Skip Navigation

Judicial Council Decisions Search


Decision No. 183

Back to Search

Share:

February 18 1961
In Re: Constitutionality of Legislation Adopted by the 1960 General Conference Providing for the Election by the General Conference of the Required Number of Members From each Jurisdiction to the General Board of Pensions

Digest of Case

The Constitution of The Methodist Church provides that the required number of members of a General Board from a Jurisdiction shall be chosen by the Jurisdictional Conference itself. Hence, the legislation of the 1960 General Conference providing for the election of such members from the respective jurisdictions to the General Board of Pensions by the General Conference is unconstitutional.

Statement of Facts

At the session of the General Conference on May 9, 1960, the following was adopted as a part of Paragraph 1602. 1 (Discipline, 1960). "The required number of members from each Jurisdiction shall be elected quadrennially by the General Conference upon nomination by the College of Bishops of each of the respective Jurisdictions." The secretary of the Judicial Council received the following from E. L. Jorns, secretary of the 1960 South Central Jurisdictional Conference: "The following request was given at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 22-26, 1960, as recorded on page 235 of the South Central Jurisdictional Journal. We recommend that the Jurisdictional Conference request the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality of the 1960 legislation concerning the selection of members of the General Board of Pensions, which seems to deprive the Jurisdictional Conferences of their right of choosing members of General Boards as set forth in Paragraph 15, Article V. Section 3 of the Constitution of The Methodist Church. /s/ E. L. Jorns" JURISDICTION Under Paragraph 914, (4) of the 1960 Discipline, the request of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference is properly before the Judicial Council. ANALYSIS The sole question raised by this request for a declaratory decision coming to us from the South Central Jurisdiction is whether the legislation of the 1960 General Conference providing that the election by the General Conference of the required number of members of the General Board of Pensions from each of the respective Jurisdictions upon nomination of the Bishops of the respective Jurisdictions deprives the Jurisdictional Conferences of their constitutional power and right of choosing such members of the General Board of Pensions. The Judicial Council does not decide whether the effect of this legislation is desirable or undesirable, whether it is practical or impractical, or whether any other Boards or Commissions or Agencies do or do not follow the same plan. Nor does the Judicial Council decide whether or not the Jurisdictional Conferences, Jurisdictions, or Jurisdictional Boards MUST have representation on the General Boards. Nor does the Judicial Council decide whether any previous or present practice of any other Board or Agency was constitutional or unconstitutional. The SOLE question now before the Judicial Council is as to the constitutionality of the specific legislation of the 1960 General Conference (Paragraph 1602, Discipline, 1960) providing that, in the composition of the General Board of Pensions, "The required number of members from each Jurisdiction shall be elected quadrennially by THE GENERAL CONFERENCE upon nomination by the College of Bishops of each of the respective Jurisdictions." (Emphasis ours.) The legislation in question (Paragraph 1602) provides as follows: "Paragraph 1602. 1. The board shall be composed of one bishop, elected by the Council of Bishops and two ministers and two laymen from each jurisdiction having three million members, or major fraction thereof, in the jurisdiction; provided, however, that there shall be at least one minister and one layman from each jurisdiction.... In addition there shall be six members at large, not more than two from the same jurisdiction, nominated and elected by the board in such manner as it shall provide in its by-laws. The general secretary of the board shall be an ex-officio member thereof without vote." The legislation provides that the member from the Council of Bishops shall be elected by the Council of Bishops; that the members at large shall be nominated and elected by the General Board of Pensions; and that "The required number of members from each Jurisdiction shall be elected quadrennially by the General Conference upon nomination of the College of Bishops of that Jurisdiction." (Emphasis ours.) The Constitution provides (Paragraph 8, Article IV, Section 8) "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: ... To initiate and to direct all connectional enterprises of thechurch, such as publishing, evangelistic, educational, missionary, and benevolent, and to provide boards for their promotion and cultivation." The granting to the General Conference of the power to "provide" boards must be construed in connection with the other provisions of the Constitution, and cannot be construed to give the General Conference the authority to bypass or disregard other provisions of the Constitution, to wit: Paragraph 15, Article V, Section 3 of the Constitution, "Each Jurisdictional Conference shall have the following powers and duties and such others as may be conferred by the General Conference. . . . To establish and constitute Jurisdictional Conference Boards as auxiliary to the General Boards of the church as the need may appear, and to CHOOSE THEIR REPRESENTATIVE ON THE GENERAL BOARDS IN SUCH MANNER AS THE GENERAL CONFERENCE MAY DETERMINE." (Emphasis ours.) The authority granted by the Constitution to the General Conference (Paragraph 8) "to have full legislative powers over all matters distinctively connectional" must be exercised within the framework of the Constitution itself. Paragraph 8 does not grant the General Conference the power to act in conflict with other provisions of the Constitution in exercising its right and duty to "provide" boards. The Constitution clearly intends that the Jurisdictional Conferences shall have certain rights and duties (Paragraph 15, Article V) and that among these powers and duties is (Paragraph 15, Article V, Section 3) ". . . to choose their representatives on the general boards in such manner as the General Conference may determine." (Emphasis ours.) The clear and specific power and duty of the Jurisdictional Conferences to "choose their representatives on the General Boards" occurs in the same Paragraph and Article of the Constitution. (Paragraph 15, Article V) as does the power and duty of the Jurisdictional Conferences "to elect bishops and to cooperate in carrying out such plans for their support as may be determined by the General Conference." It would be strange indeed if the Constitution means what it says in one sentence and does not mean it in the next. The legislation in question provides that the respective Jurisdictions shall have a prescribed number of members on the General Board of Pensions but it violates the constitutional right of the Jurisdictional Conferences to choose their members on the General Board of Pensions. Even though the legislation provides that the nominations be made by the College of Bishops of each of the respective Jurisdictions to the General Conference, it does not fulfill the constitutional requirement that such representatives be chosen by the respective Jurisdictional Conferences. The Bishops of The Methodist Church in a given Jurisdiction are not a Jurisdictional Conference. We do not decide the question as to the power of the General Conference to prescribe the manner in which the Jurisdictional Conferences choose the members from each Jurisdiction on the General Board of Pensions. We decide only that the choosing of such required members from the Jurisdictions be done by the respective Jurisdictional Conferences.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the act of the General Conference providing that the election to the General Board of Pensions of "the required number of members from each Jurisdiction shall be elected quadrennially by the General Conference upon nomination by the College of Bishops of the respective Jurisdictions" is unconstitutional.

Back to Search

Share: