Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 162
October 16 1959
In Re: Ruling of Bishop Clement D. Rockey in the Indus River Annual Conference of the Election of U. B. Ernest as Ministerial Delegate to the General Conference and the Central Conference of Southern Asia
Digest of Case
In determining the eligibility of a ministerial member of an Annual Conference for election as ministerial delegate to the General Conference or Central Conference under Article IV, Section VII, Division Two of the Constitution, his years as a traveling preacher may be counted from the date of his admission on trial.
Statement of Facts
The Judicial Council received from Bishop Clement D. Rockey, the Resident Bishop of the West Pakistan Area of The Methodist Church in Southern Asia, a syllabus concerning a ruling on a question of law made by him in the Indus River Annual Conference. This syllabus contained the following facts: "1. At the first meeting of the Indus River Annual Conference in Lahore on Saturday, September 5, 1959, a ministerial member of the Conference requested a ruling from the presiding Bishop, Clement D. Rockey, on the eligibility of the Rev. U. B. Ernest to be elected as the ministerial delegate to the General Conference meeting in Denver, Col., in 1960, and to the Central Conference of Southern Asia meeting in Hyderabad, India, in December-January, 1960-1961. "2. The pertinent dates concerning the Conference record of U. B. Ernest are: (1) that he was admitted on trial in the Indus River Annual Conference onOctober 21, 1954; (2) that he was admitted into full connection in the Indus River Annual Conference on September 21, 1956; (3) that at the session of the Indus River Annual Conference in September, 1959, he was a member in full connection and good standing. "3. At the meeting of the Indus River Annual Conference on September 7, 1959, prior to the time set for the election of the ministerial delegate to the General Conference, Bishop Rockey ruled that U. B. Ernest was eligible for election as ministerial delegate to the General Conference and the Central Conference. "4. U. B. Ernest was elected on September 7, 1959, by the ministerial members of the Indus River Annual Conference as the ministerial delegate to the General Conference and the Central Conference of Southern Asia." The ruling of Bishop Rockey was as follows: "Article IV, Paragraph 24 of the Constitution (Discipline of 1956) states that 'such delegates shall have been traveling preachers . . . in The Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding their election; and are in full connection with the Annual Conference electing them when elected and at the time of holding the General, Jurisdictional or Central Conferences.' "The question can be answered only by ascertaining when a person becomes a TRAVELING PREACHER, i.e., from what date his four years of conference membership required for eligibility must be reckoned. "On p. 739 of the Discipline of 1956 the definition of Terms thus defines Traveling Preacher: 'A Minister who has been admitted on trial or into fullconnection in an Annual Conference.' This is followed by a NOTE giving the historical background for this definition. "Paragraph 321 (Discipline of 1956) states 'The first step into the traveling ministry of The Methodist Church is Admission on Trial into an Annual Conference.' "In its Decision No. 124 the Judicial Council states 'that a preacher On Trial in an Annual Conference cannot serve as Lay Delegate in a Central Conference.' This clearly indicates that a person who enters the Annual Conference on Trial by that very act ceases to be a layman and thereby becomes a traveling preacher. "In the Digest of Decision No. 120 of the Judicial Council it is stated:'The time of his election as such a Delegate is immaterial, his eligibility to serve as such Delegate at the time the Jurisdictional Conference meets being the determining factor as to the validity of his election.' This decision does not alter the situation in the present case but merely aids to the period that lapses between his becoming a Traveling Preacher and serving as the duly elected delegate after having been a traveling preacher a full five years from the time of his' entering the traveling ministry, and his election as delegate. ' It is therefore the decision of the Presiding Bishop that Rev. U. B. Ernest has satisfied the conditions that govern his election and, if elected, will be duly qualified to serve as Ministerial Delegate of the Indus River Conference at the General Conference of April-May, 1960, to be held in Denver, Col., and subsequently thereto at the Central Conference to be held in Hyderabad, India, in Dec., 1960, provided at the time of these conferences he is a member of the Indus River Conference. September 7, 1959. /s/ Clement D. Rockey" JURISDICTION Assuming that the request for a ruling was submitted to Bishop Rockey in writing and that his ruling is to be recorded in the Journal of the Annual Conference, this matter is properly before the Judicial Council under Paragraphs 40 and 909. ANALYSIS Bishop Rockey in his ruling quoted the significant part of Article IV, Section VII, Division Two of the Constitution (Par. 24) which states that ministerial delegates to the General Conference and the Central Conference shall meet three requirements of eligibility: 1, They "shall have been travelingpreachers in the constituent churches forming this union or in The Methodist Church, for at least four years next preceding their election"; 2, They must be "in full connection with the Annual Conference which elected them at the time of the holding of the General Conference and the Central Conference." U. B. Ernest obviously met requirement number 2 and it is to be assumed that he will meet requirement number 3. The request for a ruling, therefore, must have been concerned with requirement number 1, with whether or not U. B. Ernest had been a traveling preacher for the four years next preceding his election. He had not been in full connection four years but he had been admitted on trial nearly five years before the time of election. The basic question in this case, therefore, is whether or not his years on trial are to be included in his years as a traveling preacher. They certainly are. The definition of a traveling preacher in Par. 2100, which Bishop Rockey quoted, as "A minister who has been admitted on trial or into full connection in an annual conference," while not an official part of the Discipline, has all the weight of Methodist history and usage behind it. On page 14 of "The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church" of 1808 the question is asked: "Who shall compose the General Conference ... ?" andthe answer given: "The General Conference shall be composed of one member forevery five members of each Annual Conference, to be appointed either by seniority or choice, at the discretion of such Annual Conference: Yet so thatsuch representatives shall have traveled at least four full calendar years from the time that they were received on trial by an Annual Conference, and are in full connection at the time of holding the Conference." At the first moment of his connection with an Annual Conference a Methodist preacher ceases to be "local" and becomes "traveling." Two paragraphs from the 1956 Discipline will give further illustration to this point. Par. 328 states, "While a member is on trial, the Annual Conference alone has jurisdiction over his authority to preach. His continuance on trial shall be equivalent to the renewal of his license to preach. If he be discontinued, he becomes a local preacher." As long as he is on trial he is not a "local" but a "traveling preacher." Paragraph 1618 (2) and other pension legislation recognize that the annuity claim of a traveling preacher in full connection begins with the date of his admission on trial in an Annual Conference. On that date he assumed the responsibilities and the privileges of a traveling preacher.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that, in determining the eligibility of a ministerial member of an Annual Conference for election as a ministerial delegate to the General Conference and the Central Conference under Article IV, Section VII, Division Two of the Constitution, years on trial may be counted in the requirement that he shall have been a traveling preacher "for at least four years next preceding" his election; that U. B. Ernest was, therefore, eligible for such election at the meeting of the Indus River Annual Conference on September 7, 1959. The ruling of Bishop Rockey is hereby affirmed.