Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 84
April 29 1952
In Re: Election of Bishops by Jurisdictional Conferences for a Specific Area
Digest of Case
All Bishops elected by a Jurisdictional Conference under Paragraph 439 of the 1948 Discipline have the same status as any Bishop assigned to a Jurisdiction under the Plan of Union or who has been elected by a Jurisdictional Conference; and any Bishop assigned to or elected by any Jurisdictional Conference may be assigned to any Area over which the Jurisdiction has been given Episcopal Supervision, including missions outside the territory of such Jurisdiction.
Statement of Facts
At a session held January 10, 1952, the Council of Bishops voted to petition the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision upon a question phrased as follows: "What interpretation should be placed upon the election of General Superintendents by a Jurisdiction, under authority of the General Conference, for a specified Area?" JURISDICTION This case comes before the Judicial Council under the provisions of Paragraph 914, as a petition for a ruling as to the effect of actions taken by Jurisdictional Conferences purporting to be in accordance with legislation duly enacted. This petition complies with the above provisions, and we accordingly hold that the Judicial Council has jurisdiction.
The question referred to the Judicial Council as above quoted does not specify any particular act of the General Conference to be construed. We assume, however, that what is requested is an interpretation of Paragraph 439 of the Discipline, which reads as follows:"Each Jurisdiction having 500,000 church members or less shall be entitled to four Bishops, and for each additional 500,000 members or two thirds thereof shall be entitled to one additional Bishop, provided that the General Conference may authorize any Jurisdictional Conference to elect one or more Bishops beyond the quota herein specified in order to provide Episcopal Supervision for mission fields outside the territory of a Jurisdictional Conference." The latter part of this Paragraph was an amendment, adopted by the General Conference of 1944, to Paragraph 339 of the 1940 Discipline. In pursuance of the foregoing amendment the General Conference did authorize the election of additional Bishops in certain Jurisdictions. (See Paragraph 602 of the 1948 Discipline.) Two questions seem to be involved in the inquiry, viz.: (1) Were the Bishops elected under the provisions of Paragraphs 439 and 602 elected to serve only in a particular Area outside the United States of America, and (2) May Bishops elected by a Jurisdictional Conference be assigned to Residential and Presidential Supervision in missions outside the boundaries of their respective Jurisdictions? To answer these questions it appears necessary to consider and construe some Constitutional provisions that appear on first reading to be in conflict. As a prelude to this analysis of Constitutional provisions, it is to be noted that a Bishop elected by a Jurisdictional Conference is not just a Bishop of that Jurisdiction, but is a Bishop of The Methodist Church. Missionary Bishops are mentioned in Paragraph 441 as Bishops having been elected to serve in specified mission fields; but in none of the legislation providing for the election and assignment of Bishops by a Jurisdictional Conference is there any provision for the election of a Bishop to serve in a specified Area. Paragraph 38, a part of the Constitution, provides that Bishops shall have Residential and Presidential Supervision in the Jurisdictional Conferences in which they are elected or in the Jurisdiction to which they may be transferred in the manner therein provided. It has been suggested that this specific grant of power in this particular provision of the Constitution precludes the General Conference from authorizing such Bishops to exercise Residential and Presidential Supervision in missions outside of their respective Jurisdictions. As bearing on that question, attention is called to the following significant constitutional provisions: Paragraph 15 reads in part as follows: "The Jurisdictional Conferences shall have the following powers and duties and such others as may be conferred by the General Conference" [italics ours]. Then follow six subdivisions setting out specific powers and duties of the Jurisdictional Conferences. The first clause in the Paragraph, however, precludes the construction that these six subdivisions are the exclusive powers and duties that the Jurisdictional Conferences may be authorized to exercise. The General Conference is given specific authority to prescribe other powers and duties for the Jurisdictional Conferences. Paragraph 8 of the Discipline, also a part of the Constitution, confers upon the General Conference "full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional," and grants specific authority and power to the General Conference: "4. To provide for the organization, promotion, and administration of the work of the Church outside the United States of America. "5. To define and fix the powers, duties, and privileges of the Episcopacy," etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10. To fix a uniform basis upon which Bishops shall be elected by the Jurisdictional Conferences," etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14. To enact such other legislation as may be necessary, subject to the limitations and restrictions of the Constitution of the Church." It appears that these broad grants of power, including: (a) full legislativepower over all matters distinctly connectional; (b) the power to assign to Jurisdictional Conferences powers and duties in addition to those specifically set out in Paragraph 15; (c) power to provide for the "administration of the work of the Church outside the United States of America"; and (d) the specific power "to define and fix the powers, duties, and privileges of the Episcopacy," forbid a construction of Paragraph 38 as meaning that the General Conference is without power to provide for Residential and Presidential Supervision of mission fields in the manner provided in Paragraph 439. Otherwise Section 5 of Paragraph 8 would be meaningless. Section 6 of Paragraph 601 of the Discipline provides that the General Conference shall make provision for the Episcopal Supervision of work in territory outside the United States which is not now included in Central Conferences. Paragraph 602 makes provision for such Episcopal Supervision in keeping with the provisions of Paragraph 439. In the light of these broad grants of legislative power to the General Conference contained in Paragraph 8 and Paragraph 15 of the Constitution, it is unreasonable to presume that the specific powers granted to Bishops in Paragraph 38 were intended to be exclusive or a limitation upon the legislative powers granted to the General Conference in Paragraphs 8 and 15. It is the Decision of the Judicial Council that the General Conference acted within its constitutional right in enacting the amendment to Paragraph 439 quoted above and in enacting Paragraph 602 in pursuance thereof. It is the Decision of the Judicial Council also that the Bishops elected under the provisions of Paragraphs 439 and 602 have the same status as Bishops assigned to a Jurisdiction under the Plan of Union or who have been subsequently elected as Bishops by the Jurisdictional Conferences, and that any Bishop assigned to a Jurisdiction or elected by a Jurisdictional Conference, is, under Paragraph 439, subject to assignment to Residential and Presidential Supervision in missions outside of the territory of such Jurisdiction, but which have been attached by the General Conference to such Jurisdiction for Episcopal Supervision.