Decision Number 538
A Request From the College of Bishops, Western Jurisdiction, for a Declaratory Decision on Matters Relating to the Proposed Creation of a New Episcopal Area
A Jurisdictional Conference cannot assign a bishop to an area yet to be established or provide for the election of delegates or members on general boards and agencies from new Annual Conferences created during a quadrennium, unless the present Discipline is amended by the General Conference.
Statement of Facts
We received from the College of Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction a request for rulings on questions raised by the following statement:
Since 1968, the Western Jurisdiction has been authorized by Par. 505 to elect six bishops. For a variety of reasons over this sixteen-year period the Jurisdiction has not chosen to do this, but has continued with five bishops. The 1980 Jurisdictional Conference authorized their Committee on Conferences and Committee on Episcopacy to continue studying the need for a sixth episcopal area. After a number of meetings, these two committees have adopted a report recommending to the 1984 Jurisdictional Conference the creation of a sixth area, to be composed of a new Annual Conference to be created by the division of the present Pacific and Southwest Conference into two new Annual Conferences.
The recommendation proposed a three-stage process for the division of the present Pacific and Southwest Conference into two new Annual Conferences:
First Stage: For the purpose of naming members to certain key Jurisdictional Committees such as Episcopacy and Nominating, and for the purpose of nominating persons for membership on general boards and agencies, the two new conferences shall be deemed to be in existence immediately on passage of the resolution, and further that the elected Jurisdictional delegates from the present Pacific and Southwest Conference who reside in the bounds of the two new Annual Conferences shall be deemed, respectively, to be the elected delegates of the two new Annual Conferences, empowered to make all necessary nominations on behalf of the two new Annual Conferences as though they had been elected by them. (The purpose of this step is to avoid the problem of denying the two new Annual Conference representation on certain key jurisdictional and general bodies for a whole quadrennium, or having to call a special session of the Jurisdictional Conference for the purpose of such elections later in the quadrennium.)
Second Stage: For the purpose of informal and pastoral episcopal supervision, the two new Annual Conferences shall be deemed to be in existence from September 1, 1984. On that date, one bishop would be appointed to residence in Los Angeles and one in Phoenix. One would be named to have full juridical and disciplinary authority over the Pacific and Southwest Conference until its final dissolution no later than July 1, 1985. The second would be assigned for his/her first ten months in office to share joint responsibility in the oversight of preparing all details of the plan of division. The intent of this second stage is to have the second bishop assume as much pastoral responsibility for his/her emerging area during this time of transition as possible, while still recognizing that while the Pacific and Southwest Conference continues its legal existence, that it is necessary to have one bishop in charge even while working collegially as much as possible.
Third Stage: After all legal, structural, fiscal, pension, personnel and other matters have been worked through under the oversight of the two bishops, the plan is to be brought to the final session of the Pacific and Southwest Conference either at a special session or no later than its regular session of June, 1985. After approval of the plan and adjournment of the Pacific and Southwest Conference, the two new Annual Conferences would immediately convene, organize and do all necessary business to get under way, each under the leadership of its own bishop. From that point on, the two bishops would each be fully in charge of an Annual Conference, each carrying full juridical and disciplinary authority.
Questions for decision:
1. Can a Jurisdictional Conference assign a bishop to the functional responsibilities described above within an area over which another bishop has juridical and disciplinary authority for an interim period preparatory to his/her assuming full residential and presidential responsibilities? (See Judicial Council Decision 48)
2. Can a Jurisdictional Conference by its own resolution declare the elected delegates from the Pacific and Southwest Conference to be the delegates of two new Annual Conferences and empower them to act on behalf of the two new Annual Conferences in nominating members to Jurisdictional and General agencies?
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Discipline Par. 2615.2(d).
Analysis and Rationale
Under the narrow circumstances of the request and the present provisions of disciplinary legislation, our answer to question 1 must be No. There is now no disciplinary provision for the assignment of a bishop without full residential and presidential responsibilities, except perhaps as provided in Par. 507.3.
However, Par. 507.1 might be amended in some fashion such as changing the second paragraph. It now reads, "The effective date of assignment for all bishops is September lst following the Jurisdictional Conference." A sentence might be added to except the case of the creation of a new episcopal area. In that event, the effective date could be determined by the legislation.
Again, under the narrow circumstances of the request our answer to Question 2 must be No. Par. 805 might be amended to provide that a new annual conference which becomes fully organized according to disciplinary requirements (Par. 701 et. seq.) after the conclusion of a Jurisdictional Conference shall thereafter have representation on general boards in accordance with Par. 805, such representatives to be elected by the new Annual Conference. Such provision could be effective immediately if the General Conference so provided.
A Jurisdictional Conference cannot assign a bishop to an area yet to be established or provide for the election of delegates or members on general boards and agencies from new Annual Conferences created during a quadrennium unless the present Discipline Pars. 507 and 805 are amended by the General Conference.