Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 319
October 31 1969
In Re: Ruling of Bishop Cornelio M. Ferrer in the Mindanao Annual Conference on the Question of Whether or Not the Definition of a Pastoral Charge in Paragraph 106 of the Discipline Shall Be the Basis for Lay Representation in the Annual Conference.
Digest of Case
There is only one "charge" in The United Methodist Church. That is the "pastoral charge" as defined in Paragraph 106.1 of the Discipline. A Charge Conference organized from the church or churches of the pastoral charge is the only body authorized to elect lay members of the Annual Conference.
Statement of Facts
During the session of the Mindanao Annual Conference held at Kidapawan, Cotabato, Philippines, on May 21-25, 1969, a ruling was asked on the question of the Disciplinary basis for lay representation in the Annual Conference. B. David Williams, Jr., a ministerial member, argued that a pastoral charge consisting of one or more churches, as defined in Paragraph 106 of the Discipline, should be represented by only one lay member. The Bishop ruled as follows: "The basis of lay representation to the Annual Conference shall not be based on the 'Pastoral Charge' as defined in Paragraph 106 of the 1968 Discipline, but it shall be based upon the term 'Local Charge' in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 660.3 and Paragraph 36, Article I of the Constitution. Therefore, a 'Pastoral Charge' consisting of two distinct 'Local Charges,' and each 'Local Charge' has its own separate Charge Conference, each 'Local Charge' shall be entitled to one lay delegate to the Annual Conference." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1712 of the Discipline. ANALYSIS Paragraph 36 of the Constitution reads: "The Annual Conference shall be composed of ministerial members as defined by the General Conference, together with a lay member elected from each charge. . . . Each charge served by more than one minister shall be entitled to as many lay members as there are ministerial members. . . ." Paragraph 11 of the Constitution reads: "There shall be Charge Conferencefor each church or charge with such powers, duties, and privileges as are hereinafter set forth. It might appear from this language that a Charge Conference could be organized in charges or in churches within charges. That this was not intended, however, is made clear by later paragraphs in the Constitution and in General Conference legislation. Paragraph 48 of the Constitution reads: "There shall be organized in each charge a Charge Conference composed of such persons and invested with such powers as the General Conference shall provide." Paragraph 106.1 of the Discipline defines a pastoral charge: "A Pastoral Charge shall consist of one or more churches which are organized under, and subject to, the Discipline of The United Methodist Church, with a Charge Conference, and to which a minister is or may be duly appointed or appointable as pastor in charge." Paragraph 144 of the Discipline defines the composition of the Charge Conference and states: "Within the pastoral charge the Charge Conference is the basic unit in the connectional system of The United Methodist Church." Paragraph 145 of the Discipline defines the powers and duties of the Charge Conference, among them being the election of the "lay member(s) of the Annual Conference." It is clear that the word "charge" in the Constitution is defined by Paragraph 106.1 of the Discipline and that the Charge Conference is the only body authorized to elect lay members of the Annual Conference. One feels that Bishop Ferrer has been deceived by the unfortunate language of Paragraph 660.3 of the Discipline which reads: "The lay member, or alternate, whoever was last seated in the Annual Conference, shall be seated in a special session of the Annual Conference when convened; provided that no local charge shall be deprived of its lay member due to death, serious illness, or cessation of membership. Under such circumstances another lay member may be elected by the Charge Conference." There is no such thing as a "local charge" in The United Methodist Church as something to be distinguished from the "pastoral charge" as defined in Paragraph 106.1. The adjective "local" was apparently added to Paragraph 660.3 for emphasis but the sentence would have been clearer without it. There are "local churches" and "church local conferences" (Par. 1530) which can be organized in local churches within a pastoral charge with authority and power in matters relating to the real and personal property of the local church concerned, but with no authority to elect lay members to the Annual Conference. Such elections are authorized only by the Charge Conference. To speak of "local charges" within "pastoral charges" with their own "Charge Conferences" with authority to elect lay members of the Annual Conference, is to misinterpret the Discipline. There is a further observation which is pertinent here. In its General, Jurisdictional and Annual Conferences The United Methodist Church seeks to provide regulations and procedures which will insure the equal representation of ministers and laymen. Paragraphs 12 and 24 of the Constitution specifically provide that the General and Jurisdictional Conferences shall be composed of an equal number of ministers and laymen. Paragraph 106.1 of the Discipline defines a charge as a church or group of churches to which a minister is appointed or appointable. Paragraph 36 of the Constitution provides for the election of a lay member from each charge and provides, further, that if a charge is served by more than one ministerial member of the Annual Conference it is entitled to an equal number of lay members. All of this is designed to keep the Annual Conference membership as equally divided as possible between ministers and laymen. If, by Bishop Ferrer's decision, there should be one ministerial member from a charge and one lay member from each church on the charge or circuit it would destroy this principle of equal representation.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that Paragraph 36, Article I of the Constitution determines the number of lay members of an Annual Conference to be elected by each charge, that Paragraph 106.1 defines a pastoral charge, and that the Charge Conference of a pastoral charge is the only body authorized to elect lay members of the Annual Conference. The ruling of Bishop Ferrer is, therefore, reversed.