GENERAL CONFERENCE DELEGATES TOTAL
THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF
THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH
IN THE MATTER OF
THE PETITION OF FRANK E. JONES
DECISION No. 2007-022
This case comes before the Council by petition for Declaratory Judgment filed by Rev. Frank E Jones, President of the Ministers of Lay Association of The A.M.E. Zion Church, an ordained Elder a member in good standing of The A.M.E. Zion Church, pursuant to Article I Jurisdiction, paragraph 8 of the Rules of the Judicial Council in accordance with the Act passed by the 1988 General Conference which reads:
B. The Judicial Council shall not have original jurisdiction, since decisions are declaratory and final in the interim of the General Conference. Article II, ¶ 360, The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (2004), (hereinafter referred to as “The Discipline”).
2. To hear and make declaratory judgments when petitioned to do so when any law is subject to more than any interpretation or any paragraph of The Book of Discipline is of doubtful meaning. Any person in good standing in The A.M.E. Zion can petition the Judicial Council for such a judgment. The Councils decision is final unless revised or reversed by the General Conference. Id. at Article III, ¶ 361.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The petitioner seeks a Declaratory Judgment regarding the increasing or decreasing of an Annual Conferences delegation to the General Conference after the certification by the General Secretariat of the number of Ministerial and Lay delegates to be elected by each Annual Conference: AT some Annual Conference Check Up meeting, decisions are being made as to the number of Ministerial and Lay Delegates these Annual Conferences will elect which is contrary to the certified number by the General Secretary for representation in the General Conference of 2008.
QUESTIONS TO BE DECIDED
1. Does an Annual Conference have the legal authority or right according to paragraph 112 and 113 of the Discipline of The A.M.E. Zion Church to determine the number of Ministerial and Lay Delegates it will elect two be seated at the General Conference of 2008?
2. Whether the action taken at the Annual Conference Checked-Up Meeting on a substantive recommendation of an important matter, such as determining the number of Ministerial and Lay Delegates to be elected at the official meeting of the Annual Conference, legally binding of the Annual Conference which meets once a year to conduct the business of the Annual Conference as outlined in Chapter Five, page 54 – 64 of The Discipline of The A.M.E. Zion Church?
Paragraph 113.3 of The Discipline reads as follows:
"The General Secretary – Auditor of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church shall certify the total number of Pastoral charges in each domestic annual conference. The Secretary of Overseas Missions shall certify the total number of Pastoral charges in each overseas annual conference. Said certifications shall be submitted by the General Secretary, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Conventional Council at least two years prior to the beginning of each General Conference. Subsequent to these certifications, the general secretary shall give notice to each annual conference, at least one year prior to the election of delegates of the number of ministerial delegates to which the conference is entitled."
It is clear from the reading of Paragraph 113.3 that the number of General Conference delegates and Annual Conference is entitled is determined solely by the notice given by the General Secretary one year prior to the election of General Conference delegates. No conference has authority to reduce or increase the number of delegates to the General Conference.
The General Secretariat at the Connectional Council held in August, 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky certified to the Board of Bishops and the Connectional Council the total number of Ministerial and lay Delegates to compose the General Conference of 2008 and the number of ministerial and lay delegates to be elected by each Annual Conference. Those numbers cannot be changed, altered, increase, or decreased by the action of anybody except the General Conference.
Paragraph 423 of The Discipline direct the Pastor in Charge to report the Connectional Budget amount collected and remit the amount to the Annual Conference Check Up meeting, which shall be at least three per year. There is no mention in The Discipline of any other purpose for Check Up meetings.
Section 155 of The Discipline states that each station and each circuit shall have the privilege of sending a lay delegate to the Annual Conference. All such delegates shall be elected.
Check Up meeting cannot assume the authority of the Annual Conference. It would violate Paragraph 155 of The Discipline which grant each circuit and station the privilege of sending a lay delegate and deprives laymen of representation. The sole purpose of a checkup meeting is to collect a portion of the Convectional Budget assessment.
An Annual Conference Check-Up Meeting does not the legal requirement of an Annual Conference because (1) it is not composed of lay delegates that may have been legally elected to the body as set forth in Paragraph 155 of The Discipline and (2) Check Up meetings are only authorized "to facilitate the collection of this connectional Budget."
Paragraph 112 reads: "The General Conference shall be composed of Ministerial and Lay Delegates, who shall be elected for the Annual Conference of which they are members. The General Conference is the supreme body of The A.M.E. Zion Church."
Paragraph 404 authorizes Check Up meetings for the sole purpose to "facilitate the collection of this Connectional Budget." No other authority our purpose is designed to Check-Up meetings by The Discipline.
THEREFORE, it is the decision of the Council that an Annual Conference may not increase or decrease the number of Ministerial and/or Lay delegates to be elected to the General Conference different from the number certified by the General Secretary.
It is the further decision of the Council that Check Up meetings may only take actions "to facilitate the collection of this Connectional Budget" and is not authorized by The Discipline to any other action.
BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL THIS 30TH DAY OF MAY, 2007
The Judicial Council