Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 409
April 23 1976
In Re: Petition from the General Board of Global Ministries for a Declaratory Decision on the Validity of Paragraph 665.1 of the 1972 Discipline.
Digest of Case
Paragraph 665.1 of the Discipline is unconstitutional because it purports to delegate to the Annual Conference blanket authority with regard to whether or not the Annual Conference will comply with specific, non-optional mandates of the Discipline. Paragraph 665.1 of the Discipline is unconstitutional also because it requires the approval of the Council on Ministries of the Annual Conference to determine that the essential functions required by the Discipline are cared for.
Statement of Facts
The Board of Global Ministries, creation of the 1972 General Conference, became the successor agency to several commissions, divisions and boards. The Board of Global Ministries on October 24, 1975, requested a "declaratory judgment from the Judicial Council on the validity of Paragraph 665.1 of the 1972 Book of Discipline." The following statements were contained in correspondence from the Board: "During the past three years the General Board of Global Ministries has been working on legislation which has now been forwarded to the General Conference. Through the legislative process the Board debated how in light of the experience of the present quadrennium it would be possible to carry forth its disciplinary mandates related to the outreach ministries of the Church without a clearer interpretation of Paragraph 665.1. The 1972 Book of Discipline spells out certain linkages that the Board is to develop (Example: Paragraphs 1101, 1178.2, 1186) with the Annual and District Conferences. Yet the Discipline makes clear in Paragraph 665.1 that the Annual Conferences have the right to decide what the relationships shall be in a connectional church." * * * "A second concern for the Board of Global Ministries is the maintaining of linkages in all of the Annual Conferences, and there is fear that these linkages might not be preserved if Paragraph 665.1 remains valid. Also the consistency of the linkage patterns would be broken." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1515.2c of the 1972 Discipline. ANALYSIS In October, 1969, the Judicial Council in Decision No. 314 declared that: "An Annual Conference may not restructure itself in such a manner that it disregards the mandatory structure established by the General Conference and described specifically in the Discipline." In 1970 the General Conference adopted a modifying paragraph to Paragraph 665.1 of the Discipline which read: "Where size, circumstance, and specific mission responsibilities demand, an Annual Conference may, in consultation with and approval by the presiding bishop, modify the organizational structure as ordered by the General Conference; provided that adequate provisions shall be made in such an organizational plan for relating the Annual Conference structures to appropriate jurisdictional and general church agencies and structures, and provided further, that the essential functions as required by the Discipline shall be cared for." The Judicial Council Decision 339 in 1971 declared this paragraph unconstitutional as an impermissible delegation of legislative powers. The General Conference of 1972 amended Paragraph 665.1 and it now reads: "Notwithstanding any other provision of the Discipline requiring an Annual Conference to constitute any board, commission, or committee, the Annual Conference may modify its structure and rather than establishing such board, commission or committee, may assign its duties to other organizations of the conference, provided adequate provision is made as determined by a two-thirds vote of the Council on Ministries of the Annual Conference and the written consent of the presiding bishop and Cabinet so that the essential functions required by the Discipline are cared for." The petition before the Judicial Council at this time is to determine whether Paragraph 665.1 of the Discipline as revised in 1972 has eliminated the factors which made the previous paragraph unconstitutional. This has not been done. It is true that the phrase "notwithstanding any other provision . . ." would eliminate doubts as to whether the Annual Conference qualified by "... size, circumstance and specific mission responsibilities. . ." to determine what they will do regarding establishment of Annual Conference boards. It raises, however, an equally complex problem: Whathappens to the distinction the General Conference intended between those paragraphs in which it is stated the Annual Conference "may" establish a counterpart agency and those paragraphs in which it states an Annual Conference "shall" establish a counterpart agency. In Decision No. 339, the Judicial Council declared: "If each Annual Conference is free to decide for itself, without guidelines or controlling standards from any other source regarding any of the restrictive elements listed, the total connectional system of the church will be undercut at the Annual Conference level, not promoted and administered as the Constitution contemplates. The General Conference may not so delegate its constitutional responsibilities." We reaffirm this statement. The new Paragraph 665.1 of the 1972 Discipline gives the Annual Conference even wider freedom to modify the mandatory structures ordered by the General Conference "notwithstanding any other provision of the Discipline." One must assume that there are reasons behind General Conference actions when some Annual Conference structures are made mandatory and others permissive. To make some provisions concerning Annual Conference structures mandatory and then add a paragraph which allows Annual Conferences to ignore them is not only questionable legislation, it is an impermissible delegation of legislative powers by the General Conference and an abdication of its constitutional responsibilities. Under Paragraph 15.3 and 15.8 of the Constitution, the General Conference has full legislative powers over all matters distinctly connectional, among which are specifically the power to define and fix the powers and duties of Annual Conferences and the power to initiate and direct all connectional enterprises of the Church. Some argue for greater freedom for an Annual Conference to determine its own structure. Others feel that by deleting the mandatory clauses in the provisions which determine Annual Conference structures the Church is departing from its heritage and is endangering the important relationships through which connectionalism works. These decisions, however, must be made by the General Conference as it balances permissive and mandatory provisions concerning Annual Conference structures. It cannot make some provisions mandatory and then empower Annual Conferences to ignore them. We would further point out that the provision of Paragraph 665.1 requiring approval of the Council on Ministries of an Annual Conference action is clearly unconstitutional. The Council on Ministries of an Annual Conference is a subordinate body of the Annual Conference. The Annual Conference cannot be required to seek permission of a subordinate body in order to take action. To this further extent Paragraph 665.1 is unconstitutional. In Decision No. 364 the Judicial Council held that Paragraph 827.1 and 827.2 was an unconstitutional delegation of power as to the General Council on Ministries and the General Conference. The same rule applies to the authority of an Annual Conference Council on Ministries in relation to an Annual Conference. (Decisions 105, 364, 385)
Paragraph 665.1 of the Discipline is unconstitutional because it purports to delegate to the Annual Conference blanket authority with regard to whether or not the Annual Conference will comply with specific, non-optional mandates of the Discipline. Paragraph 665.1 of the Discipline is unconstitutional also because it requires approval of the Council on Ministries of the Annual Conference to determine that the essential functions required by the Discipline are cared for.