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Decision No. 402

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October 16 1975
In Re: Petition from the Commission on the General Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Question:

Digest of Case

Delegates to the General Conference must be elected by the Annual Conferences or by affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches and the Methodist Church in Great Britain when concordats with them are approved by the General Conference. Only such duly elected persons have all the rights and privileges of delegates, including the right to expenses and per diems.

Statement of Facts

The Commission on the General Conference at its meeting on October 16, 1974, authorized a petition to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision to clarify the meaning of Paragraph 12 of the Constitution on the composition of the General Conference. The Commission noted that at the General Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, a number of caucus groups were seated on the floor of the Conference by vote of the General Conference. They were given voice but not vote. Some of the persons so seated sought expenses and per diems on the assumption that they had been constituted as delegates to the General Conference. The Commission felt that a declaratory decision was necessary to set forth the law of the Church and to preclude any misunderstanding about who are properly constituted as delegates to the General Conference. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1515 of the Discipline. ANALYSIS Paragraph 12 of the Constitution has no ambiguity in it concerning the composition of the General Conference. Its ministerial and lay delegates are to be elected by the Annual Conferences. When the Paragraph was amended in 1968 there were additional provisions. The Paragraph now reads: "1. The General Conference shall be composed of not less than 600 nor more than 1,000 delegates, one half of whom shall be ministers and one half lay members. "2. Delegates shall be elected by the Annual Conferences except that delegates may be elected by other autonomous Methodist churches if and when the General Conference shall approve concordats with such other autonomous Methodist churches for the mutual election and seating of delegates in each other's highest legislative conferences. "3. In the case of The Methodist Church in Great Britain, mother church of Methodism, upon mutual approval of the concordat now pending, provision shall be made for the reciprocal election and seating of four delegates, two clergy and two lay." Paragraph 601 of the Discipline carries out the constitutional requirement of Paragraph 12 as it provides for the election of ministerial and lay delegates to the General Conference by the Annual Conferences. Paragraphs 641.3 and 644 carry out the constitutional provisions authorizing the election of delegates from affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches. The concordats provide that such delegates "have all the rights and privileges of delegates, including membership on committees, except the right to vote." Such delegates, even with such restrictions are properly constituted delegates by constitutional provision. The only fully constituted delegates to the General Conference are those elected by the Annual Conferences or those whose elections are approved by concordats with affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches or with The Methodist Church of Great Britain. Only such fully constituted delegates have all the rights and privileges of delegates to the General Conference, including the rights of expenses and per diems. Presumably the General Conference has the power to grant certain courtesies to certain individuals or groups for a limited participation in the General Conference, but it has no authority to constitute or seat such persons as delegates with all the rights and privileges of the same. Paragraph 15.15 of the Constitution grants to the General Conference power to "enact such other legislation as may be necessary, subject to the limitations and restrictions of the Constitution of the Church." With two minor exceptions the Constitution provides that the delegates to the General Conference shall be elected by the Annual Conferences. The General Conference has no power to constitute or seat delegates to itself.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the only legally constituted delegates to the General Conference are those who are elected by the Annual Conferences, or those elected by affiliated autonomous Methodist Churches or by The Methodist Church in Great Britain in concordats approved by the General Conference. Only such duly elected persons have all the rights and privileges of delegates, including the right to expenses and per diems.

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