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Decision No. 72

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April 28 1950
In Re: The Interpretation of Paragraph 347 of the 1948 Discipline Originating in Little Rock Annual Conference of The Methodist Church

Digest of Case

Paragraph 347 of the 1948 Discipline applies only to the four year course of study and does not apply to the two years graduate study required of members of the Conference admitted by the three-fourths vote rule under Paragraph 323 of the Discipline. The Annual Conference under Paragraph 22 of the Discipline has authority to prescribe time in which these two years of graduate study must be completed. For dereliction of a member in this respect the Annual Conference could, under other provisions of the Discipline, take appropriate action. JURISDICTION First: Under Paragraph 914 of the Discipline certain bodies may petitionthe Judicial Council for a ruling in the nature of a Declaratory Decision as to the meaning of a Paragraph in the Discipline that seems to be of doubtful meaning or application. Paragraph 347 of the Discipline seems to come within that category. The Little Rock Annual Conference of The Methodist Church made such a petition for an interpretation of Paragraph 347 of the 1948 Discipline as shown by the following quotation from the Journal of said Conference: "Resolution-Arthur Terry submitted a Resolution asking the Judicial Council for a declaratory judgment of Paragraph 347 of the 1948 Discipline as it would apply to the case of Warren Douglass Golden. The Resolution was adopted. Attached." (Page 26, 1949 Journal, Little Rock Annual Conference.) "PETITION TO JUDICIAL COUNCIL" "Whereas, it has been ruled by the Board of Ministerial Training of the Little Rock Conference that Paragraph 347, 1948 Discipline refers to the additional two years of study required of those admitted into an Annual Conference under the three-fourths (3/4:) rule as exceptional and unusual cases,as well as to the regular course of study, and was so ruled by the resident Bishop, presiding; thereby terminating the Conference membership of Warren Douglass Golden who had completed the four year course of study in five years but who had not completed the additional two years study in eight years from the time he began the course. "And whereas there yet remains doubt in the minds of some as to the correctness of the interpretation, we, therefore, petition the Judicial Council under provisions of Paragraph 914 and 915, of the 1948 Discipline, for a Declaratory interpretation of Paragraph 347, of the 1948 Discipline, as said Paragraph relates to the additional two years of study for exceptional and unusual cases in the course of study. "Respectfully submitted, "Signed by the following: Arthur Terry J. M. Hamilton Edward W. Harris Kenneth L. Spore" (Pages 64-65, 1949 Journal. Little Rock Annual Conference.) It is to be regretted that the Judicial Council cannot assume jurisdiction in this case under the provisions of Paragraph 914 of the Discipline. It has already been adjudicated by the Judicial Council that Paragraph 914 of the Discipline does not include the Annual Conference, and that, therefore, the Annual Conference is not authorized under that Paragraph to petition the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision. (See Judicial Council Decision 37.) Second: Paragraph 43, Section 3 of the Discipline, which is a part of thePlan of Union (Constitution) of The Methodist Church, provides that the Judicial Council has power "to pass upon decisions of law made by Bishops in Annual or District Conferences." As will appear from the analysis of the record as hereinafter set forth, the question involved in this case is in effect a ruling of the presiding Bishop in the 1949 session of the Little Rock Conference, and, under Section 3, Paragraph 43 of the 1948 Discipline, the Judicial Council does have jurisdiction to hear and determine the same.

Statement of Facts

The question before the Judicial Council originated in the Little Rock Annual Conference under the following conditions as reflected by the 1949 Journal of that Conference: On page 24 of the Journal is the following entry: "Warren Douglass Golden was located under the provisions of Paragraph 347 of the 1948 Discipline. "Report No. 3 of the Board of Ministerial Training was filed for record with the Secretary." Report No. 3 of the Board of Ministerial Training is set out in full on page 15 of the Journal, and reads as follows: ON THE CASE OF REV. WARREN DOUGLASS GOLDEN June 10, 1949 REPORT NO. 3 "The Reverend Warren Douglass Golden was admitted on trial to the Little Rock Annual Conference November 14, 1940, by a three-fourths vote of the Conference, as a Special Case, because of insufficient educational qualifications, under the special Disciplinary provisions. Under this special provision, he was required to take the regular four year course of study, plus two years of graduate work. The first four years were to be finished within six years and all six years of work to be finished within eight years. "He completed the first four years October 29, 1945, or five years later. Last year, October 1948, three years later, he had finished only a portion of one of the four graduate courses. Last Conference also marked the end of the eight years allowed Brother Golden. Upon recommendation of the Board with the concurrence of the Bishop, and by vote of the Conference, consideration was given to periods of illness, and he was allowed an additional year of grace, bringing the total to nine years. It was the opinion of the Board and Bishop Martin last year that we were exceeding our authority in granting the ninth year, or year of grace. The Conference and Brother Golden were so informed at the time, and he was told that no further extensions could be granted. Fortunately, our Bishop has not been challenged thus far on this decision. "This year the work still remains unfinished, and the request was made to the Board by Brother Golden for an additional extension of time, making a total of ten years. According to the law our Bishop could not allow such an extension, if the years were totaled as ten, which was the case this time. The Board, seeking to save Brother Golden, sought desperately for loopholes by which the years could be reduced by means of a legitimate recount. Otherwise, our Bishop would face possible charges of maladministration. Such a proposed recount of two previous years was before the Board, and was defeated by a majority vote. It, therefore, became the judgment of the Board that no extension of time could be made, in addition to the year of grace already granted. Quote, Paragraph 347, 'Any member in full connection who fails to complete the entire four years of the course of study within six years shall be located, unless extension of times shall be recommended by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications and authorized by a two-thirds vote of the Annual Conference. In no case shall a person have a larger total than eight years in the course of study, and any person failing to complete the course within this eight-year period shall not be permitted to join a Conference again on trial. This section, however, shall not apply for the period of time in which the candidates are carrying regular work in residence in a school of theology approved by the University Senate.' We regretfully report this decision, knowing full well its meaning for Brother Golden and his family. They, as well as the church he now serves, along with the brethren of the Conference, may be assured that this decision was made in brotherly love, and after much anxious labor on his behalf and soul searching prayer." There was some conflict between the statements made to the Judicial Council by the representative of the Board of Ministerial Training, and Warren Douglass Golden on the question of whether or not this report was adopted by the Annual Conference. The Council feels that in this regard it should rely on the printed record. So far as the Council can determine from a careful study of the Journal, there is no entry in the Journal specifically recording the adopting of the report by the Annual Conference. On page 24 of the Journal is the following entry: "Board of Ministerial Training-Charles H. Giessen presented the Reports of the Board of Ministerial Training as follows: "The names of those eligible for Deacon's Orders were read and they were elected . . . . "The names of those who are members of the class of admission on trial were called, reported upon, introduced, and they were admitted. By recommendation of the Board and by vote of the Conference John Gold was readmitted. "The names of the Undergraduates were called, reported upon and advanced in their respective classes. "Warren Douglass Golden was located under provisions of Paragraph 347 of the 1948 Discipline. "Report No. 3 of the Board of Ministerial Training was filed for record with the Secretary." It will be noted that in the case of John Gold it is recorded that he was readmitted "by vote of the Conference." The record does not show that Warren Douglass Golden was located "by vote of the Conference." The negative is implied by the Journal entry that the report announcing his discontinuance was simply "filed for record with the Secretary." In this respect the action indicates that the location was in effect the result of the ruling of the presiding officer rather than by vote of the Conference. This interpretation is implemented by the following: (1) The first paragraph of the petition for a Declaratory Decision adopted by the Annual Conference, which first paragraph reads as follows: "Whereas it has been ruled by the Board of Ministerial Training of the Little Rock Conference that Paragraph 347, 1948 Discipline refers to the additional two years of study required by those admitted into an Annual Conference under the three-fourths (%) rule as exceptional and unusual cases, as well as to the regular course of study, and was so ruled by the resident Bishop presiding; thereby terminating the Conference membership of Warren Douglass Golden who had completed the four years course of study in five years but who had not completed the additional two years study in eight years from the time he began the course." (2) By the following exhibit signed by the presiding Bishop attached to the petition for a declaratory decision: "EXHIBIT B "I, Paul E. Martin, the presiding Bishop, concurred in the action of the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications concerning the disposition of the case of the Rev. W. D. Golden which resulted in his location under the provisions of Paragraph 347 of the 1948 Discipline, which action is found on page 24 of the Little Rock Annual Conference Journal of 1949. Brother Golden was then listed as an Accepted Supply Pastor, which is recorded on page 29 of the sale Journal issue. He was appointed by me to the Ashdown charge, in the Texarkana District, as an Accepted Supply, the charge which he had served previously for one year. The Judicial Council will do this Bishop, Conference, Board, and Minister a great service if its members will render a Declaratory judgment that would interpret Paragraph 347 of the 1948 Discipline, stating specifically whether it was the intention of the legislation to include or exclude the two years of graduate work in the total of eight years allowed for the course of study. "Paul E. Martin, (signature) Paul E. Martin, Presiding Bishop Arkansas-Louisiana Area" From the information furnished to the Judicial Council during the argument of this case, it appears that the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications of the Little Rock Conference and Bishop Martin, in making this ruling, were relying on an interpretation of Paragraph 347 made by the General Commission on Ministerial Training and Qualifications; that there was doubt in their own minds as to whether the interpretation reflected in the ruling was correct; and that such ruling was not intended as an arbitrary interpretation of the law, but more as a means of getting the question before the Judicial Council of an authoritative interpretation of Paragraph 347 of the Discipline. This is clearly indicated by the exhibit, signed by Bishop Martin and attached to the petition for a Declaratory Decision, and also by the fact that Edward W. Harris, Chairman of the Little Rock Conference Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications, signed the petition for a Declaratory Decision. (See the petition and exhibit hereinbefore set out in full.) The Judicial Council not having jurisdiction under the present law of the Church to determine this case on the petition from the Little Rock Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision, but having jurisdiction under Section 3, Paragraph 43 of the Discipline, submits the following as its Decision herein.

Decision

The portion of Paragraph 347 to be interpreted herein reads as follows: "347. Any member in full connection who fails to complete the entire four years course of study within six years shall be located, unless extension of time shall be recommended by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications and authorized by a two-thirds vote of the Annual Conference. In no case shall a person have a larger total than eight years in the course of study, and any person failing to complete the course within this eight-year period shall not be permitted to join a Conference again on trial." By the specific terms of this Paragraph it applies solely to the four years course of study. The four years course of study is the subject matter of the Paragraph as indicated by the use of that term in the first sentence of the Paragraph. The course of study to which it refers is an entirety within itself as shown by use of the phrase "the entire four years of the course of study." Furthermore, by the commonly accepted rules of grammatical construction, the phrases "the course of study" and "the course" appearing in the body of the Paragraph refer to the course of study which is the subject matter of the Paragraph. No reference is made in this Paragraph to the two years of graduate work required by Paragraph 323 of members of the Conference admitted under the three-fourths vote rule set out in that Paragraph. Paragraph 347 deals solely with the four years course of study; hence no other course of study can be read into it by construction or implication. It will be noted that under Paragraph 347 six years are arbitrarily given, without penalty, in which to complete the four years course of study. If a member in full connection fails to complete this four years course of study in six years and the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications and the Annual Conference fail to extend the time, the penalty is location: such member"shall be located." If the Board and Conference grant the full two years extension, and at the end of the eight-year term the member has not completed the four years course of study, the penalty is not only location but such member "shall not be permitted to join a Conference again on trial." In the case here under consideration it is undisputed that Warren Douglass Golden was a member in full connection of the Little Rock Annual Conference, and that he had completed the four years course of study in five years. It appears that he had complied with every requirement under Paragraph 347. That being the case, he was not subject to location under that Paragraph of the Discipline. It is likewise undisputed that Warren Douglass Golden was admitted into the Little Rock Annual Conference under the three-fourths vote rule provided in Paragraph 323 of the Discipline. Under that Paragraph he was required to pursue the two years of graduate work. At the end of three years after he had completed the four years course of study, he had not completed these two years of graduate work required of him. It is undisputed that for a considerable portion of this time he was ill. The Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications, the presiding Bishop, and the Annual Conference recognized his affliction and even under the misconstruction that had been given to Paragraph 347 granted him a year of grace beyond what they considered to be the limit under such Paragraph. Thus he was given four full years in which to pursue and complete the two years of graduate work after he had completed the regular four years course of study required of all members of the Conference. Thus it appears that the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications the Little Rock Annual Conference and Bishop Paul E. Martin the presiding Bishop in that area had shown Brother Golden great consideration and had dealt with him leniently and in a brotherly fashion with respect to these two years of graduate work. It is further evident from the report of the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications to the 1949 session of the Annual Conference as hereinbefore set out that further extension of time would have been granted if some plausible or reasonable basis could have been found to avoid the effect of the interpretation of Paragraph 347 under which they were laboring. Paragraph 323 of the Discipline provides that these two years of graduate work are to be taken under the direction of the Conference Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications. The Annual Conference, under the Constitution (Paragraph 22 of the Discipline), has the right and authority to vote "on all matters relating to the character and Conference relationship of its ministerial members." Under Paragraph 631 of the Discipline, the Annual Conference has the power and right to "make rules to govern its own procedure, provided that no Annual Conference shall make any rule contrary to the Constitution or to the powers granted it by the General Conference." Therefore, on recommendation of the Conference Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications, the Annual Conference could prescribe the time in which the two years of graduate work shall be completed. For dereliction of a member of the Conference in this respect it could, under other provisions of the Discipline, take appropriate action. In the opinion of the Judicial Council, however, in such a case Paragraph 347 would have no application. It follows, therefore, that a member in full connection in an Annual Conference who has completed the four years course of study within six years cannot be automatically located under the provisions of Paragraph 347. Under the record in this case and the undisputed facts as hereinbefore set out, it is the decision of the Judicial Council that the ruling of the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications concurred in by the presiding Bishop in the case of Warren Douglass Golden cannot be sustained. Such ruling of the presiding Bishop in the 1949 session of the Little Rock Annual Conference is hereby reversed.

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