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Decision No. 327

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April 17 1970
In Re: The Scope of Ministerial Membership in an Annual Conference as a Basis of Representation in the General Conference.

Digest of Case

All ministerial members of an Annual Conference, of whatever category, should be counted in determining the number of delegates to the General Conference to which an Annual Conference is entitled. Under present legislation this includes ministerial members in full connection, probationary members, and associate members, both active and retired.

Statement of Facts

The General Conference Commission on Entertainment and Program has petitioned for a declaratory decision on the basis for determining which categories of ministers are to be counted in determining the number of members an Annual Conference is entitled to elect to a General Conference. The petition reads: "The 1968 Discipline provides in paragraph 601.1 for the election of one ministerial delegate to the General Conference for every 140 ministerial members of the Annual Conference, etc. Paragraph 315 of the Discipline defines the ministerial membership of an Annual Conference as consisting of 'members in full connection, probationary members, and associate members.' "Traditionally, both constituent churches of The United Methodist Church based their representation upon full members of an Annual Conference. Probationary Members and Associate Members cannot vote for General Conference delegates nor can they be elected as delegates themselves. "Question: Is the definition of ministerial membership in paragraph 315 determinative of the meaning in paragraph 601.1, so that full members, associate members and probationary members must be counted for the purpose of determining the number of General Conference delegates?" JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715 of the 1968 Discipline. ANALYSIS The Constitution of the church directs that the ratio of representation in the General Conference from the Annual Conferences must be computed upon a two-factor basis: (1) the number of ministerial members of an Annual Conference,and (2) the number of church members in that Annual Conference (Par. 14). The Constitution does not define what is meant by a ministerial member. The second criterion of church membership is not involved in the petition presented to us. The General Conference has implemented the constitutional mandate by the following legislation: "Par. 315. The ministerial membership of an Annual Conference shall consist of members in full connection, probationary members, and associate members." "Par. 601. Composition.-The membership of the General Conference shall consist of an equal number of ministerial and lay delegates elected by the Annual Conferences as provided in the Discipline. "1. One ministerial delegate for every 140 ministerial members of the Annual Conference ... "2. One ministerial delegate for the first 44,000 resident church members of the Annual Conference.... "3. . . . the term 'ministerial members' as used above shall refer to both active and retired members of the Annual Conference." It seems clear that the General Conference has defined ministerial membership in an Annual Conference as including members in full connection, probationary members, and associate members, both active and retired. The Constitution directs that the ministerial membership, without limitation, be included in determining the entitlement of an Annual Conference to elect delegates to a General Conference. The fact that elsewhere the Constitution (Par. 39) and the Discipline (Pars. 332 and 660.1a) impose restrictions upon the right of a ministerial member to vote for a General Conference delegate, or upon the right of a ministerial member to serve as a General Conference delegate presents no contradiction to our conclusion. Rather, these restrictions emphasize the sweep and the generality of the constitutional requirement that ministerial members of an Annual Conference be counted without restriction in determining the number of General Conference delegates to which an Annual Conference is entitled.

Decision

The definition in paragraph 315 of ministerial membership in an Annual Conference is determinative of the meaning of "ministerial members" in Paragraph 601.1. Consequently, all ministerial members in full connection, probationary members, and associate members, both active and retired, must be counted in determining the number of delegates to which the Annual Conference is entitled to send to a General Conference.

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