Decision Number 153
Ruling of Bishop Matthew W. Clair in the Lexington Conference
When the provisions of the Discipline concerning appeals from episcopal decision on questions of law (Paragraphs 43(2) and 908), or concerning episcopal decisions of law made in response to questions properly submitted (Paragraphs 40, 43 (3) and 909), are not followed the Judicial Council must decline to take jurisdiction.
Statement of Facts
The following is a quotation from the Journal of the 1958 session of the Lexington Annual Conference, the daily proceedings for May 16 -
"Re LaFurd Young: The Secretary was asked by the Chairman to read the statements on LaFurd Young as printed in the 1957 Journal, page 31.
"A report on the progress of LaFurd Young was given by the Superintendent, C. T. R. Nelson. Mr. Young has been enrolled in school this past year - correspondence Courses of Study. He failed to complete two of the Courses.
"A question was asked as to what the Conference could do. The Chairman stated that the only alternative is to locate him - as the Conference did give him an additional year last year.
"Alfred Clay asked if he could be located since he is an effective minister and a full member of the Conference. The Chairman stated that a Judicial Council decision was made on this in the North Arkansas Conference. The decision was that a full member of the Conference could be located. The Chairman stated further that legally the Conference was not in a position last year to grant more time.
"A motion was made by Alfred Clay, seconded by M. E. Nelson that LaFurd B. Young be left in the same status for another year. Question called. Further discussion followed - with the question asked as to whether or not he could be located with the understanding that when he completes his studies that he be restored. Paragraph 379** of the Discipline was cited which states that he can be re-admitted by 2/3 vote of the Conference. Several spoke against and for the motion. Previous question called.
Voting -For 42; Against 29. Motion carried.
"Charles Golden offered a motion that the minority group be privileged to request a Judicial Council ruling on the motion. The Chairman ruled this out of order, as he intends to do this anyway - since the action is irregular - and was done while he was presiding. "With the passing of the motion on Young, his status remains the same and he is left in the hands of his District Superintendent."
Bishop Clair sent to the Judicial Council a ruling that LaFurd Young must be located regardless of the vote of the Annual Conference, together with a syllabus of the question involved including the above certified excerpt from the Journal of the Lexington Annual Conference.
There are several ways in which a question of law may come to the Judicial Council from an Annual Conference:
1. As a request voted by the Annual Conference for a declaratory decision (Par. 914).
2. As an appeal voted by one-fifth of the members of the Conference from an episcopal ruling on a question of law (Par. 43 (2) and 908). Considering the usage of the Church, we interpret these sections to apply to an appeal from a ruling involving the law of the Church which a Bishop makes from the chair during the parliamentary procedure of the Conference session.
3. As an episcopal decision of law made in response to a question submitted in writing at a session of the Annual Conference which then comes to the Judicial Council for affirmation, modification or reversal (Par. 40, 43 (3) and 909). Considering the usage of the Church, we interpret these sections to apply to a ruling by a Bishop on a question involving the law of the Church which has been presented in writing at the session of the Conference and which may or may not be concerned with the parliamentary procedure of the Conference session.
Under the record of the journal of the Lexington Annual Conference before us there is no indication that any one of these procedures was followed. There was no request voted by the Conference for a declaratory decision; there was no appeal voted from any episcopal ruling made in the Conference session; there was no question of law submitted in writing at the Conference session. We point out that there is no procedure in the Discipline by which a Bishop, personally, may request a decision from the Judicial Council.
The Judicial Council on several occasions has declined to take jurisdiction where the provisions of the Discipline were not carefully followed (see Decision No. 66). It takes this Position reluctantly but with the conviction that such provisions are for the protection of the proper judicial procedures of the Church.
The Judicial Council, therefore, holds that it has no jurisdiction in this matter.