Memorandum Number 802

April 24, 1997

Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference Concerning the Constitutionality of "Mission Area Ministries" Adopted as a Part of a Resolution Entitled "A Call to Change."


Bishop Morrison's response that the question posed to her for a decision of law was never properly raised in the session of the Annual Conference, and thus, did not rise to the level of a request for an episcopal decision of law, is affirmed.

This copy subject to final editing and correction.

Statement of Facts

The Judicial Council at its Fall, 1996, meeting considered a brief from a clergy member regarding the constitutionality of a resolution entitled "A Call to Change," which had been adopted by the Peninsula-Delaware Conference on October 14, 1995, at a special session of the Conference, because it appeared that Bishop Susan Morrison had not given a decision of law because of a technicality. The council remanded the case to Bishop Morrison for a decision on the question. A review of additional information provided by Bishop Morrison and the secretary of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, and a further review of the documents presented in this case, reveal that the question was not properly presented. (See Decision 799.) Par. 2613 of the 1996 Discipline gives the Judicial Council the authority to "pass upon and affirm, modify, or reverse the decisions of law made by bishops in central, district, annual, or jurisdictional conferences upon questions of law submitted to them in writing in the regular business of a session...." The request for a decision of law was discussed in a conversation between the clergy member and Bishop Morison during a break after a plenary business session. However, the request for a decision of law was not presented during a regular business session; therefore, a decision of law was not rendered by Bishop Morrison.

If the request for a decision of law regarding the constitutionality of the resolution entitled "A Call to Change" and the plan for "Mission Area Ministries" had been presented during a business session of the conference, it would have been illegal for Bishop Morrison to issue a decision of law since the plan for "Mission Area Ministries" has not been adopted by the Peninsula-Delaware Conference (see Judicial Council Decision No. 617). Once the plan for "Mission Area Ministries" has been adopted, someone wishing to test its constitutionality may request a decision of law of the presiding bishop. The ruling may then be appealed to the Judicial Council under ¶ 2614 or reviewed by the Judicial Council under ¶ 2613 of the 1996 Discipline.

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