointment of superintendents was made.
We conclude that there is no grievous error or manifest injustice that calls for the Judicial Council to reverse Decision 1152.
The deadlines set by the Judicial Council for filing briefs and the requirement that interested parties share with one another the material filed with the Judicial Council are both efforts to give the Judicial Council and interested parties time for careful, prayerful reflection. Although the Judicial Council is not a fact-finding body, it does need time for research. When any party avoids or enervates the deadlines and the requirements of sharing, the entire process of decision making is damaged.
The request to reconsider Decision 1152 is denied.
Ruben T. Reyes recused himself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision.
Saturday, October 30, 2010.
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