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Decision No. 537

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April 29 1984
In Re: Whether "Ministerial Members in Full Connection" and Traveling Preachers" are Synonymous as Used in Discipline Par. 39.

Digest of Case

The phrase "ministerial members in full connection" and "traveling preachers" are not synonymous as used in Par. 39 of the Constitution. They are both requirements for eligibility for election as a delegate to General, Jurisdictional, or Central Conferences.

Statement of Facts

The Board of Higher Education and Ministry on October 15, 1983 requested a declaratory decision to determine if Par. 39 of the Constitution allows ministerial members of an Annual Conference who do not itinerate to be elected to the General, Jurisdictional, or Central Conferences. The issue raised is based on proposed legislation of that Board. The recommendation of the Ministry Study Committee provides for two forms of representative ministry, both of which would be ordained and full ministerial members of the Annual Conference. The two forms would be (1) elders who would itinerate, and (2) (new) deacons who would not itinerate. Par. 39 of the Constitution states: The ministerial delegates to the General Conference and to the Jurisdictional or Central Conference shall be elected by the ministerial members in full connection with the Annual Conference or Provisional Annual Conference; provided that such delegates shall have been traveling preachers in the constituent churches forming this union or in The United Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding their election and are in full connection with the Annual Conference or Provisional Annual Conference electing them when elected and at the time of holding the General and Jurisdictional or Central Conferences. The request raised two questions: 1. Are the terms "ministerial members in full connection" and "traveling preachers" synonymous for "ministerial members in full connection," so that a (new) deacon who is a ministerial member in full connection is eligible for election as a delegate to General or Jurisdictional Conference under the present provisions of Par. 39? 2. Is a Constitutional Amendment required to make this possible, to wit, deleting "traveling preachers" and replacing it with "ministerial members in full connection"? JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615.2(c). ANALYSIS A review of the Discipline in both the Methodist tradition and that of the Evangelical United Brethren Church clearly indicates that the requirement for eligibility for election as a ministerial member of the General Conference shall include membership in the itineracy. Par. 21 (1964) of the Methodist Constitution provides: "The Annual Conference shall be composed of all thetraveling preachers in full connection with it. . . " Par. 112 (1967) of the E. U. B. Constitution provides: "The ministerial delegates shall be elected fromthe active itinerant elders." Par. 39 (1968) of The United Methodist Church carried the language still in use: The ministerial delegates to the General Conference and to the Jurisdictional or Central Conference shall be elected by the ministerial members in full connection with the Annual Conference or Provisional Annual Conference; provided that such delegates shall have been traveling preachers in the constituent churches forming this union or in The United Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding their election and are in full connection with the Annual Conference or Provisional Annual Conference electing them when elected and at the time of holding the General and Jurisdictional or Central Conferences. The new Par. 39, as it continues in the present Discipline, clearly means itinerant ordained ministers under episcopal appointment. This paragraph and corresponding sections of legislation, especially Pars. 413 and 419, treat of who is eligible to vote for and to be elected ministerial delegate to the said conferences. Par. 39 explicitly, specifically, and mandatorily restricts eligibility for election to full members of the Annual Conference who shall have been in the itineracy for at least four years next preceding election, and are in full connection both at the time of election and time of holding of the said conference. Par. 413.3, relative to probationary members reads: . . . "They shall not beeligible for election as delegates to the General or Jurisdictional Conferences." Relevant portions of Par. 419.4 place the same restrictions on eligibility in regard to associate members as those upon probationary members. Thus, presently, only those who are in full connection, eligible for election to and ordination as Elder, have been "traveling preachers" for the specified time, and are in full connection at time of election as delegates to and time of holding of the General, Jurisdictional or Central Conferences are eligible to be elected delegates. As Par. 39 now reads, the phrases "ministerial members in full connection" and "traveling preachers" can in no sense be construed as being synonymous. They are separate and distinct prerequisites for eligibility. Probationary members and associate members are traveling preachers but are not ministerial members in full connection. A constitutional amendment would be required to make the proposed new deacons eligible to be elected.

Decision

The phrases "ministerial members in full connection" and "traveling preachers" are not synonymous as used in Par. 39 of the Constitution. They are both requirements for eligibility for election as a delegate to General, Jurisdictional, or Central Conferences.

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