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Decision No. 235

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April 13 1966
In Re: Request of the General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program for a Declaratory Decision Concerning the Representation of the Methodist Church of Burma and the Methodist Church of Sumatra in the Adjourned Session of the General Conference to be held in 1966.

Digest of Case

The affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches of Burma and Sumatra are entitled to representation in the adjourned session of the General Conference to be held in 1966 in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 602.3 of the 1964 Discipline. The delegation elected to represent the Burma and Sumatra Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church at the 1964 session of the General Conference is not entitled to be seated as representative of those former Annual Conferences.

Statement of Facts

Under date of January 28, 1966 the President of the Judicial Council received a letter from the Secretary of the General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program which read in part as follows: "The Commission on Entertainment and Program of the General Conference has instructed me as its secretary to respectfully request a decision from the Judicial Council on a matter which has arisen. "Par. 602, Sec. 3 of the Discipline provides that each affiliated autonomous Methodist Church shall be entitled to representation in the General Conference of The Methodist Church by two delegates, etc. "Decision No. 221 made by your good body under date of October 30, 1964 refers to delegates representing annual conferences which may have been eliminated by actions taken subsequent to the regular 1964 General Conference session. "The Burma and Sumatra Annual Conferences were replaced as of October 10, 1965 by newly organized affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches. "The question which needs to be answered is: "Shall the delegates elected to represent the Burma and Sumatra Annual Conferences in 1964 be seated in 1966 as provided in Decision No. 221, or shall representatives of the newly organized affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches of Burma and Sumatra be seated under the provision of Par. 602, Sec. 3?" JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to make a ruling in the nature of a declaratory decision on this matter under Paragraph 914 of the 1964 Discipline. ANALYSIS The facts in this case and the precise questions to be answered are clearly set forth in the communication quoted above. The Constitutional provisions in Paragraphs 24 and 25 of the 1964 Discipline describe the qualifications for ministerial and lay delegates, respectively, to the General Conference as well as the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences. It is to be noted that ministerial delegates must be in full connection with the Annual Conference electing them and lay delegates must be members of The Methodist Church within the Annual Conference electing them " at the time of holding the General and Jurisdictional or Central Conferences." (Emphasis supplied.) Although the circumstances were different, this basic principle was recognized in Decision No. 120 when the Judicial Council, holding that Fred B. Noble was eligible to serve as a delegate to the Jurisdictional Conference following the General Conference at which he was retired from the Judicial Council, stated: "The time of his election as such a delegate is immaterial, hiseligibility to serve as such delegate at the time the Jurisdictional Conference meets being the determining factor as to the validity of his election." The Burma and Sumatra Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church were represented in the 1964 General Conference by both ministerial and lay delegates regularly elected by their respective Annual Conferences. Under the authority of the enabling act passed by that General Conference, the aforesaid Annual Conferences were organized as affiliate autonomous Methodist Churches as of October 10, 1965. Thereafter, there existed no Burma or Sumatra Annual Conferences and, therefore, they cannot be represented in the adjourned session of the General Conference in 1966 as Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church. The question as phrased by the petitioner suggests petitioner's interpretation of our Decision No. 221 to mean that the delegates who represented the Burma and Sumatra Annual Conferences in 1964 may be entitled to be seated in the adjourned session as a matter of individual right. In that decision, we did not have before us, as we do in the instant case, a situation involving delegates to a General Conference who became disqualified under Articles IV and V of Division 2 of the Constitution (Paragraphs 24 and 25 of the Discipline). On October 10, 1965, when the Burma and Sumatra Annual Conferences ceased to exist, the persons who were the ministerial and lay delegates thereof to the 1964 General Conference became members of autonomous churches and thereupon ceased to be members of The Methodist Church. Therefore, they are no longer qualified under the Constitution to serve as delegates to the forthcoming adjourned session of the General Conference as representatives of the Burma and Sumatra Annual Conferences. Paragraph 602.3 of the 1964 Discipline provides that each affiliated autonomous Methodist Church shall be entitled to at least one ministerial and one lay delegate to the General Conference who shall have all the rights and privileges of delegates, except the right to vote. The affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches of Burma and Sumatra will, therefore, be entitled to such representation as described in Paragraph 602.3 in the adjourned session of the General Conference in 1966. The representation provided by Paragraph 602.3, however, is limited and the delegates therein provided for do not have the status of constitutional General Conference delegates. The Constitution, as stated in Paragraph 5 of the 1964 Discipline, requires delegates to the General Conference to be elected by the Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church. However, we interpret the references to "delegates" in Paragraph 602.3 of the Discipline to describe representatives of affiliated autonomous churches who attend sessions of the General Conference somewhat in the capacity of fraternal representatives but with special pecuniary and other privileges due to the affiliate nature of their churches. In view of their limited status, we see no problem in the attendance of such "delegates" at the 1966 adjourned session notwithstanding the General Conference in question convened in 1964 prior to the organization of the Burma and Sumatra affiliate autonomous churches.

Decision

It is, therefore, the decision of the Judicial Council that the delegates elected to represent the Burma and Sumatra Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church in the 1964 session of the General Conference are not entitled to be seated in the adjourned session in 1966 as representatives of those former Annual Conferences. The affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches of Burma and Sumatra are entitled to be represented in the adjourned session in 1966, in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 602.3 of the Discipline.

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