THE COMMISION ON DISCIPLINE CODIFICATION AND COMPLIANCE WITH THE MATTERS OFTHE 49TH GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF

THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

IN THE MATTER OF

THE PETITION OF MRS. YVONNE BASKERVILLE, MRS. LULA HOWARD, MS. RHANDI STITH, AND DR. YVONNE A. TRACEY

DECISION No. 2014-33

This case comes before the Council by a petition for declaratory judgment filed by Mrs. Yvonne Baskerville , a Member in Good Standing, Union Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church, Washington , DC; Mrs. Lula Howard, a Member in Good Standing, Stoner Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, Louisville, KY; Ms. Rhandi Stith, a Member in Good Standing, St. Catherine A.M.E. Zion Church, New Rochelle, NY; and Dr. Yvonne A. Tracey, a Member in Good Standing, Soldiers Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, Salisbury, NC, pursuant to the Rules of the Judicial Council in accordance with the Act passed by the 1988 General Conference (as Amended by The Book of Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, (2008)) (hereinafter referred to as ("The Discipline") which reads in part as follows:

 

JURISDICTION

 

  1. The Council shall have appellate function.

  2. The Council shall not have original jurisdiction , since decisions are declaratory and final in the interim of the General Conference.

  3. The Council is amenable to the General Conference, and any decision of the Council may be reversed or modified by the General Conference in regular  or special session. " The Book of Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (hereinafter referred to as "The Discipline") 2008, Article II, I-360.

 

DUTIES

 

a) To hear and make declarator y judgments when  petitioned  to  do so  when any law is subject to more than one interpretation or any paragraph in the Book of Discipline  is of doubtful  meaning .  Any person  in good  and  regular standing in The A.M.E. Zion Church can petition the Judicial Council for such  a judgment. The Council's decision is final, unless revised or reversed by the General Conference." Id. ,-i361 , Art. III.

FACTS OF THE CASE AS STATED BY THE PETITIONER

The revised edition of the 2012 Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was intentionally published without completely including and coding into the body of the subject book significant legislation adopted by the 49th Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

 

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

 

  1. Does the Commission on Discipline Codification have the legal authority to deliberately exclude resolutions by the 49th session of the General Conference? Three Attachments listed below were submitted by the Petitioners.

 

  1. Attachment 1 - The Duties of the Commission on Codification page ii of The 1996 Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

  2. Attachment 2-The Duties of the Commission on Codification page ii of the 2012 (revised) Book of Disciplineof The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

    1. Attachment 3 -Pages 276-281 of the 2012 Book of Discipline: Legislation Adopted by the 49th Session of the General Conference but Not included (and coded) into the Book of Discipline.

    2. Does the Commission on Discipline Codification have the legal authority to not code the resolutions adopted by the 49th session of the General Conference for inclusion in the appropriate sections and paragraphs of the 2012 Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church?

    3. Attachment 3 - Pages 276-281 Legislation Adopted by the 49th Session of the General Conference but Not included (and coded) into the Book of Discipline.

    4. Does the Commission on Discipline Codification have the legal authority to create a new section into the 2012 Book of Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church without proper notice, I.e., references in The Appropriate Table of Contents or Appendix? 

    5. Attachment 4 -Table of Contents page viii of The Revised Edition of the Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church fails to list the reference to Legislation Adopted by the General Conference and Not included (and coded) into the Book of Discipline.

    6. Attachment 5 - Appendix page 249 of The Revised Edition of the 2012 Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church fails to list the references to Legislation Adopted by the General Conference and not included (and coded) into the Book of Discipline

 

DECISION

 

Question 1. Does the Commission on Discipline Codification have the legal authority to deliberately exclude resolutions adopted by the 49th session of the General Conference?

 

No. Only the General Conference has the legal authority to exclude resolutions adopted by 49th or any other Session of the General Conference.

 

Question 2. Does the Commission on Discipline Codification have the legal authority to not code the resolutions adopted by the 49th session of the General  Conference  for inclusion in the appropriate sections and paragraphs of the 2012 Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church?

 

No. The Table of Contents (viii) of the 2012 Book of Discipline states, "The basic unit of the Book of Discipline is the paragraph rather than the page, chapter, section, etc. The paragraphs are numbered consecutively within eachchapter or section, but many numbers may be skipped between parts, chapters, and sections in order to allow for future enactments and to fit with the following plan."

If any legislation adopted by the General Conference is included in the Book of Discipline it should follow the above prescribed laws of formatting.

 

Question 3. Does the Commission on Discipline Codification have the legal authority to create a new section into the 2012 Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church without proper notice, i.e., references in The Appropriate Table of Contents or Appendix?

No. See answer to question two (2) above. 

 

THEREFORE, as to questions presented in this petition, the Table of Contents is quite clear as to the formatting of the Book of Discipline and only the General Conference can change and/or alter that process. Although the Commission on Codification included the section entitled LEGISLATION ADOPTED BY THE GENERAL CONFERENCE BUT INCLUDE IT INTO THE 2012 BOOK OF DISCIPLINE, the Book of Discipline should include all of the passed legislation adopted by the General Conference.

 

The opening paragraph of the Table of Contents, page viii, of the 2012 Book of Discipline, states, "The paragraphs are numbered consecutively within each chapter or section, but many numbers may be skipped between parts, chapter and section in order to allow for future enactments."

 

Although the Petitioner asserts the Commission deliberatel y excluded information from the 2012 Book of Discipline. The information was contained in the section entitled , "LEGISLATION ADOPTED BY THHE GENERAL CONFERENCE BUT NOT INCLUDED IN THE BOOK  OF DISCIPLINE.  The stated section is not included in the Table of Contents and is not properly coded.  It is possible  that the Commission ran out of time and was not able to properly code and indexes the information .

 

According to the 2012 Book of Discipline:

 

THE GENERAL CONFERENCE

1112. The General Conference shall be composed of ministerial and lay delegates , who shall be elected from the Annual Conference of which they are members. The General Conference is the supreme body of the A.M.E. Zion Church.

 

Additionally 1121 states:

 

J l 21. The General Conference shall have power to revise and amend the rules whene ver necessary for the general interest of the Connection ; and all such rules shall become valid immediately after the sanction of that body. The General Conference is the supreme ruling or law-making body of the A.M.E.Zion Church while in session. Only the General Conference can change legislation once adopted by it in regular or special session.

1. No committee, commission, council, conference or  board, including the Board of Bishops shall have the authority or right to exclude any amendments adopted by the General Conferencefrom the Discipline of The A.M.E. Zion Church.

 

Legislation adopted by the General Conference becomes the law of the A.M.E. Zion Church. Non-inclusion in the Book of Discipline or improper or non-coding does not negate this fact. Therefore, the section "LEGISLATION ADOPTED BY THE GENERAL CONFERENCE BUT NOT INCLUDED IN THE 2012 BOOK OF DISCIPLINE " IS the law of the church. Although it is not formatted properly it is none the less binding.

 

BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL THIS 12th DAY OF February 2015.

Justices Reed & Douglass, for the Council

All Concurring

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