Decision Number 434


October 28, 1977

Request of the Detroit Annual Conference for a Ruling on theConstitutionality of an Annual Conference Withholding Conference Funds from a Local Congregation in an Effort to Control the Ministry of the Church to Groups the Conference Wishes Excluded from the Use of such Facilities.


Under the Constitution and the existing legislative provisions for declaratory decisions the authority and jurisdiction of the Judicial Council is limited to rulings as to the constitutionality, meaning, application or effect of the Discipline or any act or legislation of a General Conference.

Statement of Facts

In 1976 the Detroit Annual Conference in session referred the following resolution to a special committee to be convened by the Bishop. "All funds shall be controlled and administered by the Trinity Consultation Committee of D. M. C. C. and that no funds be released until Trinity United Methodist Church, Highland Park, discontinues the use of their building by communist groups and the Metropolitan Community Church and until their entire program be in conformity with the guidelines of the 1976 General Conference concerning the use of church funds. Daily Christian Advocate p. 498, item 559, paragraph 842.12)". In June, 1977 the above motion was presented to the Detroit Annual Conference in session. Before any vote was taken a motion was made to refer said motion "to the Judicial Council for a decision as to the constitutionality of withholding Annual Conference program funds from a local church as a way of gaining compliance with a given desired behavior." The referral motion was approved, (p. 558, 1977 Detroit Annual Conference, Journal). JURISDICTION The Judicial Council for reasons hereinafter stated in the analysis does not have jurisdiction to render a declaratory decision in this matter. ANALYSIS Paragraph 2515 of the 1976 Discipline provides that "The Judicial Council, on petition as hereinafter provided, shall have jurisdiction to make a ruling in the nature of a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof or of any act or legislation of a General Conference . . ." The motion referred to the Judicial Council on page 558 of the 1977 Detroit Annual Conference, Journal does not allege, nor do any of the supporting papers, that any act or legislation of the General Conference appears to be or is unconstitutional. The question asked is whether a proposed action of the Detroit Annual Conference would be unconstitutional. Paragraph 2511 of the 1976 Discipline provides for an appeal from a bishop's decision on a question of law made in an Annual Conference when said appeal has been made by one-fifth of that conference present and voting. In this case the bishop did not make any ruling on the proposed legislation. Thus, the Judicial Council is not empowered to act.


Since the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction the petition of the Detroit Annual Conference is hereby dismissed. Gene E. Sease was absent.

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