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Decision No. 48

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April 23 1947
In Re: Petition of Bishops of Western Jurisdiction as to Assignment of a Bishop to Supervision of Missions

Digest of Case

A Jurisdictional Conference has the right under Paragraph 440, Discipline 1944, to assign a Bishop to the supervision of Mission Conferences and Provisional Annual Conferences, even though the geographical territory covered by such Mission and Provisional Conferences may overlap the geographical territory assigned to other Bishops, as there is nothing in the Discipline that would limit the phrase "Episcopal Area" as used in Paragraph 440, to a geographical definition.

Statement of Facts

Bishops James C. Baker, Wilbur E. Hammaker and Bruce R. Baxter, being all the Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction, presented to the Judicial Council a petition for a Declaratory Decision, with respect to the right of the Jurisdictional Conference, under the authority granted to the Jurisdiction and to the Bishops in The Constitution, Paragraph 37, Article IV, and in Paragraph 440 of the 1944 Discipline, to "legally assign a Bishop to the supervision of The Missions and The Provisional Annual Conferences within the territory of the United States, when the territory that is covered by these groups would overlap the territory of another Bishop." Paragraph 914, Discipline 1944 provides: "When the General Conference shallhave passed any act or legislation that appears to be subject to more than one interpretation, or when any Paragraph or Paragraphs of the Discipline seem to be of doubtful meaning or application, any authority in the Church affected thereby that would have the right to appeal thereon to the Judicial Council under the law of the Church from any action of any Conference, ruling of a Bishop or any Board, Commission or body of the Church, may petition the Judicial Council for a ruling in the nature of a Declaratory Decision as to the meaning, application, and effect of such act, legislation, or Paragraph or Paragraphs of the Discipline." The petition submitted by the unanimous action of the Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction for a Declaratory Decision is in harmony with the provisions of this Paragraph 914 since the Bishops of a Jurisdiction are an authority in the Church that would be affected by a decision with respect to the meaning of these Paragraphs and they have the right of appeal. Their petition is therefore properly before the Judicial Council for consideration and decision.

Decision

The Constitution, Paragraph 37, Article IV, states: "The Bishops of each Jurisdictional and Central Conference shall arrange the plan of Episcopal Supervision of the Annual Conferences, Mission Conferences and Missions within their respective territories." Paragraph 440 of the 1944 Discipline reads: "Each Jurisdictional Conference may fix the Episcopal residences within its Jurisdiction and assign the Bishops to the same. The Bishops of the Jurisdiction shall fix the boundaries of the Episcopal Areas." In their petition for a Declaratory Decision with respect to the rights and powers of the Jurisdictional Conference under these Paragraphs the Bishops set forth these facts: 1. The Western Jurisdiction, by act of the Uniting Conference was authorized to elect four Bishops. 2. Up to the present moment only three Bishops have been elected by the Western Jurisdiction to serve in that territory. 3. Since, in the Western Jurisdiction there are the Hawaii Mission, the Oriental Provisional Annual Conference, the Latin-American Provisional Annual Conference, the Japanese Provisional Annual Conference, the Alaska Mission, and the Utah Mission, in addition to the Annual Conferences, there is enough work of supervision to occupy fully the time and effort of a fourth Bishop. 4. There has been discussion of the possibility of electing a fourth Bishop to take over the Mission work and the Provisional Annual Conferences, but doubt as to the legality of assigning a Bishop to such supervision in cases where the territory covered by these groups overlaps territory assigned to the other Bishops. After a careful study of the unqualified form in which power is granted in Paragraph 440 to the Jurisdictional Conference to fix the Episcopal residences within its Jurisdiction, and to the Bishops to fix the boundaries of the Episcopal Areas and to arrange the plan of Episcopal supervision, the Judicial Council can find no valid reason for denying to a Jurisdictional Conference the right to assign a Bishop to the supervision of the Mission Conferences and the Provisional Annual Conferences, if it desires to do that, even though the territory covered by these Missions and Provisional Annual Conferences would overlap the territory assigned to the other Bishops. It is further the judgment of the Judicial Council that there is nothing in these Paragraphs that would limit the phrase "Episcopal Areas" as used in Paragraph 440, to a geographical definition. A functional definition of Episcopal supervision, where such is desired, is quite within the rights of the Jurisdictional Conference. It is therefore the opinion of the Judicial Council that such an assignment of Episcopal supervision would be legal and not in violation of the Constitution of The Methodist Church.

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