Memorandum Number 1145
Request for Declaratory Decision from the California-Pacific Annual Conference Regarding Voluntary Termination of Conference Membership by Withdrawal Under Complaint or Charges
During the 2009 Session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, the clergy session presented a proposal to the Annual Conference to request a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council regarding voluntary termination of conference membership by withdrawal under complaint or charges. The Minutes of the Clergy Session of the 2009 Session of the California – Pacific Annual Conference record the following pertinent item:
Tom Griffith made a motion that the Clergy Session to (sic) endorse a proposed request for a declaratory decision to the Plenary Session for adoption and to direct that the motion to the Plenary Session is to be made by the chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry on behalf of the Clergy Session. It was supported. (Lines 112 –114, p. 3).The corresponding part of the minutes of the Plenary Session reads:
Derek also presented a proposal from the Clergy Session to request a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council regarding Voluntary Termination of Conference Membership by withdrawal under complaint or charges. It was supported (Lines 358-360, p. 8).
The jurisdiction of the Judicial Council to entertain a request for a declaratory decision from an annual conference is limited by the provisions of ¶ 2610 of the 2008 Discipline. In order for a petition to invoke Judicial Council jurisdiction, it must request a ruling in the nature of a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof. Under the current Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Council, it is the responsibility of the Secretary of the Annual Conference to provide the Secretary of the Judicial Council with materials relating to the matter being appealed, including a copy of the minutes where such matters arose in the normal proceedings of the body. See Rule III B. The official minutes should include an exact statement of the entire request for a declaratory decision submitted to the Annual Conference and clearly reflect facts sufficient to invoke the Judicial Council's jurisdiction, including any and all parliamentary actions tendered thereto. It is for such reason that annual conferences routinely require that the text of a request for a declaratory decision be submitted in writing so that the exact text of the question can be included in the official minutes of the Annual Conference.
The official minutes of the Annual Conference session do not include the exact text of the question submitted for a declaratory decision. In addition to the official minutes of the Annual Conference session and a brief of amicus curiae, the Judicial Council has been favored with two versions of a request for a declaratory decision with differing text. Three signatories appear on one version of the request and four signatories appear on the other version. We are unable to determine which of the two competing versions was actually presented to the Annual Conference and which was later revised. Neither version appears in the official minutes of the Annual Conference. Consequently, the minutes fail to reflect facts sufficient to invoke the Judicial Council's jurisdiction. The accompanying briefs and exhibits submitted by members of the Annual Conference are not suitable substitutes for the official minutes of the Annual Conference record, nor may briefs or gratuitous statements offered by parties or interested persons serve in lieu of the official minutes of the Annual Conference action that are maintained and supplied by the Secretary of the Annual Conference. See Memorandum 1102.
The Judicial Council declines jurisdiction for failure to comply with the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Council.
The separate proposed request and brief submitted cannot cure the defect that the minutes of both the Clergy and Plenary sessions do not reveal an exact statement of the entire question submitted for declaratory decision. I would add that the mandatory requirement applies not only to request for review of bishop's decision of law but also to petition for declaratory decision initiated by an annual conference. The rationale for the latter is more compelling as it deals with the Discipline and act or legislation of the General Conference.
Likewise, the minutes provide no particulars or sufficient data on the requisite voting taken and the number of affirmative votes received. (Memorandum 1123).Absent a showing of unanimous vote, a general statement that "the motion was supported" will not suffice to confer jurisdiction over a petition for declaratory decision on a clergy matter emanating from an annual conference under ¶2610.2j of the 2008 Discipline.
Moreover, the concerned former clergy individual who would be affected by the declaration sought is not a party to, nor named in, the petition. This is required by ¶2610.3, although only church bodies are authorized to make or initiate such petitions under ¶2610.2. Too, while the supposed petitioner is the California - Pacific Annual Conference, no one officially represents it here. Elder Thomas H. Griffith filed the lone brief voluntarily as amicus curiae, "on behalf of all four members in full connection" of the Conference, including himself, "who were involved in processing the complaints against the subject clergy in this case." None of them appears to be equipped with authority from the Conference to file the petition.
I submit that full compliance with ¶2610, as its opening sentence indicates, is jurisdictional. When the constitutionality of a Disciplinary provision is challenged, strict compliance with the requisites is imperative, given the presumption that church law is valid.
Ruben T. Reyes