GENERAL CONFERENCE SUPREMACY AND MINISTERS RIGHTS 

THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF

THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

IN THE MATTER OF

THE PETITION OF LEWIS M. ANTHONY

DECISION No. 2016-35

This cause comes before the Judicial Council by petition for declaratory decision filed by Rev. Dr. Lewis M. Anthony, an ordained elder and member in good standing of the Mid-Atlantic II Episcopal District of The A.M.E. Zion Church.

JURISDICTION  

Paragraph 361, Article I (b) “The Council shall not have original jurisdiction since the decisions are declaratory and final in the interim of the General Conference.” 

DUTIES  

 

Paragraph 361, Article III (b) “To hear and make declaratory 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.”  

FACTS OF THE CASE 

On July 19, 2008, during the morning session of The 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (hereinafter “General Conference”),  the General Conference considered and enacted  Resolution GCR48-08 “Towards a Covenant of Shared Ministry “ by a vote of 354 (Yes ) to 177 (No). (See, Official Minutes of The 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Page 48.) 

On the same day, the General Conference considered and enacted Resolution GC48R-09 “The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Covenantal  Relationship with the Pastoral Ministry” by a vote of 440 (Yes)  to 100 (No).  Resolution GC48R-09 was subsequently amended by the deletion of its first sentence by a vote of 314 (Yes) to 104 (No). (See, Official Minutes of The 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Page 48.) 

On the same occasion, Resolution GC48R-19 “The Ministers’ Bill of Rights was considered by the General Conference and thereafter referred to the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee by a motion to refer which carried. (See, Official Minutes of The 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Page 50.) 

After this, given the similarity of the subject matter of Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09, the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee of the General Conference (Executive and Judiciary Business Committee) was directed to harmonize the two recently enacted Resolutions. Additionally, the Committee was also charged with considering amendments or changes to Resolution GC48R-19, “The Ministers Bill of Rights.” 

The Committee as directed presented its work on July 22, 2008, at the final morning session of the General Conference. The recommended amendments of the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee combining Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09, to establish a Covenant of Shared Ministry, were considered, debated and approved by majority voice vote by the General Conference. (See, Official Minutes of The 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Page 76.) 

Additionally, as directed the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee presented its recommendations before the General Conference relating to Resolution GC48R-19. The recommendations of the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee were vigorously debated by the General Conference and subsequently on a motion approved by the majority tabled indefinitely. (See, Official Minutes of The 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Page 76.) 

QUESTIONS PRESENTED 

Upon review of the within Petition there are four questions that are presented to the Judicial Council:   

Question 1. Whether or not Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09 as amended and adopted are the law of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. 

 

Question 2. Whether or not the forgoing Resolutions became the law of the church upon their adoption and accordingly, should have been in effect since that time. 

 

Question 3. Whether or not the excluded resolutions must be codified at once 

 

Question 4. What affect did tabling indefinitely have on Resolution GC48R-19 

 

 

DECISION 

The Judicial Council is of the opinion that Question No. 1 and No. 2 concern the powers, duties and privileges of the General Conference to enact laws as set forth in The 2004 Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (“the Discipline”). As set forth in the facts of this case Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09 were presented on the floor of the General Conference and both were approved respectively by a vote of 440 (Yes) to 100 (No) and 314 (Yes) to 104 (No). The Petitioner simply wants to know whether or not Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09 are the law of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and if so, when did they become such.  

In addressing questions No. 1 and No. 2, we must consider Paragraph 13. Article I. of The Constitution of The A.M.E. Zion Church which states that “The General Conference is the Supreme body of the A.M.E. Zion Church.” As such, the Constitution at Paragraph 19, Article VII, gives the General Conference full legislative power to make laws, revise and amend rules, whenever it is necessary for the general interest of the connection, and in the exercise of said powers shall have authority under subparagraph (17) to enact legislation as may be necessary, subject to limitations and restrictions of the Constitution. Now regarding the powers of the General Conference, our attention is directed to Chapter I of The Discipline which states that: 

“The General Conference shall have power to revise and amend the rules whenever 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.”  

the Discipline, Para. 121.  Based upon the foregoing the Judicial Council is unable to reach any other decision except that Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09 as amended and adopted are the Law of The A.M.E. Zion Church. Both Resolutions were the law of the Church when enacted by the General Conference on July 19, 2008. Furthermore, The Discipline which states that:  “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 Conference from The Discipline of The A.M.E. Zion Church.”  the Discipline, Para. 121(1). This assures the Judicial Council that no action could have occurred during or after the General Conference to preclude Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09 from immediately becoming the Law of The A.M.E. Zion Church on July 19, 2008.  

Having decided that Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09 became the Law of the A.M.E. Zion Church when enacted on July 19, 2008, at the General Conference, the Judicial Council  believes it is our duty to examine the recommendations of the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee that was directed to harmonize the two Resolutions. We do so in an attempt to determine what if anything was changed in the language of Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09, that became the Law of The A.M.E. Zion Church on July 19, 2008, after being harmonized by the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee.  

As aforementioned, the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee as directed presented its report on July 22, 2008, at the final morning session of the General Conference:  

A Covenant of Shared Ministry 

The 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church directs that The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church does hereby establish A Covenant of Shared Ministry.

 

Part IV, Chapter Five, paragraph 241 (3) of The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is amended as follows: 

(3) Bishops of the Church of God are set apart to serve as role models of servant leadership and must exercise their responsibilities consistent with the ethic of Christian Love.  Public or private actions or statements intended to intimidate, humiliate, or demean an individual is unacceptable.   

Recognizing that the church is to make disciples and that the disciple-making process is best accomplished at the level of the local church, a Bishop must have the support and health of the pastors and local congregations within their Episcopal areas as their primary concerns.  Accordingly, a Bishop shall: 

  1. Appoint the preachers to charges annually and such appointment shall become effective 30 days from the close of Annual Conference or whenever such appointment is announced.    

All pastoral transfers from charges shall be made by confidential notification to the specific pastor to be moved not less than 60 days before the appointment or transfer.  Such advanced notification shall only be abrogated with the mutual consent of the specific pastor to be transferred or appointed.   

 

2. Appoint pastors upon the consideration of their abilities, training, and experience.  An appointment shall be valid until the convening of the next annual conference and can only be changed in the interim: (a) by the mutual consent of the Bishop and pastor (b) judicial causes or (c) the immediate good of the congregation as expressed in writing by the Board of Stewards.   

3. While maintaining the commitment to itinerancy, pastors shall be permitted to serve a charge as long as their ministry is profitable to the congregation.  Effort should be made to reach mutual consent before changes to appointments are made; however, failure to do so shall not prevent the Bishop from making the appointment.   

 

4. Any pastor wishing to be moved from a charge shall put the request in writing and present it to the Bishop.  If the pastor desires and the Bishop consents, the pastor may be moved without the specific and individual 60 day notice.   

 

It is further understood and directed that:  

 

5. Pastors may accept or reject any voluntary asking or appeal of any Bishop or other authority, without threats, intimidation or penalties by that authority.   

 

Executive and Judiciary Business Committee Report, (July 22, 2008). The recommended amendments of the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee combining Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09, to establish a Covenant of Shared Ministry, were considered, debated and approved by majority voice vote by the General Conference. (See, Official Minutes of the 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Page 76). Based upon the foregoing, the recommended amendments of the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee combining Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09 and approved by the General Conference on July 22, 2008 are set forth hereinafter, became the Law of The A.M.E. Zion Church immediately upon enactment:  

As to Question No. 3, Petitioner seeks clarification as to whether or not the excluded resolutions must be codified at once. It is the decision of the Judicial Council  that the recommended amendments of the Executive and Judiciary Business Committee combing Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09, presented on July 22, 2008, and approved by The 2008 General Conference must be codified at once to avoid any further irreparable harm that has been occasioned by the lack of compliance with the mandates of the General Conference in its role as the supreme ruling or law-making body of The A.M.E. Zion Church while in session on July 19, 2008 and July 22, 2008. Furthermore, it is the decision of The Judicial Council that every effort shall be made to codify what The 48th Quadrennial Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church directs that The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church did establish as “A Covenant of Shared Ministry” by combining Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC48R-09 previously stated in its entirety herein.  

Question No. 4As to what affect did tabling indefinitely have on Resolution GC48R-19, raises a similar issue that the Judicial Council previously addressed in the Council’s Decision No. 2005-021 on January 7, 2005. By tabling Resolution GC48R-19 on the final morning of the General Conference and taking no further action on the same Resolution GC48R-19 at the time of adjournment of the General Conference on July 22, 2008, became unfinished business. As such, in Judicial Council Decision No. 2005-021, we review the Parliamentary Procedure of Robert’s Rule which at that time stated the following: 

“EFFECT OF ADJOURNMENT ON PENDING BUSINESS OR ON AN UNCOMPLETED ORDER OF BUSINESS 

The business that is unfinished at the time of adjournment falls to the ground. It can be introduced at the next session, however, the same as if it had never before been brought up.”   

Robert’s Rule, Paragraph 20, Page 228, (10th Edition).  Therefore, the Judicial Council found that any business not completed before adjournment fails and must be introduced at the next General Conference. Therefore, The Judicial Council decided that all uncompleted and/or unfinished business when the General Conference was adjourned dies. 

In the matter before The Judicial Council Resolution GC48R-19 was tabled indefinitely and as such became uncompleted and/or unfinished business when the General Conference was adjourned on July 22, 2008. Following The Judicial Council’s Decision entered at Decision No. 2005-021 on January 7, 2005, which involved uncompleted and/or unfinished business when the General Conference adjourned, it is the decision of the Judicial Council that Resolution GC48R-19 died when the General Conference adjourned on July 22, 2008. However, Resolution GC48R-19 can be introduced at any future session of the General Conference as if it had never before been brought before the General Conference. 

THEREFORE, the Judicial Council has determined that:  

     (1)  Resolutions GC48R-08 and GC49R-09 as amended is the law of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 

 

     (2)  The aforementioned Resolutions as amended became the law of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on July 22, 2008, 

 

     (3)  The aforementioned Resolutions as amended should have been codified in their entirety in the 2008 edition of The Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and must be codified without delay, 

 

     (4)  Resolution GC 48-19 was lost once the gavel sounded, closing the 48th Session of the General Conference of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Only a new resolution concerning this subject matter may be considered by subsequent General Conferences. 

 

BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL THIS 10th DAY OF May, 2016. 

Justice Riley and  Justice King for the Council 

ALL CONCURRING 

< Back to Index