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Decision No. 245

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November 10 1966
In Re: Petition of the North Carolina Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision Interpreting the Application of Amendment IX of the Constitution, to Determine Whether a Two-thirds Majority Vote of Each Annual Conference of the Affected Jurisdictions Is Required to Adopt a Resolution Providing for the Transfer and Conjoint Merger of the North Carolina-Virginia Annual Conference of the Central Jurisdiction to and Into the North Carolina Annual Conference, the Virginia Annual Conference and the Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction

Digest of Case

A proposal to transfer and merge an Annual Conference from one jurisdiction to and into one or more Annual Conferences of another jurisdiction under the provisions of Amendment IX of the Constitution requires for adoption an aggregate two-thirds majority of the total number of members of the Annual Conferences present and voting in the respective jurisdictions. It is not affected by the failure of one or more individual Annual Conferences to reach a two-thirds majority vote.

Statement of Facts

Under date of July 20. 1966 a communication was received by the Judicial Council from the secretary of the North Carolina Annual Conference certifying the petition of that conference for a declaratory decision construing the effect of Amendment IX upon an action of that Annual Conference taken at its session on June 15, 1966. In that session the conference adopted a resolution for the transfer and merger of the North Carolina-Virginia Annual Conference of the Central Jurisdiction into the North Carolina Annual Conference, the Virginia Annual Conference and the Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Information received by the council from parties in interest sets forth that the resolution referred to was prepared in a joint session of the appropriate inter-jurisdictional bodies of the four involved Annual Conferences. It was agreed that the resolution, after presentation to the conferences involved and its adoption by the votes required by Section 2 of Amendment IX of the Constitution, would: first, effect the transfer to the SoutheasternJurisdiction of the North Carolina-Virginia Annual Conference of the Central Jurisdiction, and, second, conjointly effect the merger of the said North Carolina-Virginia Annual Conference of the Central Jurisdiction with and into the North Carolina Annual Conference, the Virginia Annual Conference, and the Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Upon being considered and voted upon in the North Carolina Annual Conference the resolution was adopted but did not receive a two-thirds majority vote. The question then arose as to whether, under provisions of Amendment IX, the resolution had been defeated because of its failure to achieve a two-thirds majority vote in that conference. Briefs, amicus curiae, were submitted to the Judicial Council by Grover C. Bagby on behalf of the General Board of Christian Social Concerns and by a group of forty-seven persons, all of whom are ministers or laymen of the North Carolina Annual Conference. JURISDICTION The action of the Annual Conference constitutes a petition for a declaratory decision under the provisions of Paragraph 914 of the 1964 Discipline under which we accept jurisdiction. ANALYSIS The essential question is whether under a proper interpretation of Section 2 of Amendment IX of the Constitution each of the three Annual Conferences of the Southeastern Jurisdiction directly involved, was required to approve the resolution of transfer and merger by a two-thirds majority vote, failing which, as in the case of the North Carolina Annual Conference, the proposal would be defeated. The governing voting requirements are clearly set forth in Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Section 2 of Amendment IX. In the case of the Annual Conference desiring transfer the voting requirement in Paragraph (a) is approval "by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting." In the case of "the remainder of the jurisdiction" from which the transfer is being made Paragraph (b) requires a vote "by a two-thirds majority of the total Annual Conference members present and voting." The requirements governing the vote in the jurisdiction to which transfer is to be made are set forth in Paragraph (c) which reads as follows: "The jurisdiction to which transfer is to be made, by a two-thirds majority of the total of Annual Conference members present and voting. The vote shall be taken in the various Annual Conferences of the jurisdiction and certified by their secretaries to the College of Bishops, which shall determine whether two thirds of the total vote in the jurisdiction is favorable." It is clear that Amendment IX does not require each of the Annual Conferences of the jurisdiction to which transfer is to be made to be tested separately in relationship to the two-thirds voting requirement. By the express wording of Paragraph (c) it is enough that when the vote is taken in the various Annual Conferences "two-thirds of the total vote in the jurisdiction is favorable." Accordingly, the plan of transfer and merger embodied in the resolution was not defeated because of the failure of the North Carolina Annual Conference to accord it a two-thirds majority vote. In the briefs amicus curiae considerable reliance is placed upon a separate resolution, not specifically involving the merger here under consideration, submitted May 11, 1966 by the Advisory Council of the Southeastern Jurisdiction to all Annual Conferences of that jurisdiction and approved by them by vote of 5904 to 1820. The resolution authorized transfer of all Central Jurisdiction Annual Conferences within the geographic area of the Southeastern Jurisdiction into the latter jurisdiction. It also purported to authorize subsequent mergers of transferred Annual Conferences with Annual Conferences of the Southeastern Jurisdiction, by vote of the Annual Conferences of that jurisdiction but without further action at the jurisdictional level other than in matters pertaining to the episcopacy. We also note in the briefs a suggestion that adoption of this Advisory Council resolution is thought to have supplied the vote required by Section 2 (c) of Amendment IX obviating any further action by the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in order to validate specific mergers subsequently effected. Nothing in our decision in the instant case should be construed as acceptance of this interpretation as to which substantial questions exist.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the resolution to transfer and merge the North Carolina-Virginia Annual Conference of the Central Jurisdiction to and into the North Carolina Annual Conference, the Virginia Annual Conference and the Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the Southeastern Jurisdiction requires for its adoption an aggregate two-thirds majority vote of the total of Annual Conference members present and voting in the several Annual Conferences of the respective jurisdictions. The failure of the North Carolina Annual Conference to reach a two-thirds majority vote does not invalidate the plan embodied in the resolution here under consideration. November 11, 1966 CONCURRING OPINION I concur in the majority opinion insofar as it relates to the votes required for the transfer of the North Carolina-Virginia Annual Conference from the Central Jurisdiction to the Southern Jurisdiction. I respectfully dissent from that portion of the opinion which holds that a vote by Annual Conferences only meets the legal requirement for the merger of the North Carolina-Virginia Annual Conference with conferences of the Southeastern Jurisdiction for the reasons set forth in the dissenting opinion to Decision 233 and the concurring opinion to Decision 234 in which I joined.

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