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Decision No. 166

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May 01 1960
In Re: The Request of Southern Methodist Univer- sity for a Declaratory Decision on the Relation- ship of an Effective Methodist Minister Who Has Been Appointed by a Bishop to the Faculty of Southern Methodist University

Digest of Case

1. Southern Methodist University (including the Perkins School of Theology) is an integral agency of The Methodist Church. 2. An effective Methodist minister who has been appointed by a Bishop to the Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University is performing his services in such post on an assignment or designation by the Church. 3. Effective Methodist ministers appointed by Bishops to the faculty of the Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University are in the exercise of their ministry.

Statement of Facts

The following facts appear from the record: The corporate charter of Southern Methodist University (Article II) provides that "said educational institution to be forever owned, maintained and controlled by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The Methodist Church." Southern Methodist University is administered by a Board of Trustees, all of whom are either elected or approved by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Any trustee may be removed for cause by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The Methodist Church (Article VI of the corporate charter of Southern Methodist University). The Trustees of Southern Methodist University have unlimited power to elect officers, members of the faculty and to fix policies and to establish procedures in all matters in connection with the operation of the University. The Trustees cannot dispose of the real property of the University except with the consent of the South Central Jurisdiction Conference of The Methodist Church. No amendment to the corporate charter of Southern Methodist University may be made without the approval of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The Methodist Church. Southern Methodist University has filed a petition with the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church requesting that a declaratory decision be given on the following six questions: 1. (a) Is Southern Methodist University (including the Perkins School of Theology) an "integral agency" of The Methodist Church as the term "integral agency" is commonly defined in language generally used by The Methodist Church? 1. (b) Is Southern Methodist University (including the Perkins School of Theology) an "integral agency" of The Methodist Church when the term "integral agency" is used to refer to an institution operating under direct authority of a church rather than under indirect authority exercised through a board of trustees whose members are legally qualified to vote without instruction on matters of institutional policy? 2. (a) Is an effective Methodist minister appointed by his Bishop to the faculty of the Perkins School of Theology "performing his services" in such post "on an assignment or designation by the church" as commonly defined in language generally used by The Methodist Church? 2. (b) Is an effective Methodist minister appointed by his Bishop to the faculty of the Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University "performing his services" in such post "on an assignment or designation by his church" when these terms are used to refer to clergymen who are appointed to their academic posts by direct episcopal or other ecclesiastical authority without the necessity of an invitation to become members of the faculty first being extended by the Trustees and the administrative officials of the University? 3. (a) Are effective Methodist ministers appointed by their Bishops to the faculty of the Perkins School of Theology "in the exercise" of their ministry in the services rendered by them in this institution as the term is commonly defined in language generally used by The Methodist Church? 3. (b) Are effective Methodist ministers appointed by their Bishops to the faculty of the Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University "in the exercise of their ministry" when this term is used to refer to clergymen who are appointed to their academic posts by direct episcopal or other authority without the necessity of an invitation to become members of the faculty first being extended by the Trustees and the administrative officials of the University? JURISDICTION It is the opinion of the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church that under the facts set out above Southern Methodist University is a Jurisdictional Conference body within the meaning of Paragraph 914 of the 1956 Discipline of The Methodist Church and is, therefore, entitled to file a petition for a declaratory decision and that this Council therefore has jurisdiction to hear and render a declaratory decision on said petition. ANALYSIS We feel that questions 1. (a), 2. (a) and 3. (a) contained in the Petition under the facts in this case raise the broad issues to be answered as they relate to The Methodist Church and that it is therefore unnecessary for us to answer the hypothetical questions 1. (b), 2. (b) and 3. (b). Under the Methodist system ministers are frequently appointed to posts other than as pastors of local churches. Annually the Presiding Bishop of an Annual Conference makes many such appointments, as he is authorized to do by Paragraph 432(4) of the 1956 Discipline of The Methodist Church. Every Methodist minister is required to accept the appointment of the Bishop of his Conference and every effective Methodist minister must receive an appointment. From its earliest days Methodism has been deeply interested in the cause of education and especially in the cause of higher education. The people called Methodist have founded, supported, maintained and encouraged many educational institutions, including Southern Methodist University. The exact modicum of control and regulation exercised by the Church over these institutions varies widely. The relationship between The Methodist Church, or more especially the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The Methodist Church and the University is abundantly clear. The corporate charter of the University provides that "said educational institution to be forever owned, maintained and controlled by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The Methodist Church." The Trustees of the University are either elected or approved by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Any trustee may be removed for cause by the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. The charter of the corporation may not be amended without the consent of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The Methodist Church and the real estate of the corporation may not be disposed of without the consent of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of The Methodist Church. The above indicates the close relationship which exists between The Methodist Church and Southern Methodist University. The administration and operation of Southern Methodist University is, of course, delegated to and in the hands of the Trustees. No conference in The Methodist Church has any right, in our opinion, to dictate to the Trustees of the University matters of policy, procedure or administration. In the operation of the University, except as limited by its corporate charter, the Trustees are an autonomous group. Without the consent and approval of the Trustees or the proper administrative officials of Southern Methodist University, no professor or employee would be employed by the University. If the professor or employee is an effective minister of The Methodist Church, his employment by the University would require the approval of the Bishop presiding over his Annual Conference, which approval would take the form of the appointment by the Bishop of the minister to the post at the University. Such an appointment would not change the minister's relationship with his Annual Conference. He would remain an effective minister of his Annual Conference and would be subject to the direction of his Conference and responsible to it in the same manner as would any other effective minister.

Decision

It is therefore, the decision of the Judicial Council that: 1. Southern Methodist University (including the Perkins School of Theology) is an integral agency of The Methodist Church. 2. That an effective Methodist minister who is appointed by a Bishop to the faculty of the Perkins School of Theology is performing his services in such post as an assignment or designation by The Methodist Church. 3. That effective ministers of The Methodist Church who have been appointed by Bishops to the faculty of the Perkins School of Theology are in the exercise of their ministry in the services rendered by them at that institution. May 2, 1960 R. F. Curl disqualified himself for participation in the discussion and decision of this matter and was not present during its consideration.

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