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Decision No. 142

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October 17 1957
In Re: The Power of a Central Conference to Add a New Paragraph to the Discipline in Accordance with the Provisions of Paragraph 578 of the 1952 Discipline (Paragraph 562 of the 1956 Discipline) of The Methodist Church

Digest of Case

The enactments of the Latin American Central Conference revising Paragraph 127 of the Discipline are contrary to the Constitution of The Methodist Church and may not be included in the Discipline of said Conference under the provisions of Paragraph 562 of the Discipline. (Paragraph 578 of the 1952 Discipline)

Statement of Facts

The Latin American Central Conference in session November 11-18, 1956, approved the following paragraph to be included in the Discipline (Spanish edition) to be used in the area of said Conference. Paragraph 127 bis. "We recognize the right that parents have to dedicate their children to the Lord, postponing baptism until the child accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. The dedicated children shall be entered on the permanent records as candidates for membership, in a special section for them. The Minister shall diligently instruct the parents with regard to the vows they assume and be shall exhort them to be ever faithful therein." At the same session of the Conference approval was given to amend Paragraph 127 of the Discipline as follows: Paragraph 127, sentence 2, states: "It shall be the duty of the pastor ofevery charge earnestly to exhort parents and guardians within his constituency to dedicate their children to the Lord in Baptism as early as practicable." As amended, the words "in Baptism" are omitted causing the sentence to read:"It shall be the duty of the Pastor of every charge earnestly to exhort parents and guardians within his constituency to dedicate their children to the Lord as early as practicable." Following the approval to revise the Discipline as indicated the constitutionality of the action was challenged and a motion was made to refer the matter to the Judicial Council. The motion was duly seconded and more than one fifth of the members of the Conference voted to appeal to the Judicial Council to determine whether the Conference is empowered to make these modifications under the provisions of Paragraph 578 of the 1952 Discipline of The Methodist Church. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council, under Paragraph 905 of the 1956 Discipline, has jurisdiction to hear and determine this appeal. ANALYSIS The enactment of the Latin American Central Conference herein appealed were adopted under the provisions of Paragraph 578 of the 1952 Discipline of The Methodist Church. The 1956 Discipline superseded the 1952 Discipline prior to the sessions of the Latin American Central Conference November 11-18, 1956. (See Paragraph 575) Paragraph 578 of the Discipline (1952 Edition) is carried forward as Paragraph 562 of the 1956 Edition and grants the Central Conferences the power "to make such changes and adaptations as the peculiar conditions on the fields concerned require regarding the local church, ministry, special advices, worship, and temporal economy within its territory, . . . provided that no action shall be taken which is contrary to the Constitution and the General Rules of The Methodist Church." The Constitution of The Methodist Church (Paragraph 19, Section 5) describing the duties and powers of Central Conferences also states: "To make rules and regulations for the administration of the work within their boundaries as the conditions in the respective areas may require, subject to the powers that have been or shall be vested in the General Conference." All Conferences of The Methodist Church are subject to limitations imposed by the Constitution of The Methodist Church, both in their usage and conferring of powers. The following limitations apply in the case under consideration. Article of Religion XVII (Paragraph 77 of the Discipline) states: "TheBaptism of young children is to be retained in the Church." The First Restrictive Rule of the Constitution governing the General Conference (Paragraph 9, Section 1) states: "The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or changeour Articles of Religion, or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine." Paragraph 127 clearly defines our present existing and established standards of doctrine with reference to the dedication of children in Baptism, in the following: "We hold that all children by virtue of the unconditional benefits of the atonement, are members of the family of God, and are therefore graciously entitled to Baptism. It shall be the duty of the Pastor of every charge earnestly to exhort parents and guardians within his constituency to dedicate their children to the Lord in Baptism, as early as practicable." The foregoing provisions of the Discipline clearly indicate that the enactment of the Latin American Central Conference involved in this appeal are contrary to the First Restrictive Rule of the Constitution of The Methodist Church. (Paragraph 9, Sec. 1) tending to alter the Article of Religion XVII and establishing a new standard or rule of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine.

Decision

It is therefore the decision of the Judicial Council that the enactments of the Latin American Central Conference revising Paragraph 127 of the 1956 Discipline are contrary to the Constitution of The Methodist Church and that said Conference does not have the right under the provisions of Paragraph 562 of the 1956 Discipline to include them in the edition of the Discipline to be used in the area of the Latin American Central Conferences.

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