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Decision No. 78

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November 27 1951
In Re: Ruling of Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke in Pittsburgh Annual Conference with Reference to Adoption of Ministers Reserve Pension Plan

Digest of Case

The Annual Conference has no authority to delegate its responsibilities and powers to Quarterly Conferences except as explicitly given that authority by the General Conference. Therefore the Pittsburgh Annual Conference had no authority to delegate to the Quarterly Conferences the power to determine whether or not the Annual Conference would adopt the Reserve Pension Plan.

Statement of Facts

At the meeting of the Pittsburgh Annual Conference, held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 19, 1950, the Annual Conference Committee on Reserve Pension Plan made its Report recommending, inter alia: "That the PittsburghConference join the Ministers Reserve Pension Fund of The Methodist Church." Motion was made to adopt this recommendation of the Committee. Thereafter the following substitute motion was offered: "Before this legislation can becomeofficially a part of the Conference financial program it must be approved by two-thirds of the Quarterly Conferences of the churches of the Conference." (See Journal of the Pittsburgh Conference, 1950, P. 501.) This motion prevailed, and Presiding Bishop Lloyd C. Wicke was requested in writing to rule on the validity of the above action of the Conference. Bishop Wicke ruled that "such reference to the Quarterly Conferences for referendum would be a delegation of powers for which the Constitution makes no provision," citing Paragraph 22 of the Constitution and Section 11 of Paragraph 1642 of the 1948 Discipline. The question is presented: "is the ruling of thePresiding Bishop valid?" Division Four, Article II (Paragraph 43 of 1948 Discipline) of the Constitution of The Methodist Church reads in part as follows: JURISDICTION "Art. II.-The Judicial Council shall have authority: . . . "3. To pass upon decisions of law made by Bishops in Annual or District Conferences." Excerpts from the minutes of the 1950 Session of the Pittsburgh Annual Conference show clearly that such a ruling was made by Bishop Wicke with respect to the matter now under consideration. We therefore hold that the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to review and pass upon said ruling made by Bishop Wicke in the 1950 Session of the Pittsburgh Annual Conference.

Decision

Paragraph 22, Article 11 of the Constitution reads as follows: "The Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church, and as such shall have reserved to it the right to vote on all constitutional amendments, on the election of ministerial and lay delegates to the General and the Jurisdictional or Central Conferences, on all matters relating to the character and Conference relations of its ministerial members, and on the ordination of ministers, and such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference under the Constitution, with the exception that the lay members may not vote on matters of ordination, character, and Conference relations of ministers. It shall discharge such duties and exercise such powers as the General Conference under the Constitution may determine." A careful analysis of the provisions of Paragraph 22 above quoted shows affirmatively that the Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church and exercises such powers as are granted by Paragraph 22 above quoted. We can find nowhere therein any statement authorizing the Annual Conference to delegate any of its powers to the Quarterly Conferences. Because of the importance of the matter herein involved, the Annual Conference could properly and wisely seek the advice of the Quarterly Conferences of its constituent churches by any means it deems proper. The Annual Conference cannot, however, leave the final determination of the question involved to any other body than the Annual Conference itself. If we carefully note the provisions of Paragraph 1642, Section 2 of the 1948 Discipline, the relevant part of which reads as follows: "An Annual orProvisional Annual Conference, at any time, on its own determination, by a two-thirds vote of its membership present and voting, may enter the fund," we see that only the Annual Conference has the power to determine whether it shall enter the Ministers Reserve Pension Fund. By no stretch of the imagination can this section be construed to give the Annual Conference the right to delegate this power to the Quarterly Conferences of the Annual Conference. In those instances where the Church law has authorized the Annual Conference to delegate any powers to the Quarterly Conferences the power has been specifically set forth. Since we find no authority in the applicable law of the Church authorizing the delegation by an Annual Conference to the Quarterly Conferences of said Conference the final determination of the question whether or not the Annual Conference shall enter the Ministers Reserve Pension Fund, we must conclude that the delegation of this authority by the Pittsburgh Annual Conference to the Quarterly Conferences of that Conference was an unlawful delegation of authority; and the ruling of Bishop Wicke is therefore affirmed.

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