ELECTION OF DELEGATES TO GENERAL CONFERENCE
THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF
THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH
IN THE MATTER OF
THE PETITION OF MARIE TANN
DECISION No. 2004-018
This matter is before the Judicial Council by petition filed by Ms. Marie Tann, a member in good standing in The A.M.E. Zion Church, requesting clarification and declaratory judgment regarding the Delegates to the General Conference in accordance with the Rule of the Judicial Council.
a) The Council shall have appellate function.
b) The Council shall not have original jurisdiction, since decisions are declaratory and final in the interim of the General Conference.
c) 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.”
ARTICLE II, ¶ 360, The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (2000), (hereinafter referred to as “The Discipline”)
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 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. at Article III, ¶ 361.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The petition seeks a Declaratory Judgment regarding the election of the Chairperson, Secretary, and the members of the Episcopal Committee by the Annual Conference delegation of the General Conference.
A meeting of the General Conference delegation of the Piedmont Episcopal District was held at Livingstone College at 6 p.m. on May 12, 2004, at the close of class sessions of the Annual Leadership Institute of the Piedmont Episcopal District.
The meeting was announced at the close of the Leadership Institute session on the preview evening: May 11, 2004.
No testimony was presented to the Council other than the petition and the minutes of the Organization meeting of the Piedmont Episcopal District and communications for clarification with Petitioner and the Bishop.
No hearing was requested, as none is needed.
QUESTIONS TO BE DECIDED
1. Was the leadership of the delegation elected as required by ¶115 of the Discipline?
2. Was sufficient notice of the Organization meeting of the Piedmont Episcopal District to select the leadership of the General Conference delegation given?
The question presented involved ¶ 115 of The Discipline reads:
"Following the election of both ministerial and lay delegates the entire delegation shall assemble and organize by electing a chairperson and secretary and shall proceed immediately to elect one of the ministerial delegates their member of the Episcopal Committee." Id. at ¶ 115.
Based on the language of ¶ 115 of The Discipline and the minutes of the Organization meeting of the Piedmont Episcopal District, the leaders of the delegation of the General Conference were elected by the lay minister or delegation of the each Annual Conference.
The minutes of the Organization meeting of the Piedmont Episcopal District, which was provided by the Bishop, indicated that the Bishop nominated the Chairperson, Secretary, and members of the Executive Committee for each Annual Conference. The floor was opened for other persons to be nominated. There were no other persons nominated. There were no objections expressed. Motions were made by each conference and second to accept the persons nominated.
The leadership was elected by the delegates present at the meeting. Although the persons were nominated by the Bishop, the floor was opened for other nominations. In addition, members were afforded the opportunity to voice any objections to the nominations. The result is that the election was by the ministerial and lay delicate to each Annual Conference as required by ¶115 of The Discipline.
Petitioner also raised the question of the timeliness of notice of the meeting The Discipline gives no direction as to what notice should be given for the assembly and organization of the General Conference delegates. There is no requirement of a written notice nor does The Discipline indicate what notice is reasonable. Basic Parliamentary procedures require that reasonable notice be given for meetings.
The Bishop of the area gave notice of the meeting of the General Conference delegation the previous night at the Piedmont Leadership Institute. He expected that a sufficient number of the General Conference delegates to be present for word to reach all of the delegates. Under most circumstances that notice would reasonably have been expected to reach all the members of the General Conference delegations of the various Annual Conferences.
Some of the delegates attending the Leadership Institute had left before the announcement. This coupled with the fact that the funeral of the venerable Dr. Smith Turner, a deceased minister of the District, was the same day as the meeting of the delegations. The attendance of many of the delegates at the funeral may have prevented notice being received by all of the delegates in sufficient time. In the unique circumstances of this particular situation notice of the meeting was not reasonably timely.
Therefore, it is the decision of the Council that:
At the next scheduled meeting of the General Conference delegates each Annual Conference of the Episcopal District, a motion should be made to ratify the actions taken on May 12, 2004. The motion passes then the action of May 12 is ratified and stands. If no motion is made or made but defeated, the General Conference delegates of each Annual Conference shall proceed to elect a Chairman, Secretary, and member of the Episcopal Committee.
This will both ascertain the will of the majority and resolve the question of timeliness of the May 12th meeting.
If the schedule and/or duties of the Bishop prevent him from presiding over any of the meetings, his designee may preside and take appropriate actions.
BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL THIS 13TH DAY OF JULY 2004.
JUSTICE N. TUCKER FOR THE COUNCIL
Star of Zion July 8 - 15, page 3