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Decision No. 32

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December 04 1944
In Re: Appeal of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference on Its Own Action Involving a Change in Jurisdictional Lines: Boundaries of Delaware Conference

Digest of Case

Under the Constitutional provisions contained in Paragraph 8, Section 12, Discipline 1940, the General Conference may change boundaries of Jurisdictional Conferences only by consent of the Annual Conferences in each Jurisdictional Conference involved. Accordingly the action of the 1944 General Conference granting permission to the Central Jurisdiction only to change boundaries of the Delaware Annual Conference, which proposed changes involved also changes in boundaries of certain Annual Conferences in the Northeastern Jurisdiction, did not grant any power to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference to initiate any such boundary changes.

Statement of Facts

The General Conference, on May 5, 1944, adopted Report No. 7 of its Committee on Enabling Acts and Legal Forms, entitled "Subject: Boundaries ofDelaware Conference," which Report will be found on pages 154 and 155 of the General Conference Daily Christian Advocate of 1944. This Report recited a memorial adopted by the New York City Society of The Methodist Church April 20, 1944, petitioning for the enactment of an Enabling Act so as to effectuate a change in the boundaries of the Delaware Conference of the Central Jurisdiction. This change would, however, have the effect of including certain new Negro work within the boundaries of the New York Annual Conference, and the New York East Annual Conference, which latter Conferences are within the boundaries of the Northeastern Jurisdiction. The Enabling Act, based upon the foregoing Memorial, which was then adopted by the General Conference is contained in the following words: "Permission is granted under Paragraph 361, Section 12, of the Discipline of 1940 to the Central Jurisdiction to change the boundaries of the Delaware Conference to that Jurisdiction, when all requirements of the Discipline hall have been observed." The same petition from the New York City Society was before the General Conference Committee on Conferences, and concurrence was voted as shown in its Report No. 11, pages 263-264, General Conference Proceedings. This Report, however, was later withdrawn by the Chairman of that Committee, apparently on the assumption that the Report No. 7 of the Committee on Enabling Acts was identical with it. A careful reading of the Report No. 7, however, shows that the only power granted under the Report of that Committee is contained in the last paragraph above quoted. On June 9, 1944, in the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference the Committee on Conference Boundaries presented its Report No. 2, entitled "Subject: Changeof Boundaries of Delaware Conference." See Daily Christian Advocate, Northeastern Jurisdiction, page 47. This Report recited the enactment by the General Conference of the Enabling Act above mentioned, and petitioned that: "The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference shall take appropriate action approving the boundaries of the Delaware Annual Conference as above set forth; and "Shall send said action down to all of the Annual Conferences of the Jurisdiction to be voted upon in accordance with the provisions of the Discipline; and "Shall upon the approval of a majority of said Annual Conferences given due notice thereof to the Secretary of the Central Jurisdictional Conference with the understanding and agreement that when a majority of the Annual Conferences of the Central Jurisdiction shall have given like approval to the same proposed change in the boundaries of said Delaware Annual Conference, and when notice thereof shall have been received by the Secretary of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference the boundaries of said Delaware Annual Conference shall be deemed to have been changed as aforesaid, and that thereafter the boundaries of said Annual Conference shall read as follows: 'Delaware Conferenceshall include the Negro work in Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, except that in the city of Buffalo and already included in the New York Conference in the Boroughs of the Bronx and Manhattan in the city of New York and except such new Negro work as shall be constituted by either the New York Annual Conference or by the New York East Annual Conference, or by both of them within their respective boundaries; it shall also include the Negro work in the Eastern Shore of Virginia and all Maryland and Pennsylvania not included in the Washington Conference." This Report was adopted by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, as shown on page 72 of the Daily Christian Advocate of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. APPEAL TO JUDICIAL COUNCIL On Saturday, June 10, 1944, as shown on page 107, Daily Christian Advocate of said Jurisdictional Conference, Dr. John B. F. Yoak, Jr., moved an appeal from the said action of the Conference on the preceding day "on the ground that it is contrary to the Plan of Union." The appeal was ordered by the Conference. The appeal was presented to the Judicial Council by Dr. John B. F. Yoak, Jr., and reply thereto was made by Dr. Frederick B. Newell.

Decision

It is apparent that the action of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference challenged in this appeal was based on the assumption that the General Conference's Enabling Act had actually authorized changes in the boundaries of Jurisdictional Conferences. Such intention, however, is not borne out by the authority actually granted to the Northeastern and the Central Jurisdictional Conferences to make the proposed changes in Jurisdictional lines. The General Conference, in the only action taken by it on the subject, granted only the following authority: "Permission is granted under Paragraph 361, Section 12, of the Discipline of 1940 to the Central Jurisdiction to change the boundaries of the Delaware Conference of that Jurisdiction when all requirements of the Discipline shall have been observed." (Page 256, General Conference Proceedings.) Paragraph 361, Section 12 of the 1940 Discipline (under General Conference powers) reads as follows: "To change the number and the boundaries of Jurisdictional Conferences upon the consent of a majority of the Annual Conferences in each Jurisdictional Conference involved." For a change in the boundaries of the Delaware Conference by the Central Jurisdictional Conference, the authority quoted above is not necessary, as the power to determine Annual Conference boundaries was granted to the Jurisdictional Conferences by the Constitution; see Paragraph 15, Section 4, Discipline 1944. But for a change in Jurisdictional boundaries such as was asked for in the memorial and provided for in the above Paragraph 361, Section 12, the actual grant of power in the Enabling Act is insufficient. The wording of the Enabling Act is, therefore, confusing and inadequate. It is the decision of the Judicial Council therefore, that the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference was without legal authority to take the action on which the appeal is based, and that such action is void.

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