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Decision No. 242

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November 09 1966
In Re: Request of the General Conference for a Declaratory Decision Concerning the Impact of Article IV of Division One of the Proposed Constitution of The United Methodist Church Upon the Transi- tional Existence of Annual Conferences Predominantly Racial in Composition

Digest of Case

During a transitional period, Article IV of Division One of the proposed Constitution of The United Methodist Church is to be construed in harmony with Enabling Legislation in the Plan of Union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church. This Enabling Legislation is a transitional constitutional enactment designed to enable the uniting churches to move from their present positions to those mandated by the Constitution of The United Methodist Church. During this transitional period, Article IV is not to be read so as to forbid the continued existence of Annual Conferences, the membership of which may be predominantly, or even exclusively, racial in composition.

Statement of Facts

The proposed Constitution of The United Methodist Church will include the following Article: "Inclusiveness of the Church. - The United Methodist Church is a part of the Church Universal which is one Body in Christ. Therefore all persons, without regard to race, color, national origin, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, to participate in its programs, and, when they take the appropriate vows, to be admitted into its membership in any local church in the connection. In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the church because of race, color, national origin or economic condition." (Division One, Article IV) The transition of the uniting churches into The United Methodist Church will be governed by the provisions of the Enabling Legislation in the Plan of Union which was approved by the General Conference on November 10, 1966, by the adoption of the following resolution (Daily Christian Advocate, page 918): "I move the adoption of the Enabling Legislation as set forth on page 753 of the Daily Christian Advocate with the understanding that, when adopted by the procedures therein prescribed, it be considered as constitutional and that the Discipline of The United Methodist Church print directly after the Constitution either the text of the Enabling Legislation or a cross reference showing where in the Daily Christian Advocate and the General Conference Journal the text of the Enabling Legislation may be found." Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation spells out procedures to be followed by the new church during this transitional period to eliminate as expeditiously as possible all racially structured units of the church and upon consummation of the Plan of Union, all Annual Conferences presently part of the Central Jurisdiction become a part of the regional jurisdiction within whose boundaries they lie. Beyond that, Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation provides in part: "The objective toward which the new church moves is an inclusive church with no overlapping of Annual Conference boundaries. The Plan of Union contemplates that unification of church structure shall take place as follows: STEP ONE (A) Upon the Plan of Union becoming effective all Annual Conferences of both uniting churches will automatically become part of a Jurisdiction or a Central Conference or a Provisional Central Conference of the united church, in each case as shown on the attached schedule. STEP TWO (B) Whenever in a Jurisdiction or in a Central Conference or in a Provisional Central Conference Annual Conference boundaries overlap, the Annual Conferences involved shall designate committees or agencies to study the possibility of, and bring about as soon as practicable and mutually agreeable, the uniting or rearranging of Annual Conferences and Annual Conference boundaries to the end that there shall be no overlapping of Annual Conference boundaries. . . . (D) So far as the Annual Conferences formerly of the Methodist Central Jurisdiction are concerned, efforts shall be made to carry out the 'Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Central Jurisdiction' as adopted by the Methodist General Conference of 1964. . . ." On November 9, 1966, the General Conference requested of the Judicial Council an advisory judgment with respect to two questions: "Does this Article IV make possible (for such period following Union as the law of the church may otherwise provide for the elimination of Annual Conferences formerly of the Central Jurisdiction) 1. The continuation of overlapping Annual Conferences even though the membership of one may be predominantly, or even exclusively, Negro and the other predominantly, or even exclusively, of another race or races? 2. The rearranging of Annual Conferences formerly of the Central Jurisdiction by mergers or by the dividing of such Annual Conferences into new districts even though at the time of such rearrangement the membership of such Annual Conferences is predominantly, or even exclusively, Negro and their boundaries overlap Annual Conferences the membership of which is predominantly or even exclusively of another race or races?" JURISDICTION Concurrently with the reference of the two questions above quoted, the General Conference voted to confer upon the Judicial Council "the duty and power to respond to this request for interpretation." Our jurisdiction to respond is found in Paragraph 911 of the 1964 Discipline. ANALYSIS Article IV of Division One of the proposed Constitution is a broad constitutional interdiction of any racial structures in the new church. But it must be read in conjunction with the Enabling Legislation in the Plan of Union. They are to be voted upon by the General Conference as part of a single proposal; and both enjoy constitutional status, the latter as a consequence of the terms of the resolution (quoted the Statement of Facts) by which the General Conference adopted it. The Enabling Legislation in the Plan of Union delineates policies and procedures to be followed by the new church during a transitional period in order to bring its structures and practices into harmony with the Constitution of the new church. Read together, Article IV of Division One of the Constitution and Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation in the Plan of Union reveal a pattern to move toward the inclusiveness defined in Article IV of the new Constitution by the policies and procedures spelled out in Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation. It is recognized that the transition from the old to the new cannot be accomplished the moment the new church comes into being. At that moment the enactments of the Enabling Legislation furnish a bridge by which we get from the old to the new. The questions asked of us are confined in time to the transitional period when the policies and procedures enacted in Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation are in effect. The situations anticipated in both questions are in harmony with the factual assumptions which underlie Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation; and the policies and procedures designed to bring the assumed situations into harmony with the new Constitution are spelled out in Paragraph 9.

Decision

During the transitional period provided in the Enabling Legislation in the Plan of Union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, Article IV of Division One of the proposed Constitution of the United Methodist Church does not forbid: 1. The continuation of overlapping Annual Conferences even though the membership of one may be predominantly, or even exclusively, Negro and the other predominantly, or even exclusively, of another race or races; and 2. The rearranging of Annual Conferences formerly of the Central Jurisdiction by mergers or by the dividing of such Annual Conferences into new districts even though at the time of such rearrangement the membership of such Annual Conferences is predominantly, or even exclusively, Negro and their boundaries overlap Annual Conferences the membership of which is predominantly, or even exclusively, of another race or races.

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