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Decision No. 222

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October 29 1964
In Re: Petition of General Board of Lay Activities Concerning Tenure of Lay Members at Large On That Board

Digest of Case

The election to membership on the General Board of Lay Activities of the five members at large from within the United States is not controlled by the restrictions of Paragraph 1491.1 of the 1964 Discipline to the effect that such election be held annually and that the member be not eligible to succeed himself.

Statement of Facts

The Executive Committee of the General Board of Lay Activities, in session at Chicago, Illinois, September 11, 1964 passed a motion "instructing the General Secretary to take the necessary steps to request a Declaratory Judgment on an action passed by General Conference providing for the selection and term of office of a sixth layman at large as shown in Calendar 383, Report 46 of the Committee on Temporal Economy and Lay Activities, page 527 of the Daily Christian Advocate." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this matter under the provisions of Paragraph 914.2 of the 1964 Discipline. ANALYSIS We are asked to determine the correct antecedent of the sentence in Paragraph 1491.1, 1964 Discipline which reads as follows: "This shall be an annual election, and each man so elected shall not be eligible to succeed himself." This sentence was part of an amendment made to Paragraph 1491.1 by the 1964 General Conference, which paragraph, as amended reads as follows: "The board shall be composed of three effective bishops, elected by the Council of Bishops; six effective ministers, one from each jurisdiction; and thirty-two lay members, twenty-seven of whom shall be distributed among the several jurisdictions on the basis of church membership; provided that no jurisdiction shall have fewer than two lay members. The six ministers and the twenty-seven lay members shall be elected by the Jurisdictional Conferences on nomination of their Committees on Lay Activities; provided that the lay members shall be selected from the present or past conference lay leaders of the several Annual Conferences in the jurisdiction. There shall be five lay members at large from within the United States, elected by the board on nomination of the Council of Bishops. There shall also be one lay member at large from outside the United States, elected by the board on nomination of the Council of Bishops. This shall be an annual election, and each man so elected shall not be eligible to succeed himself. The following shall be ex officio members: the secretary ofstewardship or other national officer of the National Conference of the Methodist Youth Fellowship, the president or other national officer of the Methodist Student Movement, and the president or other national officer of the Woman's Division of the Board of Missions. Interim vacancies in the lay membership shall be filled by the board itself. (1964 amendment in Italics.) Petitioner holds that the sentence in question applies only to the sixth lay member at large, added by action of the 1964 General Conference from the Central Conferences, and requests "that the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church declare that it was the intent and purpose of the General Conference, in passing the legislation proposed in Calendar 383, Report 46 of the Committee on Lay Activities and Temporal Economy as appears on page 527 of the Christian Advocate, dated May 7, 1964, to leave unchanged the selection and term of office of the five lay members at large as provided in the 1960 Discipline; that it was the intent and purpose of General Conference to add a sixth lay member at large to be selected in the same manner as the five aforesaid lay members at large; that it was the intent and purpose of General Conference to provide that said sixth lay member at large be selected for a term of one year and be rotated annually among the laymen from Overseas Conferences." We are not in a position to determine the subjective intent either of the sponsoring committee or the General Conference. The 1964 amendment, quoted above, is clear when read by itself but its appropriate antecedent is admittedly ambiguous when interposed in Paragraph 1491.1 of the 1964 Discipline. Do the limitations of the second sentence of the amendment apply only to the first sentence of the amendment or also to the sentence preceding the amendment which directs the election of five lay members at large from within the United States? We conclude that the limitations of the second sentence of the amendment were intended to govern only the first sentence of the amendment, which provided for a member at large from outside the United States. The value of rotating this membership on an annual basis is obvious; and the mischief of limiting the members at large from within the United States to one-year terms without the possibility of re-election is equally obvious. Furthermore, the practice of quadrennial elections to the Board of Lay Activities is of such long standing that we believe it highly unlikely that the practice would have been changed without a word of explanation or debate.

Decision

It is therefore the decision of the Judicial Council that the election to membership on the General Board of Lay Activities of the five members at large from within the United States is not controlled by the restrictions of Paragraph 1491.1 of the 1964 Discipline to the effect that such election be held annually and that the member be not eligible to succeed himself.

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