Judicial Council Decisions

Decision No. 1206

In Re: REVIEW OF A BISHOP’S DECISION OF LAW IN THE WEST MIDDLE PHILIPPINES ANNUAL CONFERENCE REGARDING A RESOLUTION IN REFERENCE TO ¶¶ 603.2 AND 603.6

DIGEST OF CASE

Paragraph 603 of the 2008 Discipline vests the bishop with the sole authority to appoint the time for holding an annual conference. Once the time is appointed by the bishop, representatives of an annual conference have no authority to change, modify, postpone, cancel, or reschedule the appointed time for holding the annual conference without the consent of the bishop. The bishop assigned shall preside or in case of inability, shall arrange for another bishop to preside. The conference may elect a president pro tempore from among the traveling elders of the annual conference only in those circumstances specified in ¶ 603.6. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

During the 2011 session of the West Middle Philippines Annual Conference, the presiding bishop received a request for a bishop’s decision of law on two questions that were submitted in writing during the regular business of the Conference session.

The questions were:
1) Is it in accordance with our Book of Discipline, sir (ma’am), for the date of the Annual Conference to be changed without the duly authorized Bishop knowing about it, according to Par. 603.2 of the Book of Discipline?

2) Based on Par. 603.6 of the Book of Discipline, could the resolution, sir (ma’am), that was decided upon by the West MidPac Officers on May 3, 2011 to make May 29-31, 2011 the date of the Annual Conference, and to request Bishop Toquero or any traveling elder of the conference, other than the interim bishop, to preside, be implemented?

Additional facts gleaned from the record are necessary in order to provide the complete context of the request for a bishop’s decision of law. The presiding bishop established May 12-14, 2011, as the date for the West Middle Philippines Annual Conference session. At some point prior to the Annual Conference, a group of purported conference representatives adopted a resolution to change the dates of the Annual Conference session to May 29-31, 2011, and also requested that a specifically named bishop preside over the conference session or that the conference be permitted to elect a president pro tempore from among the traveling elders of the Annual Conference. The presiding bishop did not consent to or concur in the purported change of dates. The bishop convened the Annual Conference session on May 12, 2011. The record suggests that the purported resolutions to change the date of the Annual Conference session were adopted before and not during the Annual Conference session. For that reason, the resolutions were not part of the business of the Annual Conference and are not a part of the record of the Annual Conference proceedings other than by reference.
The relevant portion of the presiding bishop’s decision of law is as follows:
The resolution of the West Middle is in order. They have a right to make such a resolution. However, the implementation of the resolution would be a clear violation of the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church, simply because what the resolution asks for are clear violations of the Book of Discipline, namely:
1) Requesting the Council of Bishops to allow Bishop Toquero to preside over the Annual Conference or if this is not possible, to allow the Conference to elect a traveling elder to preside over the conference. This is clearly a violation of paragraph 603.5, which says: The bishop assigned shall preside over the annual conference, and in case of inability shall arrange for another bishop to preside. In the absence of a bishop, the conference shall by ballot . . . elect a president protempore from among the traveling elders.”
I as the interim bishop am available to preside, and therefore the first part of 603.5 is in effect, and the other parts are not.
2) Moving the dates of the West Middle Philippines Annual Conference from May 12-14 to May 29-31, 2011. This is a clear violation of 603.2: “The bishops shall appoint the times for holding the annual conference.” It follows then that any annual conference session held because of this resolution will not be legitimate, and all its actions will be null and void. The only valid annual conference session is that held in Orani, Bataan, on the approved dates, namely May 12-14, 2011.


JURISDICTION

The Judicial Council has jurisdiction pursuant to ¶ 2609 of the 2008 Discipline.

ANALYSIS & RATIONALE

Paragraph 603.2 of the Discipline vests the bishop with the sole authority to appoint the time for holding annual conference. There is no authority for changing the appointed date by resolution or by decision of any person or group of persons. The prerogative for setting the time for holding an annual conference belongs to the bishop alone.

Paragraph 603.6 provides that the bishop assigned shall preside over the annual conference session, except in cases of inability. In such cases of inability, the bishop assigned shall arrange for another bishop to preside. The record demonstrates that the bishop assigned was present and available and, therefore, there was no disciplinary authority to request that another bishop preside other than the bishop assigned, nor is there any authority to elect a president pro tempore from among the traveling elders of the annual conference.

Bishop Daniel Arichea was assigned to fulfill all episcopal duties in the Manila Episcopal Area and had the sole authority to convene and preside over the Annual Conference session. Any purported Annual Conference actions taken outside of said session are null, void, and of no effect. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed.

DECISION

Paragraph 603 vests the bishop with sole authority to appoint the time for holding the annual conference. Once the time is appointed by the bishop, representatives of an annual conference have no authority to change, modify, postpone, cancel, or reschedule the appointed time for holding the annual conference without the consent of the bishop. The bishop assigned shall preside or in case of inability, shall arrange for another bishop to preside. The conference may elect a president pro tempore from among the traveling elders of the annual conference only in those circumstances specified in ¶ 603.6. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed.

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

Monday, April 23, 2012.


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