Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 239
November 08 1966
In Re: Petition from the Central Illinois Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision Concerning the Right of an Annual Conference to Direct its Board of Missions as a Corporation to Hold all Church Extension Property for the Conference and for its District and City Church Extension Societies and to Determine the Use of Such Property
Digest of Case
An Annual Conference can direct its incorporated Board of Missions to hold all church extension property purchased and held by the Annual Conference or by missionary societies organized under its control, but an Annual Conference has no such authority over titles to property purchased and held by district or city missionary societies organized under other controls as provided by Paragraphs 1225-1234 of the 1964 Discipline.
Statement of Facts
By action of its 1957 and 1958 sessions the Illinois Annual Conference (now the Central Illinois Annual Conference) of The Methodist Church authorized the incorporation of its Conference Board of Missions as the "Central Illinois Methodist Board of Missions." The Central Illinois Methodist Board of Missions was duly incorporated and since 1958 has functioned as a legal body and has the right to hold title to property for church extension purposes. The 1964, 1965 and 1966 sessions of the Central Illinois Annual Conference directed that the Central Illinois Methodist Board of Missions, a corporation, be authorized to select, purchase and hold property for church extension purposes. The 1964 and 1965 Journals of the Central Illinois Annual Conference indicate that the conference is moving into a church extension program and that it is setting up district and city missionary and church extension societies under the authority and control of the conference and of its district planning and development committees. At the 1966 session of the Central Illinois Annual Conference, the Board of Missions of the Central Illinois Annual Conference proposed the following resolution: "2. Recommendation for an addition to the Conference Rules of Order, 'in keeping with Para. 759.4 of the 1964 Discipline, which permits an Annual Conference to restrict the function of a District or other Missionary and Church Extension Society, we recommend that the Central Illinois Conference adopt the policy and direct that all property purchased or held for church extension purposes (including property purchased in the past, but with the exception of property purchased and held for use by a single local church) shall be held in the name of the Central Illinois Methodist Board of Missions, with full authority by that body to determine use of the property."' When the foregoing resolution was presented, an objection was made to the adoption of the resolution on the ground that this resolution was in violation of the provisions of the Discipline. Thereupon, a motion was made, seconded and adopted by the conference requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on the legality of such procedure, especially with regard to the provisions of Paragraph 759.4 and Paragraphs 1225-1234 of the 1964 Discipline. The Secretary of the Central Illinois Annual Conference of The Methodist Church has presented this Petition for Declaratory Decision to the Judicial Council. The precise question as posed by the Central Illinois Annual Conference as set forth on Page 764 of its 1966 Journal is as follows: "Can an Annual Conference direct its Board of Missions as a corporation to hold all church extension property for the Conference and for its district and city church extension societies?" In explanation of the question presented for consideration by the council, the Secretary of the Central Illinois Annual Conference states that the issue is whether or not Paragraph 759.4 of the Discipline implies that an Annual Conference may restrict the functions of local missionary societies with regard to the matters of acquiring and determining the use of real estate for church extension as such societies are provided for and empowered to act under Paragraphs 1225-1234 of the Discipline; also whether or not the Annual Conference can direct that the title to such real estate for church extension and the final determination as to its use can be placed by the Annual Conference in the Conference Board of Missions instead of in the local missionary societies. JURISDICTION The Petition in this case presents the question as to whether or not the paragraphs of the 1964 Discipline referred to in the Statement of Facts are subject to more than one interpretation or seem to be of doubtful meaning or application. We hold that the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to entertain this Petition under Paragraph 914 of the 1964 Discipline. ANALYSIS Paragraph 759.4 of the 1964 Discipline reads as follows: "Unless the Annual Conference directs otherwise, a district within the conference may authorize and promote Advance specials for church-extension and missionary needs within the district, such funds to be administered by a district missionary society organized for that purpose, or by a similar body set up by the District Conference. Such specials secured and administered on a district level shall be reported by each local church to the Annual Conference as conference Advance specials." The action proposed by the Board of Missions of the Central Illinois Annual Conference assumes that the first phrase of this paragraph, "unless the Annual Conference directs otherwise," permits an Annual Conference to restrict the functioning of district and other missionary and church extension societies. Paragraph 759 is a part of Chapter II of Part V of the Discipline on Temporal Economy. Chapter II deals with Church Finance and Paragraph 759.4 with the authorization and administration of conference Advance specials for church extension and missionary needs within a district. The Annual Conference has the authority to direct the initiation of such conference Advance specials and to control the administration of funds derived from them through a district missionary society or through some other body, organized by it for that purpose. An Annual Conference can instruct its incorporated Board of Missions to hold and to determine the use of all church extension property held by the Annual Conference or by local district and city missionary societies which are under its control. The Discipline, however, in Part VII, Chapter VI, entitled "Board of Missions," in Paragraphs 1225-1234, authorizes the organization of city or district missionary societies under other controls. Paragraph 1226 reads - "Such a society may be organized in the interest of missions and church extension under such name and control as it may determine, whenever in the judgment of the bishop or bishops and district superintendent or superintendents concerned it is deemed desirable. . ." Paragraph 1228 reads - "The city or district missionary society may include in its work the organization (but not the constituting) of churches, the aid of weak churches, the acquisition of real estate and erecting of buildings, . . . It is apparent that such city and district missionary societies are not necessarily creatures of the Annual Conference within whose bounds they exist. They may be organized and incorporated under other controls with the rights and duties as spelled out in the paragraphs of the Discipline referred to above. The Discipline does not authorize an Annual Conference to deprive such societies of the latter character, without their consent, of their right to acquire and hold property for church extension purposes.
It is therefore the decision of the Judicial Council that an Annual Conference does not have the right to direct its Board of Missions as an incorporated body to hold title to or to determine the use of church extension property which has been acquired by city or district missionary societies organized under other controls as provided by Paragraphs 1225-1234 of the 1964 Discipline, unless agreed to by such societies. We therefore hold that the resolution presented to the 1966 session of the Central Illinois Annual Conference by the Board of Missions of that conference was inappropriate, and if adopted by the conference would constitute a violation of the provisions of the Discipline.