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Decision No. 195

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October 11 1962
In Re: The Ruling of Bishop Jose L. Valencia Regarding Eligibility of Lay Delegates to a Provisional Annual Conference

Digest of Case

Lay Delegates elected to a Provisional Annual Conference to be eligible to serve as members of said conference shall be at least twenty one (21) years of age and shall have been for four (4) years next preceding their election members of one of the constituent churches of the conference or of The Methodist Church.

Statement of Facts

The Mindanao Provisional Annual Conference within the Manila Area of the Philippines Central Conference was organized in 1953 under an Enabling Act adopted by the 1952 General Conference. The Eighth Session of the Mindanao Provisional Annual Conference was held January 24, 1962, attended by ministerial and lay delegates elected by the several local churches of the conference. All the churches within the Mindanao Provisional Annual Conference were duly organized at various dates since 1951 with Quarterly Conferences; several of such churches had been organized three years or less prior to the date of the Eighth Session in January, 1962. During roll call of Lay Delegates on the first day of the Eighth Session the question of Lay Delegates eligibility was raised. The presiding Bishop Jose L. Valencia ruled: 1. (a) That lay delegates elected by churches organized over 4 years preceding their election and who had been members of The Methodist Church at leased 4 years prior to their election were eligible to be seated as qualified members of the conference. (b) That lay delegates who had not been members of The Methodist Church at least 4 years prior to their election were not eligible to be seated. 2. That lay delegates elected by churches organized "within the past 2 or 3 years, or within one year preceding their election" were eligible to be seated notwithstanding they had not been members of The Methodist Church at least 4 years prior to their election. This ruling comes before the Judicial Council on submission in writing by Bishop Valencia for review in compliance with constitutional requirement (Division Three, Article VII-1960 Discipline Par. 40). Jurisdiction Pursuant to 1960 Discipline Paragraph 909 the decision of law made by Bishop Valencia in the Mindanao Provisional Annual Conference is accepted for review. Analysis A Provisional Annual Conference is authorized to exercise the powers of an Annual Conference, subject to the approval of the presiding Bishop (1960 Discipline Par. 607). Such a Provisional Annual Conference in fact is in interim status until it attains full standing as an accredited Annual Conference. As such, in exercising the power granted to act as an Annual Conference, it follows that al laws regulating an Annual Conference must be adhered to and followed. The Constitution of The Methodist Church, as amended provides: "The Annual Conference shall be composed of all the traveling preachers in full connection with it, together wit a lay member elected by each pastoral charge. Each pastoral charge served by more than one minister in full connection shall be entitled to two lay members. The lay members shall be at least 21 years of age and shall have been for four year next preceding their election members of one of the constituent churches forming this union, or of The Methodist Church." (1960 Discipline Par. 21, as amended by Amendment X, 1958.) An Annual Conference may make rules to govern its ow procedure; provided that no Annual Conference shall make any rule contrary to the Constitution or to the power granted by the General Conference. (1960 Discipline Par 634.) An Annual Conference may admit into membership only those who have met all the Disciplinary requirements for membership. (1960 Discipline Par. 635.) It would violate the basic polity of The Methodist Church to permit a Provisional Annual Conference to indulge lesser standard of membership than is required for the basic body of the Church, to wit, the Annual Conference. In Decision No. 147, it was held that a Central Conference may not by legislation alter the qualifications for membership on the Official Board of a local church, where such qualifications had been established by legislation of the General Conference. It follows that a bishop, by ruling on a point of law, may not alter the Constitution of The Methodist Church or a legislative act of the General Conference. It is true, in the nature of the Church missionary effort, that new churches enrolling new members may not have lay members of 4-year membership at the time of a particular Provisional Annual Conference. In such circumstance, a local charge might not have a lay member eligible to serve as a delegate to such conference. But this is only a temporary limitation. It is the judgment of the Judicial Council that item (1) of Bishop Valencia's ruling be affirmed, and that item (2) of said ruling be and is hereby reversed.

Decision

Lay delegates elected to a Provisional Annual Conference to be eligible to serve as members of said conference shall be at least 21 years of age and shall have been for 4 years next preceding their election members of one of the constituent churches of the conference or of The Methodist Church.

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