Decision Number 991


October 28, 2004

IN RE: Request from the 2004 General Conference for a Declaratory Decision on Whether Calendar Item 1498, as Adopted, Violates any Disciplinary Provision with Respect to Racial Ethnic Caucus Membership at Connectional Table.


The enacted legislation providing for the nomination of prospective members to the Connectional Table from racial ethnic caucuses does not violate any disciplinary provision and is not unconstitutional.

Statement of Facts

The 2004 General Conference adopted legislation creating a Connectional Table in The United Methodist Church, effective January 1, 2005. [T]he Connectional Table shall be assigned the primary responsibilities, general policies and practices found in the relevant 700 paragraphs. 2004 Daily Christian Advocate, p. 1915. Its purpose “is for the discernment and articulation of the vision for the church and the stewardship of the mission, ministries, and resources of The United Methodist Church as determined by the actions of the General Conference and in consultation with the Council of Bishops. Id. The voting membership of the Connectional Table shall consist of 47 persons. Among others it includes: (e) One member from each of the racial ethnic caucuses as elected by the C[onnectional] T[able] upon nomination from: Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Methodists Associated to Represent Hispanic Americans, Native American International Caucus, National Federation of Asian American United Methodists and Pacific Islanders National Caucus United Methodist. Id. at 1916.

On May 6, 2004, (p. 2218 of the DCA)General Conference made a request for a declaratory decision to the Judicial Council asking two questions. The first question has been addressed in Decision 990. The second question asks the following:

Referring to the legislation adopted which is found at calendar item # 1498 beginning on page 1915 of the DCA and in particular # (1)(e) under organization of Connectional Table, [i]s there any Disciplinary violation by the inclusion of caucuses as organizations permitted to place members at the Connectional Table?
Oral hearings were held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 28, 2004. Speaking on behalf of the proponents of the legislation were Edward Tomlinson, chair of the General Administration Legislative Committee of the 2004 General Conference, and Deborah A. McLeod, chair of the Structure Subcommittee of the General Administration Subcommittee.


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2000 Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale

The legislation creating the Connectional Table provides that it will function as the coordinator of the program life of the Church, determining its budgetary needs, and the most effective and efficient way to provide optimum stewardship of ministries, personnel, and resources. It was not created to be another general agency of the Church. See Decision 990.

In carrying out its programmatic and missional responsibilities, The United Methodist Church has been and seeks to be sensitive to the inclusiveness of racial and ethnic persons. Moreover, the Constitution mandates inclusiveness in the Church. Paragraph 4 provides that “[i]n The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition. Paragraph 15.14 states that the General Conference has the authority [t]o secure the rights and privileges of membership in all agencies, programs, and institutions in The United Methodist Church regardless of race or status. In keeping with this mandate, membership in this new and different entity must be inclusive of racial and ethnic persons. The inclusion of persons from racial ethnic caucuses as prospective members of the Connectional Table does not violate any disciplinary provision.

The Judicial Council is mindful that it held in Decision 601 that [d]isciplinary provisions which mandate guaranteed representation of a preferred status on general program boards are unconstitutional. Decision 601 is not controlling in this matter. The deliberations of the General Conference on the Connectional Table legislation indicate that the legislative committee and the delegates were enacting legislation that would result in the creation of a collaborative, cooperative, mission and decision-making entity. It was emphasized repeatedly that the Connectional Table would not be another general agency. Decision 601 prohibits mandated guaranteed representation of a preferred status on general program boards. The Connectional Table is not a general program board. The stated purpose of the Connectional Table is to be the visioning body for The United Methodist Church. The Discipline permits the whole United Methodist Church to be represented at the Table.


The enacted legislation providing for the nomination of prospective members to the Connectional Table from racial ethnic caucuses does not violate any disciplinary provision and is not unconstitutional.

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