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Decision No. 164

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April 29 1960
In Re: The Right of Central Conference Bishops to Attend All Sessions of the Council of Bishops with Expenses Paid

Digest of Case

Central Conference bishops have been granted full rights of membership and participation in the Council of Bishops and are entitled to attend all meetings of the Council of Bishops with expenses paid.

Statement of Facts

The following resolution from the minutes of the Commission on Structure of Methodism Overseas of the Central Conference of Southern Asia was forwarded to the Secretary of the Judicial Council: "RESOLVED that this Commission call attention to the fact that legislative action in the General Conference taken on recommendation of the Commission on World Service and Finance (Section 11 1956 General Conference Journal, page 2001, II , 2) limits travel expenses for Central Conference Bishops to permit attendance at the Council of Bishops meetings only once in a Quadrennium besides the session immediately preceding General Conference. In a very real sense this infringes the full right of a Central Conference Bishop for, if he be prohibited from attending by curtailing his financial expenditure to only once in a quadrennium, as a natural corollary he is prevented from exercising his right to vote in the Council of Bishops which right has recently been conceded by the General Conference. It might further be pointed out that even a retired Bishop is permitted to attend the Council of Bishops (Judgment No. 117 of the Judicial Council).. While it is felt that practical considerations within the Central Conference areas will necessitate certain restrictions on the attendance of Central Conference Bishops at the regular meetings of the Council of Bishops yet, to us, it seems that the decision should reside with the Central Conference Bishop concerned. Hence, as a matter of principle, it is felt that this restriction on attendance should be removed in order to bring the privilege of full voting powers into complete play. While it is felt that this matter requires study by the General Conference Commission on Structure of Methodism Overseas, we feel there are even grounds that it might be referred directly to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to whether it is constitutional to de facto limit a Central Conference Bishop's power to exercise his full voting privilege in the Council of Bishops by limiting his travel expense while the Constitution has been amended to allow his voting without restriction. INSTRUCTIONS. - This action has to be referred to the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision." The Minutes were signed by Bishop Shot K. Mondol as chairman and by H. A. Townsley as secretary of the Commission which we are officially informed is a duly constituted body of the Central Conference of Southern Asia. JURISDICTION While the resolution does not directly petition the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision it seems clear that this was the intent of the action of the Commission. Under Subsection 7, 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 Commission on Structure of Methodism Overseas of the Central Conference of Southern Asia. ANALYSIS Paragraph 36 of the 1956 Discipline which is Div. 3, Art. III of the Constitution states: "There shall be a Council of Bishops composed of all the bishops of all the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences. The Council shall meet at least once a year. . ." Paragraph 20 of the 1956 Discipline which is Division Two, Section VI, No. 2 of the Constitution states: "The bishops of the Central Conference shall have membership in the Council of Bishops with vote." Paragraph 444 of the 1956 Discipline states: "A bishop elected by a Central Conference shall have membership in the Council of Bishops and shall have the privilege of full participation with vote. Attendance on the annual meetings of the Council of Bishops by bishops elected by Central Conferences shall be left to the option of the bishops in each Central Conference." Paragraph 773 of the 1956 Discipline states: "The treasurer of the Council on World Service and Finance shall pay monthly the claim for the official travel of each bishop or missionary bishop, upon presentation of an itemized voucher. . . ." Paragraph 559 of the 1956 Discipline states: "A Central Conference shall participate in the General Episcopal Fund on payment of its apportionment on the same basis as that fixed for Annual Conferences in Jurisdictional Conferences." It appears from the above provisions of the Discipline that bishops of Central Conferences are members of the Council of Bishops with no restrictions upon their attendance and participation except such as are self-imposed by the bishops of a Central Conference as provided in Paragraph 444. Since a bishop of a Central Conference is a member of the Council of Bishops with no restrictions upon such membership as provided by the Constitution and the legislative enactments thereunder, it must be conceded that he is a member continuously during his tenure as bishop and that he has the right to attend all meetings of the Council for the exercise of such membership. This being true, attendance at meetings of the Council of Bishops is clearly "official travel" within the meaning of Paragraph 773 of the 1956 Discipline and by the provisions of this paragraph are payable from the General Episcopal Fund. On July 29, 1955, in its Decision No. 117, the Judicial Council held that "a retired Bishop of a Central Conference is authorized to attend meetings of the Council of Bishops with expenses paid." At that time bishops of the Central Conferences were entitled only to partial participation in the business of the Council of Bishops but since that time, by Constitutional amendment and General Conference legislation, bishops of Central Conferences have been given unrestricted membership and right of participation in the Council. It would seem to follow logically that the privilege which belonged to a retired bishop of a Central Conference under the restricted membership provisions then prevailing would even more clearly belong to an effective bishop of a Central Conference whose membership in the Council is now complete and unrestricted. It is the opinion of the Judicial Council that any action on the part of the General Conference or any of its agencies which would limit the rights of bishops of Central Conferences to full and complete participation in the meetings of the Council of Bishops would be in violation of the Discipline.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that bishops elected by Central Conferences are authorized to attend all meetings of the Council of Bishops with expenses paid. April 30, 1960 Dissenting Opinion I must respectfully disagree with the majority of my brethren as to taking jurisdiction of this resolution from the Commission on Structure of Methodism Overseas of the Central Conference of Southern Asia. The resolution questions, and seems to me to clearly contemplate questioning the constitutionality of the action of the 1956 General Conference in approving a portion of a Report of the Commission on World Service and Finance. My disagreement basically is for the same reasons expressed in my dissents to Decisions 134 and 136, though those Decisions were on matters coming from Annual Conferences. As I construe Paragraph 914 of the 1956 Discipline, our only authority to determine constitutional questions is found in Division Four, Paragraph 43, Article II.1 and Paragraph 904.1 of the Constitution and of that Discipline. Obviously, this resolution was not sent to us by a vote of "a majority of the Council of Bishops" or a vote of "one-fifth of the members of the General Conference." Ivan Lee Holt, Jr. Donald A. Odell concurs in this Dissenting Opinion.

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