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Decision No. 469

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October 26 1979
In Re: Unconstitutionality of an Annual Conference Action That Requires All Local, District and Conference Officers and Central and General Conference Delegates From an Annual Conference to Make a Covenant to Tithe in Order to Qualify for These Positions.

Digest of Case

An Annual Conference may not require that officers in local churches, district conferences, the Annual Conference, and its delegates to Jurisdictional, Central and General Conferences, fulfill a tithing covenant as a condition for holding such office.

Statement of Facts

At the session of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference held May 9-13, 1979 at Quibadia, Obando, Bulacan, the Conference voted to request a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality of actions taken at the 1978 session of the Annual Conference which provided: ... that all officers in the local church, district and conference should make a Covenant to Tithe so that they may become examples to other church members; and that those who fail to fulfill this tithing covenant have no right to be officers in the church. It further provided: ... that a candidate (for delegate to the General and/or Central Conference) may be elected only if he/she can present to the Committee on Credentials a certification signed by the pastor and the treasurer of his/her church that he/she is a tither. A further action of the Annual Conference in its 1979 session was to approve "that implementation of Actions 78:017 and 78:210 be suspended until such timethat the Judicial Council has resolved the issue." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2515. ANALYSIS The issue here is whether or not an Annual Conference may add to the qualifications set forth by General Conference action in regard to persons who hold offices in the local church, District and Annual Conference, and/or in regard to persons who are eligible to be elected to Central and General Conference. Par. 248 provides for membership on the Administrative Board of the local church. It lists certain ex-officio members and then states: Members of the Administrative Board shall be persons of genuine character who love the Church, are morally disciplined, are loyal to the ethical standards of The United Methodist Church set forth in the Social Principles, and are competent to administer its affairs. It shall include youth members chosen according to the same standards as adults. All shall be members of the local church, except where Central Conference legislation provides otherwise. There appear no further qualifications in the paragraph. The only stipulation concerning members in the District Conference is found in Par. 751.1, "A District Conference shall be composed of members as determined and specified by the Annual Conference." The Discipline, Par. 700 provides for the composition and character of an Annual Conference. Ministerial members and lay members are provided for. Par. 244.1 provides for the election of lay member(s) of the Annual Conference by the Charge Conference: The lay member(s) of the Annual Conference and one or more alternates shall be elected annually or quadrennially as the Annual Conference directs ... Both the lay members and the alternates shall have been members in good standing of The United Methodist Church or one of the churches forming the union for at least four years, and of the local church from which they are elected for at least one year ... While the Discipline recommends tithing along with proportionate giving, there is no provision for such an action as that proposed by the Middle Philippines Conference. In calling for a Committee on Finance in the local church, the Discipline (Par. 260.3) recommends that: ... a program should be developed within every local church to carry on education in the field of stewardship of possessions to the end that there may be growth in standards of giving, with an emphasis on concepts of proportionate giving and tithing. This program shall be auxiliary to the stewardship program in the area of stewardship in the Board of Discipleship. (Par. 255.5) Since the General Conference is charged with setting the qualifications for membership and officers in the local church, District and Annual Conference, an Annual Conference may not add to or subtract from those qualifications. Therefore, the action of the Middle Philippines Annual Conference in requiring that such officers fulfill a tithing covenant and present certification of their practice of tithing, is unconstitutional.

Decision

An Annual Conference may not require that officers in local churches, District Conferences, the Annual Conference, and its delegates to Jurisdictional, Central and General Conference, fulfill a tithing covenant as a condition for holding such office.

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