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Decision No. 130

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May 02 1956
In Re: Request from the Council of Bishops for a

Digest of Case

A Quarterly Conference may adopt a policy for the election of Trustees which is subject at all times to suspension or rejection by majority vote of the Quarterly Conference.

Statement of Facts

The Council of Bishops meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Apr 28, 1956, voted to request of the Judicial Council a Declaratory Decision on a question raised in a letter from Mr. C. E. Hines of Worthington, Indiana, to Bishop Richard C. Raines relative to the interpretation of Paragraph 160 of the 1952 Discipline. Bishop Bromley Oxnam, Secretary of the Council of Bishops, states in his letter to the Judicial Council: ". . . The essential question, I think,is this: since Paragraph 160 of the 1952 Discipline does state, 'provided,however, that nothing herein shall be construed to prevent the election of a Trustee to succeed himself,' does a Quarterly Conference have the power to adopt a plan whereby the term of office for a Trustee shall not exceed three years without a break of one year following the three year term before the Trustee may be elected again?" JURISDICTION Under Paragraph 914, sub-section (1) of the 1952 Discipline the request of the Council of Bishops for a Declaratory Decision is properly before the Judicial Council. ANALYSIS The Constitution in Paragraph 31 of the 1952 Discipline reads as follows: "There shall be organized in each pastoral charge a Quarterly Conference composed of such persons and vested with such powers as the General Conference shall provide." The General Conference in its legislation has declared in Paragraph 137 of the 1952 Discipline: "Within the pastoral charge (Paragraph 104) the Quarterly Conference is the basic body of control uniting it to connectional Methodism, and through the Quarterly Conference the pastoral charge functions in its relationship thereto. The Quarterly Conference shall therefore be organized in every pastoral charge, as provided in the Constitution (Paragraphs 31-32). The membership thereof and its authority, powers, duties, and responsibilities shall be as hereinafter set forth." In Paragraph 138 of the 1952 Discipline the General Conference has set forth the membership of the Quarterly Conference and in Paragraph 157 has declared that a Quarterly Conference so constituted ". . . shall be vested with power and authority as hereinafter set forth in connection with the property both real and personal of the said church, namely:..... (4) To elect the Trustees of the local church, unless otherwise provided (Paragraph 32) in harmony with the provisions of the Discipline." Such provisions for the election of Trustees are found in Paragraphs 159 and 160 of the 1952 Discipline. Paragraph 159 sets forth the number and qualifications of such Trustees and Paragraph 160, after providing that the Trustees shall be divided into three classes and setting forth the procedure for the nomination of Trustees, continues in part: ". . . it shall elect, to take office at the beginning of the ensuing Conference year, to serve for a term of three years or until their successors have been duly elected and qualified, the required number of Trustees to succeed those of the class whose terms then expire; provided, however, that nothing herein shall be construed to prevent the election of a Trustee to succeed himself." The General Conference has stated that the Quarterly Conference is the basic body of control within a pastoral charge and has invested it with authority and power in the matter of the election of the Trustees of a local church within the provisions of the Discipline. The special provision in Paragraph 160 protects the right of the Quarterly Conference as the electing body, making certain that no construction shall be put upon the wording of the Paragraph that would limit the right of the Quarterly Conference to elect new personnel in the classes of Trustees or to elect Trustees to succeed themselves if it so desires. The right to elect constitutes the right to make a choice. No class of Trustees elected under Paragraph 160 is guaranteed re-election or has any preference right to be re-elected. Therefore, if a majority of the Quarterly Conference should desire to elect a different group for each class of Trustees when their terms expire, they have that right; and that desire may be expressed in the minutes of a Quarterly Conference as a policy, provided such policy is subject at all times to suspension or rejection by a majority vote of the members of the Quarterly Conference present and voting at a duly authorized meeting of the Quarterly Conference.

Decision

It is the Decision of the Judicial Council that the Quarterly Conference has the power to adopt a policy whereby the term of office for a Trustee shall not exceed three years without a break of one year following the three year term before the Trustee may be elected again provided such policy is subject at all times to suspension or rejection by a majority vote of the members of the Quarterly Conference present and voting at a duly authorized meeting of the Quarterly Conference. May 3, 1956. Dissenting Decision The undersigned very reluctantly finds it necessary to dissent from the Decision in this case. Had the Decision read that a Quarterly Conference has the right to adopt a policy of not re-electing Trustees whose three year terms have expired until one year has elapsed, as a purely advisory policy and not a binding rule, this dissent would not have been necessary. The Decision implies, however, that such a policy would be binding on a Quarterly Conference until such time as, by majority vote of the members of the Quarterly Conference present and voting at a duly authorized meeting of the Quarterly Conference, the policy is suspended or rejected. It is the clear implication that if the Quarterly Conference has adopted such a policy and if it has not voted to suspend or reject it, no Trustee whose three year term had expired would be eligible for nomination or election until one year had elapsed. Our contention is that the Quarterly Conference has no such power under the Discipline. The Constitution in Paragraph 31 of the 1952 Discipline as quoted in the Decision invests the Quarterly Conference with such powers as the General Conference shall provide. Paragraph 137 of the 1952 Discipline as quoted in the Decision authorizes the organization of the Quarterly Conference as provided in the Constitution (Paragraphs 3132). It provides that its membership, authority, powers, duties and responsibilities shall be as thereinafter set forth in the Discipline. Paragraph 160 sets forth the following provisions for the election of Trustees: "The members of the Board of Trustees shall be divided into three classes; and each class shall, as nearly as possible, consist of an equal number of members. At the fourth or final meeting of the Quarterly Conference for the Annual Conference year, upon nomination by the Committee on Nominations. (Paragraph 145 Section 1), of which the pastor shall be Chairman (or if the Committee fails to nominate, upon nomination of the pastor), or from the floor, it shall elect, to take office at the beginning of the ensuing Conference year, to serve for a term of three years or until their successors have been duly elected and qualified, the required number of Trustees to succeed those of the class whose terms then expire; provided however, that nothing herein shall be construed to prevent the election of a Trustee to succeed himself,....... Nowhere in this Paragraph is there provision for the rotating of Trustees so that at least one year must elapse after the expiration of a three year term before they can be elected again. On the contrary, the definite statement is made that the plan of arranging the Trustees into three classes, each to serve for three years, shall not be construed so as to prevent the election of a Trustee to succeed himself. Neither is there in this Paragraph any limitation imposed upon the eligibility of a Trustee to be nominated and elected because of the length of time he has previously served continuously. If the General Conference had intended any such limitations, it would have provided for them. The basic question then is this: Can the Quarterly Conference imposelimitations upon the eligibility of a Trustee for nomination and election because of the length of previous continuous service, when the Discipline which contains the legislation of the General Conference to which the Constitution gives the power to provide for these matters contains no such limitations? The answer is that it cannot. Therefore, a Trustee is eligible for nomination and re-election without the lapse of one year following the expiration of his three year term even though the Quarterly Conference has adopted a policy of rotation and whether or not that policy is suspended or rejected. Because of the reasons stated above and because of the importance of the office of Trustee of a local church in which is vested the responsibility for dealing with legal matters affecting the property rights of a church, we find it necessary respectfully to dissent from the Decision in this case.

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