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Decision No. 243

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November 09 1966
In Re: Request of the General Conference Asking for a Declaratory Decision Determining Whether the Proposed Constitution Under the Plan of Union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church Would Require for its Adoption by The Methodist Church a Three-Fourths Majority Vote of the Members of the Several Annual Conferences Present and Voting

Digest of Case

The adoption of the Plan of Union of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches, embracing a new constitution for the united church as proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee on Union with the United Brethren Church would not be in conflict with the provisions of the First Restrictive Rule and would not require a three-fourths majority vote of the members of the Annual Conferences.

Statement of Facts

At the adjourned session of the General Conference being held in Chicago, Illinois on November 9, 1966, the conference adopted that portion of the Plan of Union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church appearing on Page 753 of the Daily Christian Advocate as follows: "3. The Plan of Union shall be acted upon by The Methodist Church in accordance with the procedures required by its Discipline, namely: It shall require for adoption a majority affirmative vote of the members of the General Conference present and voting thereon but the 'enabling Legislation' and 'Part I - The Constitution' shall require for adoption a two-thirds majority of the General Conference present and voting and a two-thirds majority of all members of the several Annual Conferences present and voting (Par. 10.2) - unless the Judicial Council shall rule that a three-quarters majority is required. Favorable action by the General Conference and the Annual Conferences shall be deemed in compliance with the church's Constitution and authority to remove from its Constitution all material not covered by the new Constitution and to include to the extent appropriate such material elsewhere in the Discipline." By appropriate action the General Conference voted to refer this provision to the Judicial Council for determination as to whether a three-fourths vote would be required among the several Annual Conferences of the Methodist Church for the adoption of the proposed Plan of Union including, as it does, a proposed new Constitution of the united church. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to determine this matter under Paragraph 904.2 and Paragraph 911 of the 1964 Discipline. ANALYSIS According to the Plan of Union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church it is proposed to include in the Constitution of the united church under Division One, Article III, Paragraph 3, the following: "ARTICLES OF RELIGION AND CONFESSION OF FAITH "The Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith shall be those currently held by the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, respectively." The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church and the Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church are both included in the organic Plan of Union as the historic statements of faith of the two uniting churches. Each of these statements is to appear as a separate and complete document, neither one in any way altering or changing the other. Together the two statements would represent the doctrinal position of the new united church. Paragraph 9.1 of the 1964 Discipline, generally referred to as the "First Restrictive Rule" of the Constitution of the Methodist Church, states: "The General Conference shall not revoke, alter or change our Articles of Religion, or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine." The Judicial Council is asked to decide whether or not the proposal of the Ad Hoc Committee, as set forth above, is in violation of this restriction of the Methodist Constitution. The application of the provisions of the First Restrictive Rule to this case poses two questions which are different in nature and must be considered and answered separately: 1. Does the proposal of the Ad Hoc Committee to thus include both the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church and the Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church within the Plan of Union of the united church "revoke, alter or change our Articles of Religion?" 2. Does the said proposal "establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present established standards of doctrine?" If the answer to either of these questions is in the affirmative the proposal would be in violation of the First Restrictive Rule of the Constitution of the Methodist Church, Paragraph 9.1 of the Discipline and would thus invoke the provisions of the Constitution, Paragraph 10.2 of the Discipline, requiring for its adoption a three-fourths majority of the members of the several Annual Conferences present and voting. In answer to the first question, "Does the proposal revoke, alter or change our Articles of Religion?", the proposed Plan of Union clearly indicates that there is no intent to change the form or content of the Articles of Religion of The Methodist Church as they presently appear in the 1964 Discipline. Even though in the Plan of Union it is proposed that the Articles of Religion appear in the same general division with the Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church as a part of the doctrinal statement of the new denomination, this would not have the effect of revoking, altering or changing them. The Judicial Council, therefore, answers the first question in the negative. In considering the second question we are asked to decide whether the inclusion of the Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church together with the Articles of Religion of The Methodist Church as the statement of doctrine of the united church would "establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine" and thus be in conflict with Paragraph 9.1 of the Discipline, the First Restrictive Rule. We believe the answer to this question to be a matter of theological interpretation rather than of judicial decision. The Judicial Council has previously stated that it has no jurisdiction in such matters nor will it undertake to resolve theological questions such as would be involved in deciding whether the inclusion of the Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church with the Articles of Religion of The Methodist Church in the Plan of Union would "establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine." Reference is made to Judicial Council Decision No. 59 where in its decision the Council stated, "The Judicial Council was not set up as an interpreter of doctrine but as an interpreter of law from the strictly legal standpoint." The Judicial Council therefore does not undertake to respond to the second question and judges the General Conference to be the only body competent to make such an interpretation. We believe that the General Conference has given adequate expression of its judgment on this matter in its adoption of Supplemental Report No. 2 of the Ad Hoc Committee on union with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, including the "PREFACE" to Part II - Doctrinal Statements and General Rules, from which we quote - "The Confession, the Articles of Religion and the Wesleyan 'standards' are thus deemed congruent if not identical in their doctrinal perspective and not in conflict." The Judicial Council considers that the General Conference has given final and conclusive affirmative answer to Question No. 2 as set forth above. Therefore, it follows that there is no violation of the First Restrictive Rule in the Plan of Union as prepared by the Ad Hoc Committee and, therefore, no requirement for a three-fourths vote of the members of the Annual Conferences as provided in Paragraph 10.2 of the Discipline.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the proposed Plan of Union of The Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches embracing a new Constitution for the united church may in the Methodist Annual Conferences be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of the members of the several Annual Conferences present and voting as provided in the Constitution of the Methodist Church, Paragraph 10.2 of the 1964 Discipline. November 10, 1966 DISSENTING OPINION I concur in the analysis except for the answer to the first question. I must point out that while a two-thirds majority of all the members of the several Annual Conferences present and voting is sufficient to make certain constitutional changes, an amendment to the Constitution which involves the First Restrictive Rule "shall require a three-fourths majority of all the members of the Annual Conferences present and voting." The first Restrictive Rule reads "The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion.... (emphasis supplied). It should be plainly evident that change does occur by addition; in this case the addition of "The Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church." Further this addition does carry certain materials which, even though the differences may be minor, are indeed different from the Articles of Religion. Therefore with regret I must dissent .

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