Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 102
July 19 1954
In Re: Action of the Second Quarterly Conference of Inglenook First Methodist Church Held May 13, 1953, in Adding Three New Members to the Board of Trustees and Reorganizing the Board, as Presented on Appeal From the Decision of the District Super- intendent Affirmed by the Pre- siding Bishop in Open Session of the North Alabama Annual Conference
Digest of Case
1. That a Second Quarterly Conference held on May 13, 1953 on a call announced to the congregation at its prayer service April 29, 1953 was regular and had the right to consider and act upon the matter of proceedings to recover from the Ex-Treasurer the Treasurer's books and records for the previous year; and that the courts will entertain suits between members of the Church as between members of society and other groups. 2. That the action of the Quarterly Conference of Inglenook First Methodist Church adding to its Board of Trustees three new members, at its Second Quarterly Conference, was null and void. 3. That the Resolution of the Quarterly Conference authorizing the Trustees to employ attorneys without the fee being stipulated was within the authority of the Quarterly Conference and was legal. 4. That the meeting of the Board of Trustees not called by the Chairman and participated in by three illegally elected Trustees was illegal and void.
Statement of Facts
The record in this case is too voluminous to reproduce here. Four members of the Quarterly Conference of Inglenook First Methodist Church, North Alabama Conference raised some questions as to the legality of the calling of a Quarterly Conference held on May 13, 1953, and the action of the Quarterly Conference in adding three new members to the Board of Trustees at such session of the Quarterly Conference. They filed a written request with G. M. Davenport, District Superintendent asking for a ruling both as to the legality of the call for the session of the Quarterly Conference and also as to the action of such session. Their request contained six points, which in brief may be stated as follows: 1. That under date of May 3, 1953 a notice was published in the Bulletin of the Inglenook First Methodist Church, calling a special session of the Quarterly Conference on May 11, for the express purpose of authorizing legal proceedings against a member or members of the Church for the purpose of securing the records of the Ex-Treasurer; that if said session had been held it would have been illegal for lack of ten days' notice. That on May 11, 1953 announcement was made from the pulpit of the Church that the regular Second Quarterly Conference would be held on May 13; that no mention was made of postponement of the session called for May 11; that Par. 141 of the Discipline provides that a Quarterly Conference shall transact the business committed to it by the Discipline; and no authority is found in the Discipline giving the Quarterly Conference authority to institute legal proceedings against members of the Church. RULING OF THE DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: To this point the District Superintendent in his decision replied that this was the regular Second Quarterly Conference held on May 13; that request for ruling was in error as to the time when same was called; that announcement was made to the congregation at its prayer service on April 29 that the Second Quarterly Conference would be held May 13, "thus giving ample time to fulfill any provision of the Discipline as to time"; that this Second Quarterly Conference was held at the discretion of the District Superintendent (Par. 140 of the Discipline) ; that under the heading of "Is there any further business," (Question 29) the matter of proceedings to recover the Treasurer's book and records for the previous year was brought up; that it was proper business for the Quarterly Conference to consider and act upon; that the courts of the land will entertain suits between members of the Church and between members of society or any other groups. 2. That Inglenook First Methodist Church has operated for years with six Trustees and was so operating when the May 13, 1953 session of its Quarterly Conference was held; that at this the Second Quarterly Conference three new Trustees were added making a total number of nine Trustees; That this was done on a Report from the Nominating Committee signed by J. T. Aldridge as Chairman, whereas, Par. 145 of the Discipline specifically provides that the Pastor shall be Chairman of the Nominating Committee; that this was illegal and void. This was not the Fourth Quarterly Conference, and no vacancies were declared on the Board, hence the action of the Quarterly Conference in adding three new members to the Board of Trustees was invalid (Par. 160 of the Discipline) ; and that since the pastor only can be Chairman of the Nominating Committee and this election was held on the nomination of a Committee of which a layman was registered as Chairman, the election was null and void. (Par. 160 of the Discipline.) 3. That the authorization of the employment of a law firm to act as attorneys for the Church to institute legal proceedings as they saw fit, no specific fee being mentioned, committed the Church to a debt, the amount of which is unknown; that the commitment if made at all should have been made for a stipulated amount; and in the absence of such stipulation the legality of the proceedings was questioned. "The Church was not committed to any debt of the Quarterly Conference and therefore the Church cannot be obligated to an indebtedness." 4. That on May 17, 1953, at the evening service, announcement was made from the pulpit of a called meeting of the Board of Trustees; that such meeting was held and the three newly elected members participated therein; that the then President of the Board of Trustees did not call this meeting, nor did he preside at said meeting; that a new President of the Board was elected and the existing President was ejected from the office of President. "It is my opinion that with three members illegally elected on the Board that the meeting was illegal and that the calling of the meeting was also illegal, in that the Chairman did not call the meeting." 5. The fifth point is a general statement that in the opinion of the persons making the request for a Decision "the actions being taken by the pastor and officers of the Inglenook First Methodist Church are not in harmony with the purpose and intent of the Discipline of The Methodist Church, and that such actions as are being taken are harmful to the Church and are not for its best interest." To this general statement the District Superintendent did not reply. 6. "It is our opinion that since the Pastor, Howard W. Raines, has totally disregarded the rules of the Discipline, and has assumed totalitarian policies, that he should be removed from the Pastorship of the Inglenook First Methodist Church, and that a Pastor well versed in the Discipline of The Methodist Church should be appointed to arbitrate and settle the matters involved in the disputes within the Inglenook First Methodist Church." "The appeal with reference to the pastor, Howard W. Raines, is out of order in that the appointment of a pastor is the province of the Bishop and his Cabinet, and any request for removal or securing a preacher should go to the Bishop and his Cabinet." RULING OF THE BISHOP: On appeal to the presiding Bishop of the next ensuing session of the North Alabama Annual Conference, Bishop Clare Purcell rendered the following Decision: "The undersigned as presiding Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The Methodist Church, in which Inglenook First Methodist Church is located, has read the record as submitted in this file." (The appeal file) "He is of the opinion that the Decision of the District Superintendent, Dr. G. M. Davenport, as herewith attached, is correct. It is, therefore affirmed." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to review this Decision of the Bishop made in open session of the Annual Conference. See Par. 43, sub. 3; Par. 909; and Decision No. 29 of the Judicial Council (1944).
Likewise, in the opinion of the Judicial Council the Decision of the District Superintendent, Dr. G. M. Davenport, is in all things correct, except in his response to point 3. The Quarterly Conference had the authority to commit the Church for a reasonable attorney's fee, and such commitment was legal. Therefore, the Decision of Bishop Clare Purcell made thereon at the 1953 session of the North Alabama Annual Conference is in all things affirmed, except as above modified.