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Decision No. 227

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April 22 1965
In Re: Request of The General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program for a Declaratory Decision Concerning the Scope of Business and the Program of the Adjourned Session of the General Conference of 1966

Digest of Case

The business of the General Conference session of 1966, by action of the General Conference itself, is restricted to reviewing and acting upon questions of union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the receiving of a report of progress in the elimination of the Central Jurisdiction. Therefore: 1. The business of the 1966 session of the General Conference must be confined to matters fairly embraced within the two items referred to above unless the General Conference itself, by subsequent action, orders otherwise. 2. Whether legislative committees are to be used in the 1966 session of the General Conference is a matter to be determined by the General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program. 3. Any Methodist member or group has the Disciplinary right to file a petition to the 1966 General Conference within the areas of business as prescribed by the General Conference for that session. 4. Arrangements for and the agenda of the 1966 session of the General Conference are the responsibilities of the General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program. 5. The General Conference itself must determine the length of the 1966 session.

Statement of Facts

Communications received from the General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program and certified by the secretary, J. Wesley Hole, in effect petition the Judicial Council on behalf of that body for a declaratory decision resolving certain questions which have arisen in interpreting the actions of the General Conference of 1964 relating to the business and program of the adjourned session of the General Conference to be held in 1966. From these communications the following questions emerge: 1. What is the scope of business that can be transacted at the 1966 adjourned session? 2. Should provision be made for the use of legislative committees at the adjourned session? 3. Should petitions or memorials from the church at large be permitted? 4. Who has the responsibility or authority for making decisions relative to the arrangements and agenda for the special session? 5. Does the call for the 1966 session by the General Conference place a three-day time limit on that session? JURISDICTION The Judicial Council assumes jurisdiction under provisions of Paragraph 914 of the 1964 Discipline. ANALYSIS We address ourselves to the questions propounded in the order listed above: 1. The 1964 General Conference in its session of Tuesday morning, May 5, adopted an "Amendment to the Report of Commission on Church Union" as proposed by that Commission. (See Daily Christian Advocate, Pages 319 and 491). Pertinent paragraphs of the report when finally adopted and amended read as follows: "2) That the Methodist General Conference be called in Special Session in October, 1966, at the time, and if practicable, at the place of the Evangelical United Brethren, 1966, General Conference for the sole purpose of reviewing and acting on questions of church union. Included also may be a report of progress in the elimination of the Central Jurisdiction. "3) That the Plan of Union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church as presented, together with amendments and the record of the General Conference discussion and debate, be referred to the proper Commission for further study and discussion with the Evangelical United Brethren Commission on Church Union and the bringing of a perfected Plan of Union to the 1966 Special Session for review and action." In response to a prior request of the Commission on Entertainment and Program of the General Conference the Judicial Council in its Decision No. 221 held that under the circumstances this action of the General Conference must be construed as a decision to hold an adjourned session of the 1964 General Conference to meet in October, 1966. The petition now before the Judicial Council seeks an interpretation of the action of the General Conference in calling the 1966 session for considering a limited agenda. Since as above stated we have held that the 1966 session is construed to be an adjourned session of the 1964 General Conference it is clear that the General Conference has plenary authority, subject only to constitutional limitations, to consider and act upon any matter which, under its own rules, it decides appropriate for its consideration. It is equally clear that the 1964 General Conference, in making provision for the 1966 session, intended to confine the business of the adjourned session to two items: 1) the proposal for the union of the Methodist and EvangelicalUnited Brethren Churches, and 2) a report of progress in the elimination of the Central Jurisdiction. However, it appears from the context that the language of the restrictive clause, "for the sole purpose of reviewing and acting on questions of church union," was intended to be broadly interpreted. As evidence of this we quote the language of Charles C. Parlin, Chairman of the Commission on Church Union in presenting and explaining the purpose of the proposed 1966 session of the General Conference (See Daily Christian Advocate, Page 486): "This calls for a reference back to the Continuing Commission to study and bring to a special called session of this General Conference in October, 1966. That gives to them two and a half years to work, negotiate, perfect the constitution and draft a Discipline. "The change from presenting the constitution at this sitting in Pittsburgh and the reference back to two and a half years of study and bringing to a special called session in 1966 was that many members of this body felt that it was unfair to be asked to vote on the constitution without having seen at least the draft of the Discipline.... There were some details that they would like to see before they voted. That seems reasonable, so we plan to make this call." This concept of the purpose and scope of the 1966 session seems never to have been called into question during the subsequent debate. We must conclude, therefore, that the intent of the General Conference was to include for discussion and action in the 1966 session a proposed Constitution and Discipline for a union of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches. The entire debate and discussion surrounding the adoption of this action convinces us that "questions of church union" as used in the resolution above have reference solely to the proposed union of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches. Subject, therefore, to the right of reconsideration, the General Conference has planned a limited agenda for the 1966 session and has restricted itself to reviewing and acting upon questions of union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the receiving of a report of the progress which has been made in the elimination of the Central Jurisdiction. 2. Whether or not legislative committees shall be used in the 1966 session of the General Conference is a question which must be answered by the General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program under the authority vested in them by action of the General Conference to "determine the plan of organization of the special session." (Daily Christian Advocate, Page 722) 3. Under Paragraph 510 of the 1964 Discipline, any Methodist person or organization may file a petition to the 1966 session of the General Conference within the areas of business prescribed by the General Conference for that session. 4. The General Conference of 1964, in adopting a report of its Commission on Entertainment and Program as recorded in the Daily Christian Advocate, Page 722, conferred upon the said Commission broad powers in the making of plans for the session of 1966. Included was the following: "arranging after consultationwith the Commission on Ecumenical Affairs for the agenda and program for the special session." 5. While the discussion of the action of the General Conference in planning for the 1966 session contains occasional reference to a three-day session on the part of individual participants in the discussion, we are unable to find any action on the part of the General Conference which would thus limit the duration of the 1966 session. We are of the opinion that this is not a matter to be judicially determined but is a matter which the General Conference itself must decide.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the business of the General Conference session of 1966, by action of the General Conference itself, is restricted to reviewing and acting upon questions of union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the receiving of a report of progress in elimination of the Central Jurisdiction. Therefore: 1. The business of the 1966 session of the General Conference must be confined to matters fairly embraced within the two items referred to above unless the General Conference itself, by subsequent action, orders otherwise. 2. Whether legislative committees are to be used in the 1966 session of the General Conference is a matter to be determined by the General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program. 3. Any Methodist member or group has the Disciplinary right to file a petition to the 1966 General Conference within the areas of business as prescribed by the General Conference for that session. 4. Arrangements for and the agenda of the 1966 session of the General Conference are the responsibilities of the General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program. 5. The General Conference itself must determine the length of the 1966 session.

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