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Decision No. 69

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April 25 1950
In Re: The Power of an Administrative Committee in a Central Conference

Digest of Case

Under the grant of powers to Central Conference by General Conference legislation within the provisions of the Constitution, the Germany Central Conference had authority to create an Administrative Committee to have charge of current matters of business, and to represent that Conference in legal matters arising between Conference sessions. Such Committee, however, shall be responsible to the Central Conference.

Statement of Facts

This case arose because the Germany Central Conference in session at Frankfurt on October 9, 1948, reduced the Northeast Germany Annual Conference to the status of a Provisional Annual Conference. The Administrative Committee of the Germany Central Conference later declared that the vote of the Central Conference, by which the Northeast Germany Conference was reduced to the status of a Provisional Annual Conference, was invalid and continued the Northeast Germany Conference as an Annual Conference. Under the authority of Paragraph 906 of the 1944 Discipline, Bishop J. W. E. Sommer, being the only Bishop in that Central Conference, requested the Judicial Council to hear and determine the legality of such action. The basis of the question of the legality or illegality of the action stated is as follows: Paragraph 580 of the 1944 Discipline provided that no Annual Conference should be continued as such with fewer than twenty-five (25) ministerial members after the General Conference of 1948. In accordance with that law, the Northeast Germany Conference petitioned the General Conference of 1948 that the Germany Central Conference be permitted to reduce the number of its Annual Conferences to four, or to continue the Northeast Germany Conference as a Provisional Annual Conference; and the General Conference so voted. In another action the General Conference passed an Enabling Act extending the time limit mentioned in Paragraph 580 to the General Conference of 1962. The Germany Central Conference in session in Frankfurt on October 9, 1948, decided to reduce the Northeast Germany Conference to the status of a Provisional Annual Conference. At that time the 1948 Discipline had not been received by the members of that Central Conference, although its acts had become law. So the vote of that Conference was taken under the misapprehension that their action was required by the provisions of Paragraph 580 of the 1944 Discipline. Later the Administrative Committee, becoming aware of the extension of time by the General Conference of 1948, sought to declare the action of the Germany Central Conference to be invalid because it was taken under a "misconception" of the state of law, acting for the Central Conference, as provided in the Discipline and in the corporate charter of such Executive Committee, continued the Northeast Germany Conference as an Annual Conference. Therefore, the question of the power of the Administrative Committee so to act becomes important. It perhaps should be noted that the word "invalid" was not correctly used, as what the Committee actually did was to repeal or rescind the action of the Conference. Neither the Committee nor the Conference itself would have power to declare any such legislation to be "invalid," as that is a judicial function.

Decision

The Constitution of The Methodist Church, Paragraph 19, describing the powers and duties of Central Conferences, states in Sections 3 and 5 thus: "3. To establish and constitute such Central Conference Boards as may be required and to elect their administrative officers. "5. To make such rules and regulations for the administration of the work within their boundaries as the conditions in the respective areas may require, subject to the powers that have been or shall be vested in the General Conference." Paragraph 595 of the 1948 Discipline reads as follows: "A Central Conference, where the laws of the land permit, shall have the power to organize and incorporate one or more Executive Committees, Executive Boards, or Councils of Co-operation, with such membership and such powers as may have been granted by the Central Conference, for the purpose of representing it in its property and legal interests and for transacting any necessary business that may arise in the interval between the sessions of the Central Conference, or that may be committed to said Boards or Committees by the Central Conference." The Methodist Church of Germany, in its Constitution adopted September 4, 1934, provided: "The Central Conference shall organize an Administrative Committee. This Committee shall consist of the Bishop as presiding officer and an equal number of ministerial and lay delegates, of whom one shall act as substitute presiding officer and three others shall be elected as first, second, and third Secretaries. "The Administrative Committee shall have charge of the current matters of business and shall represent it legally and otherwise. It shall be responsible to the Central Conference for the conduct of its business." We therefore hold that such action of the Administrative Committee in continuing the Conference as an Annual Conference was within the powers conferred upon such Committee by Paragraph 19 of the Discipline of The Methodist Church and by the Corporate Charter of the Germany Central Conference. With respect to this action, however, the Administrative Committee is responsible to the Central Conference. The decision of the Administrative Committee will stand and be effective until changed or abrogated by the Central Conference, or by General Conference legislation.

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