Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 333
October 30 1970
In Re: Request from the Commission on Entertainment and Program for Clarification and Interpretation of Certain Constitutional and Disciplinary Provisions Relating to the Qualification and Election of Delegates to the 1972 General Conference.
Digest of Case
Seven questions which were raised by the Commission on Entertainment and Program are answered in the Decision.
Statement of Facts
The Judicial Council received a petition from the Commission on Entertainment and Program asking for opinions and decisions which would clarify the meaning of certain passages in the 1968 Discipline which deal with the problems relating to the qualification and election of delegates to the 1972 General Conference. Most of these problems arise out of the requirements regarding guaranteed representation from the former Evangelical United Brethren Church and the limitations regarding the maximum number of delegates to this General Conference. Upon invitation from the Judicial Council the commission also presented oral statements and answered questions regarding the items contained in the petition. The representatives of the commission were: Jack M. Tuell, Marion R. Walker, R.Bryan Brawner, and J. Wesley Hole. Specifically the commission has asked for decisions on the following questions: 1) How is the formula for determining the number of delegates from each Annual Conference as stated in Paragraph 601 to be interpreted ? 2) Are the China Annual Conferences of the former The Methodist Church presently officially recognized as a part of The United Methodist Church and, therefore, entitled to representation in the General Conference? 3) Preliminary computations indicate that the use of the formula in Paragraph 601 in its present form will result in a total number of delegates in excess of the 1,000 allowable; and the paragraph requires that when such a condition obtains, the secretary of the General Conference shall take remedial action. Should such action be taken in advance of the election of delegates by any of the Annual Conferences or only after the Annual Conference elections actually result in more than the 1,000 delegates being elected? 4) The formula for determining the number of delegates to be elected to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences uses both ministerial members of the Annual Conference and resident church members within the bounds of the Annual Conference; and Paragraph 21 states that the figure for resident church membership of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church to be used in such calculation shall be the number reported immediately prior to church union, but does not make any statement relative to ministerial members of an Annual Conference. Would it be reasonable and valid to use as the number of ministerial members from the former Evangelical United Brethren Church the number of such ministers assigned to a successor Annual Conference at the time of conference merger? 5) In using "ministerial membership" of former Evangelical United Brethren Conferences as a factor in determining the allocation of the number of former Evangelical United Brethren members to be elected to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences, should probationers and local elders be included? 6) Paragraph 602.1 states that for the 1972 General Conference, 13% of the delegates shall be chosen from among members coming from the former Evangelical United Brethren membership and 87% from among members coming from the former Methodist membership. Are these figures binding, and, if so, is it proper for the secretary to advise Annual Conferences that the number of delegates from each of the two former denominations allocated by the provisions of the Discipline are binding and cannot be changed? 7) The Discipline does not state any rule relative to reserve delegates from the former Evangelical United Brethren membership. If a delegate elected from among the former Evangelical United Brethren membership is absent or unable to serve, must the place be filled by a reserve delegate from the former Evangelical United Brethren? JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715 of the 1968 Discipline. ANALYSIS Since there are seven separate parts to the petition presented, we will consider each of the items individually and in the order in which they are listed in the Statement of Facts. 1) The meaning of Paragraph 601 is best arrived at by considering the paragraph as a whole rather than by attempting to set one statement in the paragraph over against another. Such consideration tends to eliminate ambiguities. The paragraph first states how an Annual Conference qualifies for entitlement to elect specified numbers of delegates to the General Conference. The formula, which has a two-fold factor, is illustrated only in terms of ministerial delegates, but states that it also applies for an equal number of lay delegates. The formula is given in explicit terms. Factor one is ministerial members in the Annual Conference and 140 such members entitles the conference to one ministerial delegate; 211 to 350 ministerial members, two ministerial delegates; 351 to 490 ministerial members, three delegates; et cetera. Factor two of the formula is resident church members within the conference. Here the figures are: 44,000 members, one delegate; 66,001 to 110,000, twodelegates; 110,001 to 132,000, three delegates; et cetera. The formula thus leaves an Annual Conference which has neither a minimum of 140 ministerial members nor 44,000 resident church members without any delegates. This obviously is unfair, and the paragraph, but not the formula, provides a way to correct this by its statement, "Every Annual Conference shall be entitled to at least one ministerial and one lay delegate." Thus, any Annual Conference which is too small to qualify under the formula for representation is entitled to a minimum of two delegates. Note that delegates are provided for either by the formula set forth in Paragraph 601 or by the sentence assuring a minimal guarantee, but not by both. 2) The former The Methodist Church had a Central Conference and nine Annual Conferences in China. None of these Annual Conferences has had delegates attending a General Conference since 1948. From all the evidence which is now available, it seems improbable that any of these conferences will be able to have delegates in the 1972 General Conference. The commission asks if it is required to make allowance for delegates from these conferences in calculating the total number of delegates to be elected to the General Conference. It is not the responsibility of the commission to assure that the maximum possible number of delegates are elected or attend the General Conference. It is the responsibility of the commission to assure that not more than the maximum number can be elected. Therefore, the determinative criterion as to whether allowance shall be made in the total for representatives from these conferences is not whether they can elect and send delegates. The determinative criterion is whether the conferences are, on the record, Annual Conferences of The United Methodist Church. If they are, then allowance must be made for them because "Every Annual Conference shall be entitled to at least one ministerial and one lay delegate." (Par. 601) There is, however, a very real question whether these Annual Conferences of the former The Methodist Church in China now are, or ever have been, a part of The United Methodist Church. The Enabling Legislation creating The United Methodist Church and officially adopted and approved by the General Conference of 1968 in its list of Annual Conferences which are part of the new church, does not list any of these Annual Conferences. Neither do we find a listing of or reference to any of these conferences as part of The United Methodist Church in any other part of the Discipline. We, therefore, can only conclude that these Annual Conferences were not brought into the new church at the time of church union and are not now a part of The United Methodist Church. Based upon this conclusion, there need be no allowance for their representatives in the total number of delegates to be elected. 3) The Constitution of The United Methodist Church (Par. 12) sets 600 as the minimum and 1,000 as the maximum number of delegates for a General Conference. Paragraph 601 of the Discipline provides a formula for determining the number of delegates from each Annual Conference and a procedure for adjusting the formula as may be necessary based on church statistics to assure that the authorized delegates shall be within these limits. Upon the basis of the latest statistics for the total denomination (December 31, 1969) which will be available before Annual Conferences will begin to elect delegates for the 1972 General Conference, it is evident that the secretary of the General Conference will have to adjust the formula in order to keep the number of delegates within the maximum limit. The authorization for adjustment in the formula (Par. 601) is not tied to actual elections. Rather, it is to be determined by "computations." It states, "Should the computations provided in this paragraph result in a figure below the prescribed minimum or above the prescribed maximum for delegates, the secretary of the General Conference shall be authorized to remedy the situation by adjusting . . ." In order that such adjusting may be done on a basis which is fair to all Annual Conferences, it should be based upon statistics which are confirmed from all Annual Conferences before any of them elect delegates. The most recent statistics thus available before some Annual Conferences must elect delegates to the 1972 General Conference, are the statistics as of December 31, 1969. We hold that the secretary is authorized to adjust the formula on the basis of the Annual Conference statistics as of the above date and to notify the Annual Conferences as to the number of delegates they are to elect. Such notification should go to all Annual Conferences before any are scheduled to elect delegates. 4) There is a two factor basis for determining the number of delegates to be elected by each Annual Conference: the number of ministerial members andresident church members. These two factors are also relevant to the number of delegates from among the former Evangelical United Brethren to be elected by a particular Annual Conference if the guaranteed representation is to be attained. The Constitution, Paragraph 21, states that the figure for resident church members to be used in such computations shall be the number of such resident members immediately prior to union. Some comparable date must be fixed for ministerial members of the Annual Conference. On this, the Constitution and the Discipline are silent. The responsibility for fixing such a date, therefore, rests with the commission which must make the determination, subject only to the requirements of reasonableness and fairness. The commission has suggested that the figure to be used be the number of former Evangelical United Brethren ministerial members which were assigned to the successor conference at the time of merger. It is our opinion that such a procedure is both fair and reasonable and violates no provision of the Constitution or the Discipline. 5) The question of who is to be included in the ministerial membership of an Annual Conference for the purpose of calculating the number of delegates to the General Conference to which that Annual Conference is entitled was dealt with by the Judicial Council in its Decision No. 327. What it says in effect is that all who are defined as ministerial members must be counted. In the former Evangelical United Brethren Church only itinerant ministers were members of the Annual Conference with voting rights. Paragraph 81 of the 1967 Discipline, The Evangelical United Brethren Church states, "The membership of the Annual Conference shall consist of all its itinerant ministers, its lay members elected as provided for in the Discipline . . ." Thus, a local elder or a probationer was not a member of an Evangelical United Brethren Annual Conference and, therefore, these persons should not be counted in determining the allocation of former Evangelical United Brethren members to be elected as delegates to the Jurisdictional and General Conferences. 6) Paragraph 602.1 of the 1968 Discipline is quite specific in its requirement that of the total number of delegates to be elected to the 1972 General Conference, 13% must be from among former Evangelical United Brethren members, and 87% must be from among former Methodists. Some have contended that the only purpose of this provision was to assure that the minimum of double representation for former Evangelical United Brethren as set forth in Paragraph 21 of the Constitution will be attained. However, it not only sets forth the percentage for the former Evangelical United Brethren, but also the percentage for the former Methodists. Since it meets the minimum requirements for former Evangelical United Brethren contained in the Constitution, it cannot be held to be in conflict. There is nothing in church law or procedure which prohibits the General Conference from going beyond that specific constitutional requirement for former Evangelical United Brethren to also assure that the former Methodists shall have fair and proportionate representation. This the General Conference did by enacting Paragraph 602.1. We hold, therefore, that the fixed percentages stated in Paragraph 602.1 are binding in determining the number of delegates from the membership of both former denominations for the 1972 General Conference and cannot be changed. The Annual Conferences should be so notified by the secretary of the General Conference. 7) If a delegate to the General Conference, either from among the former Evangelical United Brethren or the former Methodist membership, is absent or unable to serve then a reserve to replace him must be a person with the same delegate qualifications. To assure that each Annual Conference will have the proper number of delegates and reserves which will meet the disciplinary requirements, it will be necessary that votes be cast for delegates and reserves in two separate categories; former Evangelical United Brethren and former Methodist and the proper number elected in each category. The voting may be simultaneous and on the same ballot, and all voting members of the conference are entitled to vote for delegates and reserves in both categories.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that: 1) Any Annual Conference which is too small to qualify under the formula for representation set forth in Paragraph 601.1 and .2 is entitled to one ministerial delegate and one lay delegate. Delegates are provided for either by the formula stated in Paragraph 601 or by the sentence in that paragraph which guarantees the minimum number of delegates, but not by both. 2) The China Central Conference is recognized as a constituent part of The United Methodist Church. However, no information is available to the commission as to Annual Conferences within that Central Conference. Since representation in the General Conference may be only from Annual Conferences, there is at present no basis for designating delegates from the China Central Conference. Therefore, the commission need not make allowance for delegates from the Annual Conferences of the China Central Conference within the maximum number of 1,000 delegates. 3) The secretary of the General Conference is authorized to adjust the formula for election of delegates to the General Conference as provided in Paragraph 601. The computation for all Annual Conferences should be based on statistics as of December 31, 1969, and all Annual Conferences notified of the number of delegates to which they will be entitled before any hold their elections. 4) For the secretary of the General Conference to use the number of former Evangelical United Brethren ministers assigned to a successor conference at the time of conference merger as one basis for calculating the number of former Evangelical United Brethren delegates to be elected from that conference to the 1972 General Conference, would be fair and reasonable and would violate no provision of the Constitution or Discipline of the church. 5) All former Evangelical United Brethren ministers whose status was that of itinerant ministerial member of the Annual Conference at the time of church union shall be counted in determining the basis for the election of delegates to the Jurisdictional and General Conferences. 6) The percentages of delegates to be elected to the 1972 General Conference from both former denominations as stated in Paragraph 602.1 of the Discipline are binding. They may not be changed, and Annual Conferences should be so notified. 7) The reserve delegates elected by an Annual Conference should have the same percentage proportion from each former denomination as the regular delegates. When a reserve is seated in place of a regular delegate, he must be from the membership of the same former denomination as the delegate whose place he fills.