No Jurisdiction Again
At the Alaska Annual Conference, a lay delegate requested a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of a passage of the Discipline (Paragraph 2008) which appears to allow the General Commission to hold the Council of Bishops accountable.
Based on the principle that the conference had no action related to that passage about another entity in the denominations structure, the Council had no jurisdiction. The docket item contained no additional information about why the question was raised. Was that lay person on the General Commission and witnessed Bishops ignoring the commission’s decisions? Was the Commission obstructing the Council of Bishops in some way? Was the questioner the subject of actions related to both groups?
The Council found nothing in the document sent in to tie the request to a concrete matter. And the potential for injustice or other harm was not identified, apparently.
In my experience, most requests or questions of law arise in annual conferences because someone felt or saw a harm and wanted to alleviate the situation or prevent it from occurring. I have known of past Councils ignoring that kind of information and allowing a ruling that brought no relief one way or the other. In those cases, key members of the Council were in the “pocket” of a particular bishop or the whole Council of Bishops.
I have been very pleased with the tendency of recent Councils to go into great detail about cases before them. I have been pleased with the inclusion of the documents related to the docket that are now published prior to each session. While it might be asking a little too much for the Council to also publish the briefs they receive, it may be helpful for interested parties to be able to contact the parties at interest for copies. Back-stories on requests like this one might be far more important than they appear as currently published.