The United Methodist Church's top court, in a decision issued at the start of the denomination's 2008 General Conference, said that two paragraphs of the denomination's Book of Discipline are in conflict and should be reconciled.
In Decision 1089, the Judicial Council ruled that the secretary of the 2004 General Conference, Carolyn Marshall, did not have the proper authority in ruling Paragraph 705.3
(a-g) of the Book of Discipline was "superseded."
Paragraphs 705 and 706 outline a complicated formula for assigning and nominating individuals to the many boards and agencies of the church.
"The secretary cannot make substantive changes in the actions adopted by the General Conference," the ruling stated. "Only the General Conference has the authority to supersede the legislation of prior General Conferences."
Paragraphs 705 and 706 are in conflict, the Judicial Council said. "Reconciliation of these provisions can best be addressed by General Conference action," the ruling stated. It added that such action was "an urgent matter" to be accomplished during the current General Conference for inclusion in the 2008 Book of Discipline.
The ruling, issued April 23, came in response to a request for a decision from the council by the Committee on Nominations of the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, which questioned the secretary's proportional jurisdictional representation to general boards and agencies.
The decision stopped short of criticizing the composition of the various boards and agencies.
"Nearly a full quadrennium has passed since the Connectional Table and the program boards and agencies were organized on the basis of the secretary of (2004) General Conference's understanding of the General Conference legislation in paragraphs 705 and 706 of the 2004 Book of Discipline," the ruling said. "We render no opinion on the appropriateness of the allocations made by the secretary. The Judicial Council recognizes that nomination and election of members to General Conference boards and agencies is an enormously complex matter."
The Rev. Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent, and the Rev. C. Rex Bevins, the first clergy alternate to the council, participated.
The Judicial Council meets throughout General Conference to work on its docket of previously received cases and to respond to requests for decisions that arise from the floor during the business of the General Conference.
*Caldwell is editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate and covers the Judicial Council for United Methodist News Service.
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