Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 372
November 08 1973
In Re: Ruling of Bishop Jack M. Tuell on the Eligibility of Affiliate and Associate Members of a Local United Methodist Church to be Members of and to Vote in the Administrative Board, Charge Conference or Church Conference.
Digest of Case
Affiliate and associate members of a local United Methodist Church are not eligible to be members of nor allowed to vote in the Administrative Board, Charge Conference or Church Conference. Such affiliate and associate members may hold only such offices as are not elsewhere in the Discipline limited to "members of the local church."
Statement of Facts
John J. Shaffer, Pastor of the Juneau-Douglas Larger Parish, raised the question of the voting rights of affiliate and associate members. He noted there appeared to be inconsistencies in the Discipline. Mission Superintendent Ac C. Wischmeier replied that it was his opinion that affiliate and associate members are not eligible to serve on the Administrative Board as Paragraph 149 states "all shall be members of the local church." A written request was made by John J. Shaffer to the Alaska Missionary Conference for a ruling on the question of the eligibility of affiliate and associate members of a local church to be members of the Administrative Board, Charge Conference, or Church Conference of the local church. Bishop Jack M. Tuell ruled affirming the decision of the Missionary Superintendent Ac C. Wischmeier. The ruling was challenged in the Annual Missionary Conference session. With the necessary 1/5 vote of the members present and voting, the conference voted to refer the ruling to the Judicial Council for its decision. The report and transmittal was made June 27, 1973 to the secretary of the Judicial Council by Bishop Jack M. Tuell of the Portland Area. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1511 Of the 1972 Discipline. ANALYSIS Paragraph 108 of the Discipline makes it absolutely clear that to be a member of a local church one must first be baptized and secondly come into membership either by confession of faith or transfer. Paragraph 126, which defines affiliate members and associate members, does not require either confession of faith or transfer of membership. Paragraph 108 states: "The membership of a local United Methodist Church shall include all baptized persons who have come into membership by confession of faith or transfer and whose names have not been removed from the membership rolls by reason of death, transfer, withdrawal, or removal for cause." The Discipline Of The United Methodist Church also provides in Paragraph 126 that: "A member of The United Methodist Church, residing for an extended period in a city or community at a distance from the member's home church, may on request be enrolled as an affiliate member of a United Methodist Church located in the vicinity of the temporary residence. The home pastor shall be notified of this affiliate membership. Such membership shall entitle the person to the fellowship of that church, to its pastoral care and oversight, and to participation in its activities, including the holding of office, but that person shall be counted and reported only as a member of the home church. A member of another denomination may become an associate member under the same conditions." The intent of this paragraph is to provide spiritual and pastoral care to a person who chooses to remain a member of a home church elsewhere but at said member's request may be enrolled as an affiliate or associate member, with rights described in Paragraph 126. Were it not for the phrase, ". . . including holding of office . . .", the question would be easy to solve. To limit the person from membership on the Administrative Board is effectively to eliminate him from some positions. It does not, however, eliminate him from holding office. One can hold offices as Vice Chairman, Secretary, Chaplain, Treasurer, Chairman of Ad Hoc Committees, in addition to being a member of a number of important committees. It would appear that this is the application intended for the phrase, ". . . including the holding of office . . ." Paragraph 126 clearly states, ". . . including the holding of office . . .", however, there are three statements in the Discipline that limit the rights set forth to members in the local church. 1. Paragraph 149 states in part that for the Administrative Board: "Allshall be members of the local church except where Central Conference legislation provides otherwise." 2. Paragraph 144.2 states for membership in a Charge Conference: ". . .shall be all members of the Administrative Board named in Paragraph 149 . . ." 3. Paragraph 147 states voting in a Church and/or Charge Conference is restricted "to all local church members present at such meetings." Where persons may be residing in an area for reasonably lengthy periods of time, it might well be they should select a transfer of membership rather than affiliate or associate membership. In this way, they are not only entitled to all of the benefits of church membership, but share in all of its responsibilities. While it is recognized that the will of the General Conference has been to encourage fuller participation in church activities, the seeming conflict in the statement regarding holding office in Paragraph 126 and the limiting statements in other paragraphs of the Discipline must be resolved in favor of limiting the rights of affiliate and associate members. If a different result is desired, it must come as the result of changes in the Discipline.
The Judicial Council affirms the decision of Bishop Jack M. Tuell which states that affiliate and associate members are not eligible to be voting members of the Administrative Board, Charge Conference or Church Conference of a local United Methodist Church. November 9, 1973 Dissenting Opinion We find ourselves unable to agree with our colleagues in this decision. We can find nothing in the Discipline which requires the interpretation which it gives to Paragraph 126. The majority opinion acknowledges that the question would be easy to solve were it not for the phrase in paragraph 126 which states that among the rights of affiliate and associate members in the local church is the right of participation in the activities of the local church " . . . including the holding of office . . ." That phrase, however, is there and it is not qualified in any way. There are no restrictions in this paragraph or in any other paragraph of the Discipline which would entitle affiliate and associate members to hold certain offices in the local church and forbid them to hold certain other offices. The majority opinion finds that this right to hold office is limited by other paragraphs of the Discipline which make local church membership a requirement for voting membership on an administrative board or in a charge or church conference, thus disqualifying affiliate or associate members from membership on an administrative board and from holding any office in a local church which carries with it membership on the administrative board. This finding requires the interpretation that affiliate and associate members are not members of the local church. None of the paragraphs quoted make this distinction. As an illustration, in the Annual Conference there are several categories of membership for ministers, probationary, associate and full members. All are members of the Annual Conference. All have the same voting powers and privileges in the Annual Conference except in certain instances where specific provisions of the Discipline put limitations on probationary and associate members (Par. 322.2 and 325.2). There are no such limitations on any categories of local church membership. Paragraph 126, on the contrary, assures membership rights and privileges to affiliate and associate members without restriction. The majority opinion finds a distinction between a local church member who has come into the church by the procedure of baptism and confession of faith or transfer and an affiliate or associate member of the local church of whom, the decision says, neither confession of faith nor transfer is required. It needs to be pointed out that an affiliate member has come into membership in another local United Methodist Church through the same procedure of baptism, and confession of faith or transfer and that an associate member has joined that persons's local church of another denomination by a similar procedure. The Discipline, in Paragraph 126, grants such members of other local churches the right to choose, for a temporary period, between transfer of membership and affiliate or associate membership, and assures to affiliate and associate members, for that period of time, all the rights and privileges of membership including the unrestricted right to hold office. RALPH M. HOUSTON TOM MATHENY HOOVER RUPERT