On Removing Delegates
There was a request from General Conference administrators about the authority of General Conference to remove delegates who violate the ethical rules passed by General Conference. The Council, while citing two previous decisions, ruled that the General Conference did have the authority.
In an impassioned plea in a dissent, it was pointed out that only the annual conference had Disciplinary authority to remove someone it elected.
Nowhere in the ruling, dissent, or original request for a ruing were any reasons for the question to be asked.
For example, could a delegate facing church trial in his/her annual conference be removed from representing the annual conference by a vote of the General Conference, even if the judicial complaint had nothing to do with the General Conference?
Or could the General Conference vote for some narrow ethical criterion such as participating in a demonstration on the floor of General Conference or lobbying for a particular point of view that the majority do not accept as biblical?
By ruling that the General Conference may remove delegates, the Council has opened the door to just such a political tactic.
There are four basic ways this vulnerability can be overcome.
One, legislation may be passed to establish criteria that limits such a political tactic.
Two, as globalization continues, waiting until some wedge issues like homosexuality decline because people discover they are no more of an issue than divorce or slavery.
Three, appealing to the Council a particular case where a delegate’s removal is actually voted upon by the General Conference.
Four, challenging any particular narrow criterion when it is proposed to be part of the rules, either by voting it down on the General Conference floor or by appealing to the Council.
There is also the option of providing in the Discipline for a facilitated process to allow an annual conference to elect a replacement in a timely fashion. With modern communication technology, this seems a plausible route.
The general principle that a body can make up its own rules of behavior and enforce them in its own way (such an impeachment of a President by the Congress) is not without its problems in a democratic system.
We’ve established that the Council has the last word on which authority is the higher. That’s called “following the rule of law” or “believing in constitutional law.” In this era where there are forces trying to break those values down, we need to remember that just as law can be manipulated, those strategies can be countered under law. That’s what appeal and dissent are all about. There are orderly if slow ways to respond and make right a situation.
That’s why counsels on both sides of a controversy tend to maintain collegiality. They may end up on the same side someday.