Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 159
October 16 1959
In Re: Lay Representation of Pastoral Charges in Annual Conferences
Digest of Case
A pastoral charge served by three ministers or traveling preachers, only one of whom is in full connection with the Annual Conference within the territorial boundaries of which the pastoral charge is situated, is entitled to elect only one of its lay members to represent it as a member of such Annual Conference.
Statement of Facts
The Judicial Council received a communication from J. Mark Odenwelder, Associate Secretary of the Newark Annual Conference, stating that the following action was taken by the Newark Annual Conference on Thursday, June 11, 1959, at Madison, New Jersey, to-wit: "The Westfield Methodist Church located in the town of Westfield, New Jersey, is on the Southern District of the Newark Conference. "This parish has 2,043 members. "There are three fully ordained elders in this parish - one a member of the Newark Conference and the two assistants, members of the West Virginia and Oregon Conferences, respectively. "We ask for a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council to determine whether this church with three elders in three different conferences is entitled to two lay delegates to Annual Conference. The two assistant ministers are part time ministers working toward a Ph.D. degree." JURISDICTION Under subsection 8, Paragraph 914 of the 1956 Discipline, the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to render a declaratory decision on the question thus submitted to it by the Newark Annual Conference. ANALYSIS Article I of Section VII, Division One, codified as Paragraph 21 of the 1956 Discipline, among other things, provides as follows: "The Annual Conference shall be composed of all the traveling preachers in full connection with it, together with a lay member elected by each pastoral charge. Each pastoral charge served by more than one minister in full connection shall be entitled to two lay members." The second sentence was added to the Constitution of the Church by Amendment X. The General Conference of 1956 proposed the amendment to the members of the several Annual Conferences. The amendment was ratified by a vote of two-thirds majority of all the members of the several Annual Conferences present and voting and the language was a part of the Constitution of the Church at the time of the meeting of the Newark Annual Conference held June 10 to 14. 1959. Chapter III of Part III of the 1956 Discipline of The Methodist Church, consisting of Paragraphs 321 to 385, inclusive, among other things, establishes the procedure by which a candidate for the traveling ministry may be first admitted on trial into an Annual Conference and thereafter admitted into full connection in an Annual Conference. Section 341 provides that a member on trial may, upon certain conditions, be admitted "into full connection in an Annual Conference by vote of its ministerial members on recommendation of its Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications." It is clear that only pastoral charges situated within the territorial limits of an Annual Conference are entitled to lay representation in such Annual Conferences and that the obvious intention of those adopting the tenth amendment to the Constitution of the Church was to more nearly equalize lay and ministerial membership in Annual Conferences. We note that in the first sentence of the quoted language of the Constitution it is provided that an Annual Conference is composed of such traveling ministers as are "in full connection with it," while the second sentence added by the amendment provides for an additional lay member when the pastoral charge is served by more than one minister "in full connection." Unless these words in the added sentence refer to membership in the Annual Conference in which the pastoral charge is situated, they have no meaning since, taken alone, they do not indicate with which body of the Church the minister, or ministers, shall be "in full connection." Taken in context, these words and the language of the amendment mean that each pastoral charge served by more than one minister in full connection with the Annual Conference in which the pastoral charge is situated shall be entitled to be represented by two lay members in such Annual Conference. Since the Westfield Methodist Church is served by only one minister or traveling preacher who is in full connection with the Newark Conference, it is not entitled to be represented by two lay members in that Annual Conference.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that Westfield Methodist Church, served by three ministers or traveling preachers, only one of whom is in full connection with the Newark Annual Conference, is entitled to elect and be represented by only one lay member in that Annual Conference.