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Decision No. 57

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May 05 1948
In Re: Fixing Boundaries of Episcopal Areas, Constitutionality of Provision Requiring Consent of Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy

Digest of Case

An amendment to Paragraph 440, Discipline 1944 which would require the consent of the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy for fixing boundaries of Episcopal areas, is unconstitutional, as this power is reserved to the Bishops as a part of Episcopal administration under the Constitution.

Statement of Facts

At the evening session of the General Conference on May 5, 1948, the Conference adopted Serial Report No. 51, being Report No. 4 of the Committee on Ministry, which is as follows: "Part III, Section VI, Paragraph 440 shall have added, AFTER CONSULTATION WITH, AND WITH THE CONSENT OF THE JURISDICTIONAL COMMITTEE ON EPISCOPACY andshall be amended to read as follows: "Paragraph 440. Each Jurisdictional Conference may fix the Episcopal residences within its Jurisdiction and assign the Bishops of the same. The Bishops of the Jurisdiction shall fix the boundaries of the Episcopal areas, AFTER CONSULTATION WITH, AND WITH THE CONSENT OF THE JURISDICTIONAL COMMITTEE ONEPISCOPACY." Following the adoption of this Report the question of its constitutionality was raised, and by vote of the required number of the General Conference, was referred to the Judicial Council for a determination of its constitutionality. It is therefore properly before the Judicial Council for consideration.

Decision

Division Three of the Constitution deals with Episcopacy. Article I of that Division (Paragraph 34 of the Discipline of 1944) says: "Article 1. There shall be an Episcopacy in the Methodist Church of like plan, powers, privileges, and duties as now exist in the Methodist Episcopal Church and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South." In The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, both law and practice committed to the Bishops of the Church the responsibility for planning and carrying out the Episcopal supervision of the Annual Conferences. In the Discipline of The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for 1934, under Section I of Article Three, Question 5 reads: "What are the duties of a Bishop?" Answer 8, being Paragraph131 of that issue of the Discipline, reads in part as follows: "To provide, as far as possible, a uniform policy of administration, so as to secure true Church leadership." No authority was granted to any other group or individual to plan this Episcopal administration. In the Discipline of The Methodist Episcopal Church for 1936, Chapter V of the Appendix is entitled Episcopal Supervision. Paragraph 1531 says in part: "Presidential Supervision is entirely in the control of the Bishops." Section 5 of this same Paragraph speaks of the assigning of Bishops to residences by the Committee on Episcopacy of the General Conference, but no other limitation is placed on the power of the Bishops to plan and to control the Area system of Episcopal Supervision. Thus it would seem that the historic definition of the powers of Episcopacy includes the right to plan Area Boundaries and thus to provide for adequate Presidential Supervision of the Annual Conferences. Article IV of Division Three of the Constitution of The Methodist Church (Paragraph 37 of the Discipline of 1944) provides: "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." The meaning of this Paragraph becomes clear when we ask what activities the words, "arrange the plan of Episcopal Supervision," include. It does not include the fixing of boundaries, for the boundaries of the Jurisdictional Conferences are fixed by the General Conference Par. 8, Art. IV, Section 12), with the consent of a majority of the Annual Conferences in each Jurisdictional Conference involved; and the boundaries of the Annual Conferences are fixed by the Jurisdictional Conference (Par. 15, Art. V, Section 4). The Jurisdictional Conference and the Annual Conferences are fixed units with which the Bishops must deal in arranging a plan for Episcopal Supervision. The maximum number of Bishops in a Jurisdiction is determined by the General Conference (Par. 439). Therefore the plan referred to must be the plan for grouping the Annual Conferences and arranging for their Residential and Presidential Supervision by the number of Bishops available. In implementing the plan of Episcopal Supervision arranged by the Bishops of a Jurisdiction, a Jurisdictional Conference may assign the individual Bishops of the Jurisdiction to residences, but no power is conferred by the Constitution upon a Jurisdictional Conference to modify the plan that the Bishops may devise for Episcopal Supervision. The authority conferred on the Jurisdictional Conference by Par. 15, Art. V, Sec. 5, "To make rules and regulations for the administration of the work of the Church within the Jurisdiction, subject to such powers as have been or shall be vested in the General Conferences," cannot abrogate the power clearly conferred on the Bishops by Article IV of Division Three, Paragraph 37, Discipline 1948. It is within the right of the General Conference to request the Bishops to consult with the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy regarding the formation of Episcopal areas or to consider the recommendations of the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy, as has been done in Par. 532 of the Discipline of 1944, but it may not abrogate the powers of the Bishops at this point. Report No. 4 of the Committee on Ministry, amending Par. 440 of the Discipline of 1944, so as to require the consent of the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy for the fixing of the boundaries of the Episcopal areas, is therefore unconstitutional.

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