Memorandum Number 651


April 25, 1991

Ruling by Bishop Louis W. Schowengerdt on a Moot and Hypothetical Issue.


At the 1990 session of the New Mexico Annual Conference, Hardin L. Adkins, III, a retired elder in full connection of the New Mexico Annual Conference, requested an "Episcopal Decision on Church Law" on four separate questions submitted to the presiding bishop. Bishop Louis W. Schowengerdt made a decision of law that the four questions refer to moot and hypothetical situations and refused to rule on the questions.

The bishop's ruling is correct. The Constitution provides that "a bishop presiding over an Annual . . . Conference shall decide all questions of law coming before the bishop in the regular business of a session. . . Such an episcopal decision shall not be authoritative except for the pending case until it shall have been passed on by the Judicial Council." (¶ 54)

In Decision No. 33 we stated:

We are of the opinion that this same principle [moot and hypothetical questions shall not be decided] should apply to requests for rulings by the Bishops in an Annual or District Conference, and that any such request should be based upon some action taken or proposed to be taken by such Conference, wherein under the specific facts in each case some doubt may have arisen as to the legality of the action taken or proposed. It is not the duty of the presiding Bishop to rule upon any hypothetical question which may be propounded, nor to answer requests for information which involve no legal matter.

The foregoing statement of principle would seem to call for no citation of authorities. It is stated here only that all members of Annual or District Conferences may be guided in making requests for rulings which are reviewable by the Judicial Council.

See also Decision Nos. 189, 193.

We continue to adhere to this position. From the record, it appears the issues raised by Mr. Adkins, while perhaps active several years ago, are now moot and hypothetical, and they were properly held as such by the presiding bishop. The ruling of the bishop is affirmed.

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