HANDLING OF CENTRAL CONFERENCE ADAPTATIONS OF THE DISCIPLINE
A pastor in Northern New York Ammual Conference thought that Paragraph 101 should have been acted on in 2012 as a constitutional amendment rather than being passed as simply a law. It was added in 2012 as a means of identifying what of the Discipline is adaptable and if so, how. The pastor wondered about limiting adaptability to only some of the Discipline where before Central Conferences had broader options for adaptation. He wondered if the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters should have authority to change the Discipline even to adapt it for local conditions without having constitutional authority.
He put together a request for a declaratory decision about these concerns. The conference forwarded them to the Judicial Council. The Council could have refused jurisdiction because it was not directly related to the work of that annual confeence. However, upon consideration, the Council decided that even though it was not specific to the life and ministry of Northern New York, it raised a constitutional question seeking clarity of a law that impacts all annual conferences.
Perhaps the Council anticipates the time when the United States will be in a position to seek adaptaton through the Standing Committee on Central Conferences or its successor. Otherwise, they could have just stopped at clarification of constitutionality as sufficient grounds to take jurisdiction.
The Council affirmed the right of the General Conference to put into law the principles established in the constitution, spelling out in this case, just how adaptation may be done, what may not be adapted (mainly the constitution, faith statements, and the Social Principles), a relatively small part of the Discipline, and who may do it. They ruled Paragraph 101 was constitutional. Just as Paragraph 20 of the consitution identifies the right of trial and appeal, it takes Paragraphs 2701-2719 to spell out that right and the processes that properly fulfill Paragraph 20’s intentions.
Paragraph 101, please note, directs the standing committee to return the General Conference of 2016 with recommendations about which parts of the main body of the Discipline may also not be adapted. That too will be based on whether adaptations fulfill the related constitutional articles or not.
Look for a lot of requests for clarification in the future! Each continental segment of Central Conferences may need to have its own Judicial Council in order to take the load off the current Council when that begins to happen.