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Decision No. 182

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October 28 1960
In Re: Action of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference with Respect to the Election of a Bishop by the Africa Central Conference and Reassignment of Bishop Newell S. Booth

Digest of Case

The action of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, with respect to the election of a bishop by the Africa Central Conference and the reassignment of Bishop Newell S. Booth, is unconstitutional insofar as it assumes to delegate authority to its Quadrennial Committee on Episcopacy to determine when a new bishop shall be elected for the Africa Central Conference,'and to change the assignment of Bishop Newell S. Booth to the Africa Central Conference made by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference and to the Elisabethville Area made by the Africa Central Conference.

Statement of Facts

At the meeting of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in Washington, D.C., the following Report No. 2 of the Committee on Episcopacy was adopted on June 16, 1960 (See Daily Christian Advocate, page 45): "Because of the confusion and uncertainties which exist in the Congo today, we are of the opinion that it is wise for us to share with the Congo the unique abilities of Bishop Newell Booth. On the other hand, we wish to cooperate with the African Central Conference in working out plans under which it may by election provide its own Episcopal supervision. To that end we recommend: 1. That Bishop Newell Booth's assignment to Elisabethville, in the Congo, be continued for the Quadrennium 1960-1964. 2. That the Committee on Episcopacy be authorized at any time during the Quadrennium to take action which would create a vacancy in the Episcopacy of the African Central Conference by (a) Agreeing with the African Central Conference that the African Central Conference elect a third Bishop, as provided in the enabling legislation of the 1960 General Conference or (b) Having Bishop Booth return to the United States for reassignment of duties by the College of Bishops or the Council of Bishops. 3. That if during the Quadrennium the African Central Conference and the Committee on Episcopacy agree to Bishop Booth's return to the United States, the Committee on Episcopacy may in its direction request the call of a Special Session of the Jurisdictional Conference to consider and take action upon reassignment of Bishop Booth. This leaves open the possibility that if, say in two years, it is advisable to have an election there and Bishop Booth to come home, we could at least consider an establishment of an eighth area and assign Bishop Booth to that area if it is our judgment to follow through in that form. 4. That this action be referred to the Judicial Council and if the Judicial Council should find this delegation of authority to the Committee on Episcopacy for any reason invalid, then the Committee on Episcopacy be instructed to keep in touch with the African Central Conference and if at any time the Committee on Episcopacy and the African Central Conference agree that it is advisable that a vacancy in the Episcopacy be created so as to make possible the election of a Bishop either (a) increasing to three the number of Bishops as conditionally authorized by the 1960 General Conference or (b) by having Bishop Booth return to the United States, the Committee on Episcopacy shall ask for the reconvening of the Jurisdictional Conference in order that it may take the appropriate action. That the Commission on World Service and Finance be asked to make available the funds for a special session of the African Central Conference, a Special Session of the Jurisdictional Conference and one OPINIONS AND DECISIONS or more meetings of the Committee on Episcopacy, should such meetings or any of them prove to be necessary in order to carry out the contemplated program for Episcopacy Supervision in the Congo." Subsequently, on June 20, 1960, the following Report No. 9 of the same committee was adopted implementing the provisions of Report No. 2 (See D. C. A., Page 104): "The General Conference of 1960 gave to the Northeastern Jurisdiction the discretionary power to grant to the Africa Central Conference the right to establish a third Episcopal area and to elect a third bishop. The Africa Central Conference now has five annual conferences divided into two episcopal areas; the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference wishes to exercise its discretion to grant this authority if the membership of Africa Central Conference indicates clearly the desire to have three episcopal areas and three bishops. The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, therefore, gives approval to the election of a third bishop for the Africa Central Conference whenever such desire is evidenced by a two-thirds vote of the Africa Central Conference and (b) a majority vote of at least three of the five annual conferences or a majority vote of at least three of the five annual conference delegates present at a Central Conference meeting. The enabling legislation contained in Committee on Episcopacy Report No. 2 and adopted by the Jurisdictional Conference shall remain in force." This action by the Jurisdictional Conference was to implement the Enabling Act adopted by the 1960 General Conference found in Paragraph 2005 (2) of the 1960 Discipline which reads as follows: "The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference shall provide residential and presidential supervision within the Africa Central Conference, and is hereby authorized according to the provisions of Paragraphs 8.4, 439 to have one bishop in addition to its membership quota in order to provide for this supervision. The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference shall have power to delegate to a commission or committee of the Jurisdictional Conference authority during the 1960-64 quadrennium at any time to grant authorization to the Africa Central Conference to elect another bishop, bringing their total to three." JURISDICTION This matter is properly before the Judicial Council under authority of Paragraphs 43 (1), which is part of the Constitution, and 905 which give it power ". . . to determine the constitutionality of any act of a Jurisdictional or Central Conference... upon the appeal of one-fifth of the members of that Jurisdictional or Central Conference." ANALYSIS The question referred to the Judicial Council is whether the action of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference included in Paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of Report No. 2 of its Committee on Episcopacy, is constitutional. Since the content of these paragraphs varies, we shall deal with them individually. Paragraph (1) provides for the reassignment of Bishop Newell S. Booth to Elisabethville in the Congo for the quadrennium 1960-1964. The language of this paragraph was later amended by action of the Jurisdictional Conference (D. C. A., Page 103) to read: "within the African Central Conference" instead of "toElisabethville in the Congo." It is our opinion that there is no question whatever concerning the power of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference to take this action. Paragraph 439 of the 1956 Discipline, after specifying the quota of bishops which a Jurisdiction may have, reads as follows: ". . . provided further that the General Conference may authorize any Jurisdictional Conference to elect one or more bishops beyond the quota herein specified in order to provide Episcopal supervision for mission fields outside the territory of a Jurisdictional Conference." In Decision No. 84, the Judicial Council declared this provision to be constitutional. In 1944 the Northeastern Jurisdiction was given authority under the above quoted provision to elect a bishop in addition to its quota for supervision in what was then the Provisional Africa Central Conference and which later became the Africa Central Conference. At the 1944 session of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference Newell S. Booth was elected a bishop and assigned for Episcopal supervision within the Africa Central Conference. Each succeeding General Conference, including that of 1960 renewed this authorization of the General Conference found in Paragraph 2005 (2) of the 1960 Discipline. The action of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in assigning Bishop Newell S. Booth for episcopal supervision within the Africa Central Conference is therefore constitutional. In Paragraph (2) the Committee on Episcopacy, which was later constituted a Quadrennial Committee on Episcopacy, (see D.C.A., Page 103), was authorized at any time during the quadrennium to take action which would create a vacancy in the Episcopacy of the Africa Central Conference in one of two ways: "(a) by agreeing with the African Central Conference that the African Central Conference elect a third bishop as provided in the enabling legislation of the 1960 General Conference, or (b) having Bishop Booth returned to the United States for reassignment of duties by the College of Bishops or the Council of Bishops." Let us look at these two methods by which the Committee on Episcopacy was authorized to create a vacancy in the Episcopacy of the Africa Central Conference. The first of these provides that the Committee agree with the Africa Central Conference that the Conference elect a third bishop. This would imply that the Committee on Episcopacy of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference has the authority to determine the conditions upon which the Africa Central Conference might elect a third bishop. This implication is borne out by Report No. 9 of the Committee on Episcopacy of the Northeastern Jurisdiction quoted above which sets forth the conditions which must be met before the Africa Central Conference could elect another bishop. Paragraph 8 of the Constitution reads in part as follows: "The General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional and in the exercise of said powers shall have authority as follows: (4) "to provide for the organization, promotion and administration of the work outside the United States of America. . . ." (10) ". . . to determine the number of bishops that may be elected by the Central Conferences." The Constitution thus vests in the General Conference alone the power to determine the number of bishops that may be elected by a Central Conference. This authority specifically vested in the General Conference by the Constitution cannot be delegated to a Jurisdictional Conference or a Committee or a Commission thereof. If a Jurisdictional Conference has the authority to determine when and under what conditions a bishop may be elected by a Central Conference, it then has the power to abrogate the will of the General Conference with respect to the number of bishops a Central Conference may elect, and to that degree. infringe on the power granted the General Conference by the Constitution. We believe, therefore, that this aspect of the action taken is invalid because that part of the Enabling Act under which it was taken is unconstitutional. Paragraph 557 reads as follows: "A Central Conference, when authorized by a specific enabling act of the General Conference, may elect one or more bishops from among the traveling elders of The Methodist Church. The number of bishops to be elected by each Central Conference shall be determined from time to time by the General Conference." This provides that only when a specific enabling act is passed by the General Conference, a Central Conference can elect a bishop. We hold that the act which delegated to a Jurisdictional Conference or a Committee or Commission thereof authority to grant authorization for the election of a bishop is not a specific enabling act of the General Conference within the meaning of Paragraph 557. If it is argued that the part of the enabling act of the General Conference, found in Paragraph 2005 (2) of the 1960 Discipline, giving the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference authority to provide residential and presidential supervision within the Africa Central Conference constitutes authority for the action indicated in Report No. 2, it should be pointed out that residential and presidential supervision within the Africa Central Conference does not constitute authority to determine whether another bishop shall be elected or whether a bishop shall be reassigned but only that of providing a bishop to supervise the work of the Church within that Central Conference. The other provision that the Committee be authorized to have Bishop Booth returned to the United States for reassignment of duties by the College of Bishops or the Council of Bishops, likewise assumes authority which the Committee does not have. Paragraph 526 of the 1960 Discipline, dealing with the Committee on Episcopacy of the Jurisdictional Conference, reads in part: ". . . The Committee shall recommend the assignments of the bishops to their respective residences, for final action by the Jurisdictional Conference...." (Emphasis added.) Bishop Booth was assigned to the Africa Central Conference for Episcopal supervision by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. It is our opinion that the Committee on Episcopacy does not have power to change that assignment. Paragraph 560 reads as follows: "A Central Conference in consultation with the bishops of that Central Conference shall fix the episcopal areas and residences and make assignments to them of the bishops who are to reside in that Central Conference...... Bishop Booth was assigned by the African Central Conference to the Elisabethville area. It is our opinion that the Committee on Episcopacy of the Northeastern Jurisdiction does not have power to change that assignment. The meaning of Paragraph (3) is not altogether clear. If it means that Bishop Booth's return to the United States for his reassignment here is to be determined by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in session, it is our opinion that this would be legal. If, however, his reassignment is determined by action of the Committee on Episcopacy of the Northeastern Jurisdiction, it is our opinion for reasons given above that this would be invalid. The remaining section of the report deals with matters not specifically referred to the Judicial Council and, therefore, are not considered in this decision.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the action of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in assigning Bishop Newell S. Booth for episcopal supervision within the Africa Central Conference is constitutional and valid. It is also our decision that the action of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in granting authority to its Quadrennial Committee on Episcopacy to determine when the Africa Central Conference may elect a bishop, and to determine that Bishop Newell S. Booth shall be reassigned to another Episcopal area, is invalid because it is based on that part of an enabling act of the General Conference which is unconstitutional.

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