Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 127
April 29 1956
In Re: The Election of Missionary Bishops
Digest of Case
The General Conference has authority to authorize a Jurisdictional Conference to elect a Missionary Bishop.
Statement of Facts
Under date of April 19, 1956, the General Conference Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas requested the Judicial Council to render a Declaratory Decision in answer to the following question: "Can the General Conference authorize a Jurisdictional Conference to elect a Missionary Bishop?" JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to render such Declaratory Decision under the provisions of subsection (2) of Paragraph 914 of the 1952 Discipline. ANALYSIS Article I, Division three, of the Constitution of The Methodist Church (Paragraph 34 of the 1952 Discipline), reads as follows: "Paragraph 34, Article 1. There shall be an Episcopacy of The Methodist Church of like plan, powers, privileges and duties as now exists in The Methodist Episcopal Church and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South." The Methodist Episcopal Church had Missionary Bishops as a part of its plan of Episcopacy. (Paragraphs 631-640 of the 1936 Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church.) In fact a Missionary Bishop was authorized to be elected by the 1936 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church to serve in Africa. (Page 407, Journal of the 1936 General Conference of that Church.) Reverend John M. Springer was thereupon elected and consecrated as such Missionary Bishop to Africa (pages 295 and 311, Journal of the 1936 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church). Therefore, under the Constitutional provision above quoted (Paragraph 34, 1952 Discipline), Missionary Bishops are a part of the Episcopal plan for The Methodist Church. A "Missionary Bishop" was defined in the 1936 Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church as follows: "Paragraph 631. A Missionary Bishop is a Bishop elected for a specified foreign mission field, with full Episcopal powers, but with Episcopal jurisdiction limited to the foreign mission field for which he was elected." A "Missionary Bishop" is likewise defined in the Discipline of The Methodist Church. (Paragraph 441, 1952 Discipline.) This is a recognition by the General Conference that there can be in The Methodist Church such an office as a Missionary Bishop. This recognition and assumption is supported by the Constitutional provision and statement of facts herein above set out. The Judicial Council has heretofore held that there is no provision in the Constitution for the General Conference to elect a Missionary Bishop. (Decision No. 21.) Since there is no such specific provision, the General Conference, in the exercise of the "full legislative power over all matters connectional" given to it in Article IV of Division II of the Constitution (Paragraph 8 of the 1952 Discipline) has the right to authorize any Jurisdictional Conference in the Church to elect a Missionary Bishop for a specified foreign mission field.
In answer to the question submitted, as set out in the Statement above, it is the Decision of the Judicial Council that the General Conference has the power to authorize a Jurisdictional Conference to elect a Missionary Bishop for a specified mission field.