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Decision No. 76

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November 27 1951
In Re: Request of Council of Bishops for Decision with Respect to Constitutionality of Par. 502, Sections 2 and 3

Digest of Case

Section 2, Paragraph 502 of the 1948 Discipline is not unconstitutional. The following sentence in Section 3, Paragraph 502, "A spring Annual Conference may elect the delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences at its third regular session following the adjournment of the General Conference," is unconstitutional.

Statement of Facts

JURISDICTION At the session of the Council of Bishops held April 26, 1951, at Grand Canyon, Arizona, the Council of Bishops voted unanimously to request the Judicial Council to determine the constitutionality of Sections 2 and 3 of Paragraph 502 of the 1948 Discipline of The Methodist Church. In Paragraph 43, Article II, Section I of the Constitution the Judicial Council is authorized "to determine the constitutionality of any act of the General Conference upon an appeal of a majority of the Council of Bishops." Thus, the Judicial Council is authorized to take jurisdiction.

Decision

Paragraph 24, Article IV of the Constitution provides for the election of ministerial delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences by the ministerial members of the Annual Conference. Paragraph 25, Article V of the Constitution provides for the election of lay delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences by the lay members of the Annual Conference. Nothing is said in the Constitution that will either permit or prevent the ministerial and lay members of the Annual Conference from meeting separately to vote for delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Paragraph 22, Article II of the Constitution states that "the Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church, and as such shall have reserved to it the right to vote on . . . the election of ministerial and lay delegates to the General and the Jurisdictional Conferences . . . . and such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference under the Constitution." It would seem from these provisions of the Constitution that the Annual Conference is given a wide range of interpretation of the plan by which the ministerial and lay delegates are to be elected. Paragraph 631 of the 1948 Discipline states, "The Annual Conference may 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." Whether the ministerial and lay members of the Annual Conference must sit together in one room while voting, or in different sections of the same room, or whether they may have more privacy by meeting in separate rooms, would be a matter for the Annual Conference to determine, providing the place of meeting is declared to be the bar of the Conference and the meeting is under the direction of the Bishop. In Decision 42, rendered by the Judicial Council on April 24, 1947, the constitutionality of an Annual Conference's ordering an Executive Session of the ministerial members to consider questions relating to matters of ordination, character, and Conference relations was upheld. Therefore, Section 2 of Paragraph 502 of the Discipline should not be regarded as unconstitutional. In Section 3 of Paragraph 502 of the Discipline the statement is made that "a spring Annual Conference may elect the delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences at its third regular session following the adjournment of the General Conference." Paragraph 23, Article III of the Constitution and the first sentence of Section 3 of Paragraph 502 both require that delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences shall be elected "at the session preceding the General Conference." Strict interpretation of that requirement does not permit the election of delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences at any session of the Annual Conference except "the session preceding the General Conference." The first sentence of Section 3 of Paragraph 502 is in complete harmony with the requirement of the Constitution. "The election of delegates, by ballot, shall [not "may"] be held at the session of the Annual Conference immediately preceding the General Conference." The second sentence of Section 3, Paragraph 502 clearly permits a violation of the requirement of both Paragraph 23, Article III and the first sentence of Section 3, Paragraph 502. This second sentence, therefore, is unconstitutional and is so declared.

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