Skip Navigation

Judicial Council Decisions Search


Decision No. 175

Back to Search

Share:

May 05 1960
In Re: Direct and Final Responsibility for the Super- vision of a Local Wesley Foundation or Method- ist Student Movement Including Local Church Relationships and Employed Personnel

Digest of Case

1. Direct and final responsibility for the supervision of a local Wesley Foundation rests with a local board of directors subject only to prior authority vested in Annual Conference Boards of Education, Inter-Conference Commissions on Student Religious Work, and the General Board of Education and subject in regard to employed personnel who may be effective ministerial members of an Annual Conference to prior obligations inherent in the Methodist appointive system. 2. Likewise direct and final responsibility for the supervision of programs of religious work (Methodist Student Movement) for Methodist students on the campuses of Methodist institutions of higher education rests solely with the Boards of Trustees of such institutions, subject only to prior and final authority vested in Annual Conferences and other constitutional bodies, and subject in regard to employed personnel, who may be effective ministerial members of an Annual Conference, to prior obligations inherent in the Methodist appointive system.

Statement of Facts

On May 22, 1959, the North Indiana Conference adopted a resolution requesting "a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church construing or resolving the apparent conflict or ambiguity of the Discipline as to where the direct and final responsibility rests for the supervision of the local Wesley Foundation or MSM and the responsibility of the Wesley Foundation or MSM to the local church and church pastor including all employed personnel of the foundations and/or MSM." The resolution cites the fact that similar request was made to the Coordinating Council of The Methodist Church by the 1958 session of the North Indiana Conference and that the request had been returned with an expression of opinion that the matter was properly one for decision by the Judicial Council. In the request made to the Coordinating Council express reference is made to the interpretation of Pars. 1352(5) and 1364 of the 1956 Discipline of The Methodist Church. JURISDICTION Under Paragraph 914 (8) of the 1956 Discipline this matter is properly before the Judicial Council. ANALYSIS Under Paragraph 1352 (5) of the 1956 Discipline the Division of Educational Institutions of the Board of Education of The Methodist Church has responsibility "to promote religious training and activities of students at institutions of The Methodist Church and of students at tax-supported and other institutions not related to The Methodist Church." (Emphases supplied.) Paragraph 1362 of the 1956 Discipline vests responsibility for such promotion in the Department of College and University Religious Life of the Division of Educational Institutions under the specifications and limitations of the General Conference as enacted in Paragraphs 1364-1370 of the 1956 Discipline. I Responsibilities and relationships for Wesley Foundations are clearly defined by the General Conference in the enactments of the Discipline. In Paragraph 1366 of the 1956 Discipline occur the following legal definition and limitations: "A Wesley Foundation is the organized educational ministry of TheMethodist Church at a state or independent college or university. The character of this ministry shall be defined by the division. Every Wesley Foundation shall be related in organization and program to The Methodist Church or churches in the immediate vicinity of the college or university campus. (Emphases supplied.) This paragraph makes the Division fully responsible for the character of the ministry of The Methodist Church at state or independent colleges or universities under three restrictions: (1) It must be an organized educationalministry; (2) It must be related in organization and program to The Methodist Church or churches in the immediate vicinity of the college or university; (3) There must be a Board of Directors as described in Paragraph 1367 (2). Paragraph 1367 (2). The 1956 Discipline declares that this local Board of Directors "shall be responsible for the direction and administration of the foundation in accordance with the policies and standards established by the Conference Board or Boards and the General Board of Education." But direction and administration are committed to the local Boards of Directors. The character of the ministry to be maintained, including disciplinary provisions for relationships with local Methodist churches and matters concerning standards of qualifications for personnel, is clearly the responsibility of the Division. To this end the General Conference has directed the Division to appoint a Commission on Standards for Wesley Foundations as the standardizing agency for all student work related to The Methodist Church at state and independent campuses in the United States, and this Commission in making effective the process of standardization must in turn "report to the Division of Wesley Foundations which meet the standards established by the Commission and therefore qualify for financial support from the General Board of Education and the Annual Conferences." (Paragraph 1367 (1) of the 1956 Discipline.) Pursuant to this responsibility the Department of College and University Religious Life has issued an official manual entitled "The Process of Accrediting Standards Wesley Foundations," setting six basic standards for Wesley Foundations. The fifth of these standards (found on page 15 of the Manual) is entitled "Relationships" and requires among other things the following: "Each Wesley Foundation should be definitely related to one or more local Methodist churches in which students shall (except where contrary practice is established by the action of the Annual Conference Board of Education or Interconference Commission) : a. Participate in life of the Church. b. Be encouraged to identify themselves as members or affiliate members. c. Be officially represented on the church board of education, the official board, and, when such exists, the youth council." Any provisions in this regulation which make disciplinary provisions permissive or approve contrary practices established by an Annual Conference board of education or Interconference Commission are contrary to the enactment of the General Conference in Paragraph 1366 of the 1956 Discipline. Otherwise, the Division through its Commission on Standards for Wesley Foundations has met the requirements of the General Conference directing every Wesley Foundation to maintain programs and relationships by which students shall be identified with a local Methodist church as specified. Thus direct and final responsibility for the organization, administration, supervision, and local church relationships of a local Wesley Foundation rests not upon the local church or church pastor but solely upon the local board of directors subject only to its responsibility to Annual Conference boards of education, an Interconference Commission on Student Religious work to which it is related, and to the General Board of Education. The Discipline clearly makes it the duty of these responsible bodies to provide, organize, and administer local Wesley Foundation programs "which shall be related in organization and program to The Methodist Church or churches in the immediate vicinity of the college or university campus." The responsibility of the local board extends to the choice and supervision of personnel subject only to the disciplinary limitations and requirements placed upon effective ministerial members of an Annual Conference appointed to such posts by a Bishop. Every such effective ministerial member of an Annual Conference is subject to annual appointment by the Bishop presiding over his Conference (Paragraphs 431.1 and 432.9 of the 1956 Discipline), is under the direct supervision of and subject to a district superintendent as the official representative of the Bishop (Paragraph 362.2 of the 1956 Discipline) and is answerable annually to his Annual Conference for his ministerial character and his official administration of the responsibilities involved in his appointment. (Paragraphs 646 and 651.19 of the 1956 Discipline.) The local board may elect a pastor of a church in the immediate vicinity of the campus as director of the local Wesley Foundation, provided such a pastor meets the standards established by the General Board of Education for such position, and request the Bishop to appoint him to such a post under a dual appointment as pastor-director. But in such a case the appointee would work with the local board of directors in his services as Wesley Foundation Director in the same manner he would work with the official board and Quarterly Conference of his church in his services as pastor. II Under Paragraph 1369 of the 1956 Discipline the Methodist Student Movement is defined as an intercollegiate Christian movement and the Division in carrying out its responsibility for the maintenance and operation of religious work among Methodist students enrolled in institutions of higher learning is required to relate campus organizations on Methodist campuses and Wesley Foundations at state and independent colleges and universities to this Movement. This indicates that the Methodist Student Movement per se is a connectional organization under the direction of the Division of Educational Institutions and as such has no direct connection with any local church or with the governing body of any educational institution. But in popular parlance a program of religious activities for Methodist students at a Methodist institution of higher learning is often referred to as the Methodist Student Movement. We assume this to be the sense in which the resolution of the North Indiana Conference uses the term. Our resolution of this portion of the query is based upon this interpretation of the appeal. Paragraph 1364(2) of the 1956 Discipline gives the Division of Educational Institutions authority only "To assist Methodist Institutions of higher education in their religious activities." Paragraph 1365 of the 1956 Discipline requires that "There shall be a governing body for student work in every college community where The Methodist Church is at work as follows: .... 2. For each Methodist institution of higher learning here shall be a Campus-Church Relations Committee (or Executive Committee on Religious Life). Qualifications for membership shall be determined by the institution in consultation with the Division." This legislation gives the Division only a consultative and not a determinative authority for programs of religious life of students on the campuses of Methodist institutions of higher learning. In seeking to discharge this responsibility, inter alia, the Division on January 12, 1955, approved a statement on "The Philosophy of College and University Religious Work of The Methodist Church" in which for all campuses, including those of Methodist institutions of higher learning, it made the following recommendation: "The Movement should keep the Methodist students and faculty within the life of the Church, nurturing them in their spiritual growth and encouraging them to active participation in the life of a particular congregation. It should seek to bring those outside of the Church into its fellowship relating them to a congregation of the Church." Nevertheless, under the Discipline this requirement can be only advisory for Methodist institutions of higher learning. In those institutions direct and final responsibility for the program, supervision, and local church relationships of the religious activities of students rests solely upon the trustees of those institutions as their responsible governing bodies subject to the ultimate authority and responsibility of the Annual Conference or conferences, or other constitutional bodies, maintaining them. The same is true of the choice and supervision of employed personnel subject only to the disciplinary limitations and requirements placed upon effective ministerial members of an Annual Conference appointed to such posts by a Bishop.

Decision

It is therefore the decision of the Judicial Council that under the enactments of the General Conference as contained in the 1956 Discipline of The Methodist Church: 1. Direct and final responsibility for the organization, administration, and supervision of a local Wesley Foundation rests upon the local Board of Directors of such a Wesley Foundation, subject only to the Annual Conference Board or Boards of Education, an Inter-Conference Commission of Student Religious Work, and the General Board of Education. Relationships to a local Methodist church or churches in the vicinity are included in this responsibility as well as the choice and supervision of personnel employed in the work of the local Wesley Foundation subject in the case of effective ministerial members of an Annual Conference to the prior obligations of the itinerant appointive system of The Methodist Church described in the analysis. 2. Direct and final responsibility for the organization, administration, and supervision of programs of religious activities for Methodist students in Methodist institutions of higher learning rests upon the trustees of such institutions, subject only to the constitutional bodies maintaining these institutions, through the Campus Church Relations Committee (or Executive Committee on Religious Life) required by the Discipline. Included in this responsibility are relationships to a local Methodist church or churches in the vicinity as well as the choice and supervision of personnel employed in such programs subject in the case of effective ministerial members of an Annual Conference to the prior obligations of the itinerant appointive system of The Methodist Church as described in the analysis.

Back to Search

Share: