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Decision No. 479

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April 21 1980
In Re: Equalization of Lay and Ministerial Membership of the Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

An Annual Conference does not have the responsibility or the right to equalize lay and ministerial membership when the ministerial membership numbers less than the lay members. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2515 of the 1976 Discipline

Statement of Facts

The Council of Bishops has requested a declaratory decision with reference to Par. 36, Article 1, of the Constitution. Par. 36 provides: The Annual Conference shall be composed of ministerial members as defined by the General Conference, together with a lay member elected by each charge, the conference president of United Methodist Women, the conference president of United Methodist Men, the conference lay leader, the president of the conference youth organization, and two young persons under twenty-five (25) years of age from each district to be selected in such manner as may be determined by the Annual Conference. Each charge served by more than one minister shall be entitled to as many lay members as there are ministerial members. The lay members shall have been for the four years preceding their election members of one of the constituent churches forming the union or of The United Methodist Church, and for one year next preceding their election as a member of the charge they are to represent. 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. The question raised is whether a similar responsibility exists to equalize lay and ministerial membership in an Annual Conference when the membership of ministers numbers less than lay members. The action arose in regard to Annual Conferences which have fewer ministerial members than lay members. ANALYSIS Par. 36, Article I is a section of the Constitution as amended in 1972 by the addition of the last paragraph which reads: 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 members of the Annual Conference. (DCA, pp. 441, 890, April 29) As explained by the chairman of the Committee on Conferences at the time of the Committee's report to the General Conference, the intent of the amendment was to increase the lay representations so that it would be equal, or approximately equal, to the ministerial membership. It was also stated that no provision was being made for ministerial members to be treated in the same fashion. Thus, as the Constitution now stands, there is no responsibility or right to equalize lay and ministerial membership in an Annual Conference when ministerial membership numbers less than the lay membership.

Decision

An Annual Conference does not have the responsibility or the right to equalize lay and ministerial membership when the ministerial membership numbers less than the lay members.

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