Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 378
November 09 1973
In Re: Petition from the South Indiana Annual Conference for an Interpretation of the Meaning of the Word
Digest of Case
In The United Methodist Church ministers in an Annual Conference serve under appointment. The word "served" as used in Paragraph 36 can be equated with "appointed." Therefore a local church is entitled to elect as many lay members to its Annual Conference as there are ministerial members of the Conference appointed to serve that local church.
Statement of Facts
The South Indiana Annual Conference at its regular session, June 1973, named a special ad hoc committee on conference lay membership to bring a recommendation concerning the specific question of additional lay members from churches using retired ordained clergy as part-time pastors. The report of the Committee states in part: "Whereas we affirm the principle of equal representation of lay persons and ministers in the Annual Conference; "Whereas we are a special committee assigned to bring a recommendation concerning the specific question of additional lay members for churches using retired ordained clergy as part-time pastors; . . . "Now therefore, our answer to the question raised is that any charge shall elect an additional lay member for each retired ministerial member of the Annual Conference who serves that charge. "Be it resolved that this Fifth Annual Session of the South Indiana Conference define the word "served" in the above constitutional section as involving a minimum average weekly expenditure of time of twenty (20) hours and $1,500 annual salary. "We recommend the adoption of this report, its definition and resolution, that it be implemented by the 1974 session, and that an interpretation be requested from the Judicial Council." The report of this committee, including the request for interpretation from the Judicial Council, was adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the conference on June 7, 1973 and forwarded to the secretary of the Judicial Council over the signatures of the presiding bishop and the conference secretary. No briefs or other additional statements have been filed with the Council in this matter. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1515.2 of the 1972 Discipline. ANALYSIS The direct question presented by the South Indiana Conference is, "What is the meaning of the Constitution in Section VII, Article I (Paragraph 36) in the sentence, 'Each charge served by more than one minister shall be entitled to as many lay members as there are ministerial members.'" The totality of the resolution presented to and adopted by the conference indicates that the conference was having difficulty because the word "served" is used in Paragraph 36 rather than the word "appointed." In The United Methodist Church a minister is "appointed" to "serve." A minister serves a local church, in his ministerial capacity, carrying out ministerial functions only under appointment by a bishop. Paragraph 390.4 states that it is the duty of a bishop, "To fix the appointments of the preachers in the Annual Conferences.... The bishop may appoint an associate pastor for a charge when such an appointment is judged necessary." The question to be resolved in this petition is whether a minister, who is a member of the Annual Conference, and is employed part-time to perform ministerial functions in a local church, entitles that local church to have an additional lay member to represent it in the Annual Conference. There is no evidence to indicate that the framers and adopters of Paragraph 36 had in mind anything except regularly appointed ministerial members of the Annual Conference as constituting the basis for the determination of the number of lay members elected by the local church. This Council has been able to find no evidence that any other basis has ever been employed by an Annual Conference. We hold that there is no difference between the meaning of the word "served and that of the word "appointed" so far as this paragraph is concerned because ministers serve under appointment. A local church, therefore, is entitled to elect a lay member to its Annual Conference for each ministerial member of its Annual Conference who has been appointed to serve that local church during the conference year in which the election takes place. In view of the pending announcement that the amendment of Paragraph 36 which was proposed by the 1972 General Conference has been approved by the Annual Conferences, the basis for determining the number of lay members of an Annual Conference will be changed. The amendment reads: "That Section 7, Article I(Paragraph 36) be amended by adding a paragraph at the end thereof as follows: 'If the lay membership should number less than the ministerial members of the Annual Conference, the Annual Conference shall, by its own formula, provide for the election of additional lay members to equalize lay and ministerial membership of the Annual Conference."' Thus this amended paragraph will require that there be as many lay members as ministerial members, including retired members, whether or not they may be serving under appointment. The amendment leaves to the Annual Conference the determination of the procedure it will use in electing these additional lay members. Whether or not any of them will be elected by local churches, and if so on what basis, will be for each Annual Conference to decide.
Ministers in an Annual Conference serve under appointment. The meaning of the phrase "served by more than one minister" as used in Paragraph 36 of the 1972 Discipline is not different from what the meaning would be if the phrase "to which more than one minister is appointed" were used. Therefore a local church is entitled to elect as many lay members to its Annual Conference as there are ministerial members of that Annual Conference appointed to serve that local church.