Memorandum Number 1213
Request from the North Alabama Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Legality of Membership in and/or Monetary Support of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice by Agencies of The United Methodist Church
During the 2012 session of the North Alabama Annual Conference, a clergy member submitted a request that the annual conference seek a ruling from the Judicial Council as to the legality of membership in, and dues paid to, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice by the General Board of Church and Society and by the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries. The Minutes of the conference show that the request was approved, with more than two-thirds of the members supporting it. However, there was no recorded vote, nor was there any reference to a specific paragraph in the 2008 Discipline.
Although the text that was adopted by the annual conference does not specifically refer to the matter as a request for a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council, briefs from opposing parties stipulate that this is the nature of the request. And the Judicial Council has received it as a request for a declaratory decision. Paragraph 2610.2j authorizes an annual conference to make such a request. But the legislation is quite specific. A request for a declaratory decision may be brought by "any annual conference on matters relating to annual conferences or the work therein." There is nothing in the approved action by the North Alabama Annual Conference that refers to matters in its annual conference or other annual conferences. Rather, it seeks a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on a matter that involves agencies of the general church. Hence the annual conference is not authorized to bring this matter, and the Judicial Council has no jurisdiction in it. See Decisions 29, 255, 301, 535, 1200.
The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction since the matter does not involve annual conferences or the work therein (¶ 2610.2j of the 2008 Discipline).
Beth Capen was absent. Sandra Lutz, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.