Judicial Council to Determine Size of Cote d'Ivoire Delegation
- Judicial Council to determine size of Cote d'Ivoire delegation
June 5, 2006
TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) - The governing committee of the quadrennial
legislative assembly of the United Methodist Church is asking the
denomination's supreme court to rule on the size of the delegation
from Cote d'Ivoire for the 2008 General Conference.
Cote d'Ivoire was accepted as the newest regional conference of the
United Methodist Church at the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh.
The Commission on the General Conference is asking the Judicial
Council to rule on the size of the delegation because of an apparent
conflict between the 2004 action and the denomination's constitution.
Under the legislation adopted by the 2004 General Conference, Cote
d'Ivoire would be entitled to two voting delegates at the 2008 General
Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. That decision seems to conflict with
the church's constitution, which apportions delegation sizes according
to a formula outlined in the denomination's Book of Discipline, said
the Rev. L. Fitzgerald Reist II, of Williamsport, Pa., the secretary
of the General Conference. The Discipline gives the responsibility for
making those determinations to the secretary.
In asking the commission to seek a Judicial Council ruling on the
issue, Reist said Cote d'Ivoire could be entitled to up to 70 voting
members if the apportionment formula were to be followed. That would
make the West African nation's delegation the largest at the
conference. For the General Conference to stay within its
1,000-delegate limit, the size of other delegations would have to be
reduced, Reist said.
"Ethically, I feel constrained to ask the question," Reist told the
commission. "How can we admit (Cote d'Ivoire) and have two delegates?
I don't want to assume anything. Constitutional questions need to be
decided by the Judicial Council."
The Rev. Alan J. Morrison of Nashville, Tenn., business manager of the
General Conference, said the 2004 action could create questions about
the legality of the entire 2008 General Conference.
"Someone could stand up on the floor of General Conference and raise
the issue of constitutionality (related to delegation sizes) and have
the entire General Conference declared unconstitutional," Morrison said.
Meeting May 23-25, commission members decided to seek the Judicial
Council ruling in part because the Discipline directs them to work
with the secretary on preparations for each legislative session and to
prepare delegates from outside the United States for full
participation in the assembly.
In a related matter, commission members discussed issues related to
updating and confirming membership totals from conferences throughout
the church. Reist said some conferences have not updated their
membership totals since at least 1995.
The membership totals, Reist said, are important to maintain the
integrity of the church's legislative process. Lay and clergy
membership are the major factors in determining the size of each
delegation to the General Conference. While every conference is
entitled to at least two delegates, one lay, one clergy, delegations
are apportioned by the numbers of lay members and clergy. Larger
conferences get larger delegations.
"This is a concern, not a criticism," Reist emphasized.
The commission decided to develop legislation for the 2008 General
Conference dealing with the issue. The legislation would require
conferences to update their lay and clergy membership numbers unless
there are extreme extenuating circumstances.
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