Judicial Council Decisions

Decision No. 1204

In Re: A Request from the South Carolina Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Constitutionality, Meaning, Application, and Effect of the Structure Plan Adopted by the Annual Conference in Light of ¶ 610, ¶ 614.3, and Decision 1147

DIGEST OF CASE

Because of the defects in the program structure of the Annual Conference, the South Carolina Conference plan fails to be in full compliance with ¶¶ 610 and 614.3 and with Decision 1147. The plan is remanded to the Annual Conference for revision to be submitted to the Judicial Council no later than thirty (30) days following the close of the 2012 regular session of the Annual Conference. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

On June 8, 2011, the South Carolina Annual Conference adopted a Transition Plan for a revision of programmatic structures. The Transition Plan that was adopted included the following motion:
Under Par. 2610.2(f) of The Book of Discipline 2008, the SC Annual Conference petitions the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the constitutionality, meaning, application, and effect of the Discipline in regard to Par. 610, Par. 614.3 and Judicial Council Decision 1147 on the SC Conference Structure Plan adopted in session June 19 (sic), 2011 and to become effective June 2011.

Subsequently, on motion by an elder in full connection, the Annual Conference voted on the request for declaratory decision as an action separate from the Transition Plan itself. The record indicates that this "motion to petition the Judicial Council, as reported above, was approved." Representatives of the Annual Conference filed the appropriate minutes and a copy of the entire Transition Plan. In addition, the chair of the Committee on Transition submitted a brief seeking "to establish jurisdiction and the need of the South Carolina Conference to be assured that the structure plan adopted June 9, 2011 adheres to church law." Also among the materials provided are the nominations report, the 2012 budget, and relevant portions of the Annual Conference Standing Rules. The request for a declaratory decision asks specifically for evaluation of the plan in terms of ¶¶ 610 and 614.3 and Decision 1147.

JURISDICTION


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction pursuant to ¶ 2610 of the 2008 Discipline.


ANALYSIS AND RATIONALE


Paragraph 610 provides recommendations and requirements for how an annual conference structures its agencies. Paragraph 614.3 identifies how an annual conference prepares and approves its benevolences budget. Judicial Council Decision 1147 states that "the annual conference must abide by all disciplinary mandates and Judicial Council Decisions in the creation of its new structure."
The South Carolina Annual Conference has made a careful comparison of its structure in the Transition Plan with disciplinary requirements. There are, however, ways in which the plan is deficient in terms of disciplinary mandates. For example, ¶ 641 mandates a conference commission on archives and history. See Decision 1147. Paragraph 610.1 states that "an annual conference shall provide for the functions and General Conference connections with all general agencies...." Paragraph 703.6 identifies the General Commission on Archives and History not only as an administrative agency, but also as one that carries "program-related responsibilities for which they are accountable to the Connectional Table." The South Carolina Annual Conference plan of structure does not give the commission on archives and history a place in its programmatic organization. The budget for conference benevolences does not include a line item for a commission on archives and history. Paragraph 614.3c defines conference benevolences as inclusion of "those conference allocation and expenditures directly associated with the program mission, and benevolent causes of annual conference program agencies and institutions." The commission on archives and history is absent from the benevolences budget. If the structure of the Annual Conference is to "provide for the functions and General Conference connections with all general agencies….” and if the Commission on Archives and History is to have "program-related responsibilities,” the structure needs to include its mandated commission on archives and history in its various programmatic and benevolences budget considerations.
Another defect in the plan places the Council on Youth under Conference Discipleship Ministries. Paragraph 649.1specifies that “the council shall be related to the annual conference council on ministries or equivalent structure.” In the plan, the Council on Youth should relate directly to Conference Connectional Ministries. The plan does not include the mandated conference council on young-adult ministry (¶ 650.1) that should be “related to the annual conference council on ministries or alternative structure” (Conference Connectional Ministries).
It is not clear from the record if the conference secretary of global ministries is a member of the conference Board of Global Ministries, as required by ¶ 633.3.
In sum, as seen in these examples, the South Carolina Annual Conference has failed to match all the disciplinary requirements for conference structure.

DECISION

Because of the defects in the program structure of the Annual Conference, the South Carolina Conference plan fails to be in full compliance with ¶¶ 610 and 614.3 and with Decision 1147. The plan is remanded to the Annual Conference for revision to be submitted to the Judicial Council no later than thirty (30) days following the close of the 2012 regular session of the Annual Conference. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction.

Susan T. Henry-Crowe recused herself and did not participate in the deliberation.

Friday, October 28, 2011.


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