Memorandum Number 1159
Request from the South Carolina Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Meaning, Application, and Effect of ¶ 502 in Light of ¶¶ 13 and 15 of the Constitution in Regards the Authority of the Secretary of the General Conference to Determine the Number of Delegates to the General Conference
The 2010 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference adopted a motion to petition the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision concerning the authority of the Secretary of the General Conference to calculate the number of delegates to be elected by each annual conference. The text of the request for a declaratory decision adopted by the Annual Conference is as follows:
Under ¶ 2610.2j the South Carolina Annual Conference petitions the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of Paragraph 502 with Paragraph 13 and Paragraph 15 of the 2008 Book of Discipline as these relate to the authority to fix the number of General Conference Delegates to be elected at the session of the annual conference prior to the next regular General Conference. The following questions are raised to clarify any conflict in Paragraph 502 with Paragraph 13 and Paragraph 15. 1. Does the authority of the Secretary of the General Conference to calculate the number of delegates to be elected by each annual conference in Paragraph 502.3 include the authority to alter the ratio formula fixed by General Conference under Paragraph 13 and Paragraph 15 of the Constitution and defined in Paragraph 502.3? 2. Is the prescribed minimum (600) and the prescribed maximum (1000) number of delegates intended to permit variation in the ratio formula fixed by General Conference under authority of Paragraph 15? Can such variation in the fixed formula ratio be delegated to the Secretary of the General Conference or is any formula variation limited to the General Conference by Paragraph 15? When the formula fixed by General Conference produces a number of delegates either below the minimum or above the maximum, is the Secretary of the General Conference authorized to adjust the number of delegates more than is necessary to remedy the situation as defined in Paragraph 502.3e?Under ¶ 2610, the Judicial Council has 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. The Judicial Council's jurisdiction to make such a ruling upon request of an annual conference is limited by the language of ¶ 2610.2 (j) which requires that a request from an annual conference must relate to annual conferences or the work therein. Our longstanding jurisprudence has interpreted ¶ 2610 to mean that a request for a declaratory decision 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. In order to vest proper jurisdiction in the Judicial Council, the request submitted for a declaratory decision must have a direct and tangible effect on the work of the body submitting the petition. This principle has never been reversed or modified. There is no showing in the record supplied that the request for a declaratory decision related to some action taken or proposed to be taken by the Annual Conference wherein under the specific facts in each case some doubt may have arisen as to the legality of the action taken or proposed. The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction to answer questions that are not clearly within its jurisdiction. See Decisions 33, 301 and 452. Stated otherwise, there was no action taken by the Annual Conference that in any way affects the authority granted to the Secretary of the General Conference under ¶ 502.3. In the absence of a specific action of the Annual Conference, a request for a declaratory decision is nothing more than an invitation to answer a moot and hypothetical question. The Judicial Council has consistently held that moot and hypothetical questions should not be answered. The Judicial Council has only such jurisdiction as is expressly granted to it by the Constitution and by the General Conference. Our lodestar principle has been that we may not assume jurisdiction to render a declaratory decision unless jurisdiction has been clearly vested in the Judicial Council. See Decision 29. Our long-standing policy is to construe our jurisdiction strictly and with restraint. See Decisions 255 and 535. The Judicial Council held an oral hearing in this cause on October 28, 2010, at New Orleans, Louisiana. The Rev. Timothy J. Rogers appeared on behalf of the South Carolina Annual Conference. The Rev. L. Fitzgerald Reist, Secretary of the General Conference, also appeared.
The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction.
Because ¶ 2610.2j indicates that the Judicial Council has jurisdiction over matters from an annual conference that are related to annual conferences (note plural), I think the South Carolina Annual Conference consideration of this question conforms to the requirement for Judicial Council jurisdiction. All annual conferences are affected by decisions related to the size of the General Conference.
F. Belton Joyner, Jr.