In JCM 1338, the Council chastised the presiding bishop of the Western Jurisdiction for failing to send in the proper “syllabus” (documentation) related to a question of law with his answer. So they remanded the case back without any ruling, leaving the bishop’s decision the law of that jurisdiction.
Another time, I wonder if the Council will stay the bishop’s decision of law until the proper documentation is provided. I can imagine a number of scenarios where such a stay might be harmful in some and might be very helpful in others. It will be interesting to see if future Councils will consider staying the bishop’s decision of law in some cases where such an action causes no harm or reverses possible harm.
In this case, it seems no one responded to the Council’s decision last spring. Jurisdictional conferences, like General Conference, are presided over by a team of bishops taking turns in the chair. So when a question of law is raised during one bishop’s turn as presider, some of the team of bishops meet to consider how to answer it. It appears that the protocol is for the one presiding at the time of the question be the party to the legal issue all the way to the Judicial Council. But I can imagine that one bishop may feel another bishop was taking the lead by preparing the answer.
That is no excuse for any or all of the bishops failing to take responsibility. The College of Bishops blew it. And the Council has some choice words for them!
My experience has been that some bishops do not recognize the Judicial Council as ever having authority to tell them what to do unless it supports that bishop in a particular case. Most bishops fear the Council and simultaneously resent it. Systemically, the denomination is so bishop-centric that bishops actually feel they are above the law even though they are not. Maybe as a result of this decision, bishops will be more careful.
At issue is a question about who may be nominated to general boards and agencies from the jurisdiction. Without more information, it is difficult to sort out the problem. Nominations in small conferences are difficult because the pool of nominees is small and the Discipline requires things like ethnicity to be considered. That pool can be extremely small so any arbitrary restrictions on nominations can obstruct the purpose of the church law. Or it could be that the College of Bishops made a legal ruling without it going through a proper venue.
But neither the data in the docket nor in the two decisions helps us understand the problem.
None the less, the Council made decisions about the two elements of the question of law, overturning the bishop on one and partially on the other.
I would appreciate someone clarifying this whole matter for me because I am not sure what has been decided about nominations in the Western Jurisdiction and who was helped or hurt by this decision.
Update: In JCM 1349, the Council stayed a bishops decision of law by explicitly reversing it, even though they took no jurisdiction to answer the question of law.