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Decision No. 352

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April 16 1972
In Re: Request for a Declaratory Decision on Constitutionality of Decision Concerning the Order of Central Conference Lay Delegates as Reserve Delegates to the General Conference.

Digest of Case

The Constitution of The United Methodist Church requires that all delegates to the Jurisdictional or Central Conference shall, in order of their election, be the reserve delegates to the General Conference. This applies to persons elected from among the nominees of the Committee on Women's Work.

Statement of Facts

The Judicial Council received a petition from the Committee on Women's Work of the Central Conference of the Methodist Church in Southern Asia (Par. 631.15), requesting a declaratory decision on the status of certain women delegates to Central Conference as reserve delegates to the General Conference. In the Methodist Church in Southern Asia there is a Woman's Conference as a unit of each Annual Conference (Par. 631.16). The Constitution of the Central Conference provides that two of the delegates to the Central Conference from each Annual Conference be nominated by the respective Woman's Conference. This nomination is provided by the Woman's Conference supplying a panel of four names to the Annual Conference out of which two are to be elected by the lay delegates of the Annual Conference. The remainder of the delegates from the Annual Conference are elected without nomination. In the Delhi Annual Conference, March 21-24, 1971, the vote tally showed that one of the names nominated by the Woman's Conference received the highest vote and, according to order of election, she was declared by the presiding bishop of the Annual Conference to be the first reserve delegate to the General Conference. When the Judicial Court of the Central Conference of the Methodist Church in Southern Asia met in Bombay, September 16, 1971, one of the cases before it was a matter referred to it by the Commission on Structure of Methodism and Church Union: "Election of Woman's Conference Members as Alternates to the General Conference Delegates: It was reported that some Annual Conferences have elected Woman's Conference members as alternates to General Conference delegates from the panel submitted by the Woman's Conference, and the following resolution was adopted and forwarded to the Judicial Court for a Declaratory Decision: 'Whereas there is some confusion in the election of Woman's Conference members as alternates to General Conference delegates, and whereas the panel from the Woman's Conference places restrictions upon the vote of the Annual Conference, "Be it resolved: That a petition be sent to the Judicial Court for a declaratory decision as to whether delegates to the Central Conference elected from the panel submitted by the Woman's Conference can be reserve delegates to the General Conference?' " The Judicial Court gave its decision as follows: "The women delegates to the Central Conference are elected from a panel of names submitted by the Woman's Conference and therefore that election is limited in its scope compared with the general election of lay delegates from among all lay men and women. Therefore, it is not equitable to put women delegates elected on nomination on the same footing as other delegates elected generally. "The Judicial Court is therefore of the opinion that the women delegates elected to the Central Conference on nomination by the Woman's Conference may be included in the list of reserve delegates to the General Conference following the names of the rest of lay delegates to the General Conference." The Committee on Woman's Work of the Central Conference now asks for a Declaratory Decision as to whether the ruling of the Judicial Court is in violation of the Constitution of the Church which in Paragraph 38 states that "the additional delegates to the Central Conference shall in order of their election be reserve delegates to the General Conference." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715.2(h) of the 1968 Discipline. ANALYSIS The Discipline of The United Methodist Church, Paragraph 630.1, states: "The Central Conference shall be composed of ministerial and lay members in equal numbers, the ministerial members elected by the ministerial members of the Annual Conference and the lay members by the lay members thereof. Their qualifications and manner of election shall be determined by the Central Conference itself, subject only to constitutional requirements . . ." This clearly is intended to give some latitude to Central Conferences in the matter of determining the procedures of election of their members. There are some restrictions in terms of qualifications of delegates which are enumerated in Paragraphs 39 and 40 of the Constitution, but none of these is involved in this particular case. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the Central Conference of the Church in Southern Asia from deciding, as it has decided, that two of its lay members from each Annual Conference shall be elected from a panel of nominees presented by the Woman's Conference related to that Annual Conference. It is only at the point of the Constitutional requirement in Paragraph 38 that questions arise. This paragraph states: "The additional delegates to the Jurisdictional orCentral Conference shall in the order of their election be the reserve delegates to the General Conference." It is speaking of Jurisdictional or Central Conference delegates in addition to those who have been elected as the regular delegates to the General Conference. These are to be the reserve delegates to the General Conference "in the order of their election." Therefore, the question is, what constitutes "order of election"? How is this determined and by whom? May the United Methodist Church in Southern Asia make its own determination of what constitutes "order of election"? The Central Conference in Southern Asia is free to determine its own election procedures so long as they meet constitutional requirements. However, one of these constitutional requirements is that reserve delegates to the General Conference shall be listed "in order of their election." The constitution does not give a direct, detailed definition of "order of election." However, it comes very close to doing just that. Paragraph 38 states: "Thepersons first elected up to the number determined by the ratio for representation in the General Conference shall be representatives in that body." (Emphasis supplied.) It then states that additional delegates, enough to complete the number determined for the Jurisdictional or Central Conference membership, shall be elected and says that "the additional delegates ... shall in order of their election be the reserve delegates to the General Conference." Thus the "order of election" is determined by who is elected first; that is, on the first ballot, the second ballot, etc. It is also uniform practice, although no mention is specifically made of it in the Constitution, that if two or more are elected on the same ballot, their "order of election" is determined by the number of votes each receives on that ballot. The Judicial Court in Southern Asia has quite properly pointed out that the persons nominated by the Woman's Conference in each Annual Conference have a definite election advantage over other laymen who have no nomination prior to the election ballot. The Annual Conference is restricted in its selection of representatives from the Woman's Conference to two of the four who have been previously nominated by the Woman's Conference. Under such a system, it is not surprising that some of these representatives would be elected on the first or a very early ballot and that some of them might well poll the highest number of votes on such a ballot. Once these persons have been elected, however, their "order of election" cannot be altered without doing violence to the provision of the Constitution which requires that they shall be named as reserve delegates to the General Conference "in order of their election." If it is felt that these persons have an unfair advantage under the present system of electing, then the remedy is not in altering the "order of election" after the election has taken place. The remedy lies in changing the procedure of election itself so that it is fair to all. The Central Conference in Southern Asia established its present procedure under the authority granted to it in Paragraph 630.1 of the Discipline and under that paragraph it has authority to change its procedure so long as it meets all of the constitutional requirements.

Decision

The Constitution of The United Methodist Church requires that all delegates elected to the Jurisdictional or Central Conference shall, in order of their election, be the reserve delegates to the General Conference. This applies to persons elected from among the nominees of the Committee on Woman's Work.

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