Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 512
October 29 1982
In Re: Application and Effect of Rule Limiting Tenure of Superintendents in Missionary Conferences.
Digest of Case
All years of service as a conference or district superintendent in a Missionary Conference shall be counted against the maximum allowable under Discipline Pars. 658 and 516.
Statement of Facts
The 1980 General Conference enacted legislation (Par. 658.1) imposing a limit on the tenure of conference and/or district superintendents within missionary conferences: "Such appointment(s) shall comply with limitations onyears of service as found in Par. 516." The General Conference did not state when this limitation was to take effect (other than the general provision in Par. 609), nor was there any action specifically including or excluding years of service prior to the effective date. At the 1982 session, the Red Bird Missionary Conference acted to ask the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision to determine the effective date of the legislation, since the tenure of the present Red Bird Missionary Conference superintendent might be affected. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Pars. 2615 and 658. ANALYSIS The 1976 Discipline provides: The Council of Bishops shall provide episcopal supervision for such Missionary Conferences as are organized. The bishop thus placed in charge and having episcopal supervision in cooperation with the Board of Global Ministries shall appoint a conference superintendent and the district superintendents for such terms as the bishop may determine. Par. 691.1 In 1980 the Discipline was revised to read as follows: The College of Bishops shall provide episcopal supervision for any missionary conference(s) within its jurisdictional boundaries as are organized. The bishop thus placed in charge and having episcopal supervision within the respective episcopal area in cooperation with the General Board of Global Ministries shall appoint a conference superintendent and/or district superintendents. Such appointment(s) shall comply with limitations on years of service as found in Par. 516. Par. 658.1. Par. 516 provides for limitations on years of service: An elder may not be appointed a district superintendent for more than six years in any consecutive nine years. No elder shall serve as district superintendent more than twelve years. In addition, consideration shall be given to the nature of superintendency as described in Pars. 501-502. The request from the Red Bird Missionary Conference specifically asks the question whether service prior to the effective date of the six year limit is included in computing the total. There have been instances where legislation limiting tenure has not been retroactively applied, but that was because of the specific provisions. In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant church united to form the Methodist Church. Prior to unification, there had been considerable variation of tenure limitations among the constituent bodies. At unification, a uniform six-year tenure limitation on district superintendents was imposed and previous years of service were to be counted against this maximum, but exceptions were made, as in the case of certain overseas conferences. Those exceptions were clearly spelled out (1939 Discipline Par. 400.31; 1940 Discipline Par. 332.3). Similarly, an exception was made by the 1968 merging General Conference with regard to former Evangelical United Brethren superintendents. The General Conference intentionally acted to provide that no more than a maximum of three years of prior service be counted. The years served by a district superintendent is a Methodist Annual Conference or by a district superintendent in an Evangelical United Brethren Annual Conference immediately prior to union shall in the first appointment under The United Methodist Church be counted as part of the six-year maximum, except that in the case of a conference superintendent of The Evangelical United Brethren Church no more than a maximum of three years' service prior to his coming to membership in an Annual Conference employing the appointive system shall be counted. (For the rule relating to service on agencies see Par. 808.4) par. 391.4, 1968 Discipline On the other hand, in Judicial Council Decision No. 229, a question was asked by the Chile Annual Conference where no exception was specified in the legislation. The decision was that "A bishop may not appoint any minister as a district superintendent for more than six consecutive years nor for more than six years in any consecutive nine years, including years prior to the enactment of the legislation." Subsequently, in Decision No. 416, the question was asked regarding the effective date for the eight year limitation on the assignment of a bishop. The decision was "The effective date for beginning the imposition of the disciplinary limitation of eight years for episcopal assignment to the same area was September 1, 1976. Those who complete eight or more years of consecutive service in a residence in 1980 should be assigned to a new area on September 1, 1980." In that instance, the General Conference had specifically given an effective date and prior service was to be counted. No limitation of retroactivity is included in Par. 658.1 of the 1980 Discipline. It must, therefore, be concluded that no exception was intended, and that all years of service, including those prior to the 1980 session of the General Conference, are to be counted.
All years of service as a conference or district superintendent in a Missionary Conference shall be counted against the maximum allowable under Pars. 658 and 516 of the 1980 Discipline. There is no exception by which previous years of service may be excluded.