Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 199
October 10 1963
In Re: Compulsory Retirement of a Bishop of a Central Conference
Digest of Case
Under legislation adopted by a Central Conference that the retirement age of bishops of that Central Conference "be the same as that obtaining for bishops in the Jurisdictional Conferences of The Methodist Church in the United States," a bishop whose seventieth birthday precedes the first day of the regular session of the Central Conference is not retired or released from his obligations to travel through the connection at large and to provide residential supervision until the close of said regular session of the conference.
Statement of Facts
The Northwest Philippines Annual Conference of The Methodist Church, during its annual session held at Candon, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, and on the 16th day of March, 1963, adopted the following resolution: "That the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference now in session at Candon, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, this 16th day of March, 1963, do hereby petitions (sic) and appeals to the Judicial Council for a declaratory statement as to the legality, implementation and enforcement of the compulsory retirement of bishops elected by the Philippines Central Conference, which is at seventy years." By further action Cornelio M. Ferrer was requested to assist the Conference Secretary, Marcos V. Berbano, Jr., in the preparation of the wording of the appeal for transmission to the Judicial Council. In accordance with said action a petition for a declaratory judgment regarding compulsory retirement of bishops elected by the Philippines Central Conference was filed and is before the Council. It appears from the petition that the reason for the submission of the matter to the Judicial Council is the continued active service of Dionisio D. Alejandro as a bishop of the Philippines Central Conference after his seventieth birthday. The material events occurring before the action of the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference and the filing of the petition are these. On November 17, 1960, the Philippines Central Conference, assembled at Central Church Manila, by action duly taken, determined that "The retirement age of the Bishops of the Philippines Central Conference of The Methodist Church be the same as that obtaining for Bishops in the Jurisdictional Conferences of The Methodist Church in the United States." Following this action, and at the same session, the Philippines Central Conference elected Dionisio D. Alejandro a bishop of that Central Conference. Bishop Alejandro was born February 19, 1893, and at the time of his election as bishop was 67 years, 8 months and 28 days old. Thereafter, and at a meeting of the Executive Board of the Philippines Central Conference held on October 12, 1962, the question of Bishop Alejandro's compulsory retirement was raised and by action of that Board the question was submitted by the senior bishop of the Central Conference, Jose L. Valencia, to the Council of Bishops of The Methodist Church. On November 15, 1962, at its meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, the Council of Bishops adopted the report of its Committee on Law and Administration as follows: "A question has come to the Council from certain persons in the Philippines Central Conference regarding the legality of the tenure in office of one of its bishops after his seventieth birthday. "The Philippines Central Conference has adopted a compulsory retirement rule for its bishops of seventy years. Bishop Alejandro-will be seventy on February 19, 1963. Certain persons who write us insist that he retire on that date, and the administration of his work for the rest of the Quadrennium shall be provided for by the Council of Bishops under the legislation set forth in Paragraph 424 of the 1960 Discipline. "The Judicial Council has decided in Decision 61 in regard to Central Conference bishops that one's 'term of office expires at the close of the Central Conference at which his successor is elected.' "The questioners whose letters are before us contend that it does not seem likely that Bishops Valencia and Alejandro will exercise their prerogative as provided for in Paragraph 545 to call extra session of the Conference to elect a successor to Bishop Alejandro. They, therefore, request this Council of Bishops to consider Bishop Alejandro retired as of February 19, 1963, and appoint a bishop to take his place until the Central Conference meets and elects a successor. "It is our judgment that unless and until a Central Conference does elect a successor to Bishop Alejandro, he can continue to serve under the findings of the Judicial Council's Decision 61." Bishop Alejandro attained the age of seventy years on February 19, 1963. The prayer of the request for the declaratory decision of the Judicial Council asks the following relief: 1. That the Judicial Council uphold the legality of the action of the Philippines Central Conference setting the compulsory retirement of its bishops at seventy years of age. 2. That the Judicial Council declare Bishop Alejandro a retired bishop as of February 19, 1963. 3. That the Judicial Council order the immediate holding of an extra session of the Philippines Central Conference and require Bishop Dionisio D. Alejandro and Bishop Jose L. Valencia to call for such extra session as provided in Paragraph 545, 1960 Discipline, to elect a successor for Bishop Alejandro. 4. That the decision of the Council of Bishops be declared null and void. 5. That the Judicial Council require the Council of Bishops to provide episcopal administration over the Manila Area under the provisions of Paragraph 424 of the 1960 Discipline. Jurisdiction Under Paragraph 914.8 of the 1960 Discipline this matter is properly before the Judicial Council. Analysis The action of the Philippines Central Conference taken at its meeting in 1960 does not mention either the age or the time for retirement of bishops. The effect of its legislation was to adopt by reference the law of The Methodist Church governing the retirement of bishops elected by Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States. Petitioner contends that the said action of the Philippines Central Conference provides and requires that a bishop elected by that Central Conference be and is retired immediately upon becoming seventy years of age. Paragraph 436.1, 1960 Discipline, provides that "a bishop whose seventieth birthday precedes the first day of the regular session of his Jurisdictional Conference shall be released at the close of that conference from the obligation to travel through the connection at large and from residential supervision" and Paragraph 436.3 provides that a "bishop who has reached the age of sixty-five years or who will reach the age of sixty-five during the calendar year in which his Jurisdictional Conference is held, and who has given written notice that he so elects to the bishops of his jurisdiction may be retired at the session of his Jurisdictional Conference next following such notice." (Emphasis added.) It is clear that this legislation of the Church does not provide for compulsory retirement of a bishop on the day of his seventieth birthday nor does it provide for permissive retirement of a bishop on the day of his sixty-fifth birthday. In view of the request of petitioner that the Judicial Council order the immediate holding of an extra session of the Philippines Central Conference to handle the problems presented, it is important to note that the express language of Paragraph 436.1 of the Discipline provides that a bishop whose seventieth birthday precedes the first day of the regular session of his Jurisdictional Conference is retired "at the close of that conference." (Emphasis added.) Since the action of the Philippines Central Conference in effect fixed "the retirement age" of bishops elected by it to "be the same as" that for bishops of Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States, it is clear that a bishop elected by that conference upon becoming seventy years of age would not be retired until the close of the next regular session of that conference.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that: 1. The action of the Philippines Central Conference determining that "the retirement age of the bishops of the Philippines Central Conference be the same as that obtaining for bishops in the Jurisdictional Conferences of The Methodist Church in the United States," was and is in accordance with the law of The Methodist Church. 2. A bishop who attains age seventy years between regular sessions of a Central Conference which has adopted the retirement age applicable in Jurisdictional Conferences, is not automatically retired upon reaching his seventieth birthday, and continues in the duties and obligations of the office of bishop until the close of the next regular session of said Central Conference, at which time he shall be released therefrom. 3. The Judicial Council has no constitutional or legislative authority to nullify administrative decisions of the Council of Bishops made in accordance with the law of the church, or to issue mandates to compel the exercise of executive or administrative powers of the episcopacy and Items 3, 4 and 5 of the prayer of the appeal are, therefore, denied.