Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 540
May 03 1984
In Re: Constitutionality of Mandatory Election of Member of Judicial Council from Central Conferences in Par. 2601.
Digest of Case
The requirement in Par. 2601 that one member of the Judicial Council shall be elected from the Central Conferences is unconstitutional.
Statement of Facts
In the plenary session of the General Conference on May 4, 1984, the following motion was adopted by one-fifth of the delegates: I move that this General Conference petition the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision under para. 2615 as to the constitutionality meaning, application or effect of the 1980 General Conference action (adopting the report of the Commission on Central Conference Affairs) making it mandatory that "One member (of the Judicial Council) shall be elected from the Central Conferences," and; Further, that the Commission on Central Conferences be a party to the Declaratory Decision proceedings before the Judicial Council; And further, that the election for the Judicial Council be scheduled by the Agenda Committee as soon as practicable after receipt of the Declaratory Decision. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Discipline Par. 2615. ANALYSIS In Pars. 7ff, the Constitution sets forth the powers, duties, and privileges of the General Conference. Among them (Par. 15.14) is "to secure the rights and privileges of membership in all agencies, programs, and institutions in The United Methodist Church regardless of race or status." Membership for all is easily possible in many voluntary, all-inclusive bodies of the church. There are local congregations, prayer and study groups, worship assemblies, and many other groups where all who wish may join and participate, and this right is guaranteed them by the Constitution. Beyond these voluntary groups are those representational groups in which membership is of necessity limited in some fashion, and for which there must be election or selection procedures. What must be guaranteed in all such cases is equal access, or equal possibility of election or selection. Inherent in this is equal possibility of representation for those who, because of numerical limitations or other practical considerations, may not in fact become members of certain church bodies. The General Conference has implemented this principle by requiring, in Par. 2601, that "each of the jurisdictions and Central Conferences as a group shall be represented by at least one nominee. . ." The legislation goes on to make it clear that "it shall not be a requirement that each of the jurisdictions be represented by an elected member." However, the next sentence guarantees membership to the Central Conferences, and to them alone. To guarantee representation to one group is by definition to deny it to another. The impact of such denial is in inverse proportion to the size of the group: the smaller the group, the greater the impact on those who are in effectexcluded. The Judicial Council is one of the smallest official bodies of The United Methodist Church, limited by General Conference legislation to nine members. To guarantee one of those nine places to one group creates a preferred status which is denied to other groups, thus reducing by a significant degree the access of all others to membership on that body. The "rights and privileges of membership in all agencies, programs and institutions in The United Methodist Church" have not been fully protected for all members whose possibility of election to the Judicial Council has been reduced. Therefore, the provision in Par. 2601 which says of the Judicial Council that "one member shall be elected from the Central Conferences" is invalid and of no effect. See Decisions 4 and 5, Interim Judicial Council, and Decisions 362 and 451. It should be noted that nothing in this decision precludes election of one or more members to the Judicial Council from the Central Conferences. It says only that such election may not be made mandatory under present Constitutional provisions.
The requirement in Par. 2601 that one member of the Judicial Council shall be elected from the Central Conferences is unconstitutional. Concurring Opinion to Decision No. 540 I concur with the decision of the Council. It needs to be said, however, that the Judicial Council understands and sympathizes with the motives of the General Conference in enacting the language adopted in 1980. Certainly everyone qualified, whether from a Central Conference or not, should have an opportunity to serve. This is to be encouraged. However, this cannot be done at the expense of the rights of others. As I wrote in a dissent to Decision No. 433, "The Judicial Council has an obligation to find constitutionality when possible.... No one would lose their rights if they were deleted." We could not find constitutionality here. But here, also, no one loses their rights by deletion. Tom Matheny Dissenting Opinion I am compelled respectfully but unequivocally to dissent. I can understand, though not necessarily agree, with an argument that the creation of a special right for one group is unwise or undesirable, but cannot see any constitutional violation. Guaranteeing representation to one group does not deny it to another. There are countless instances in our Discipline where privileged status is given to one group. That does not mean that "the rights and privileges of membership in all agencies, programs and institutions in The United Methodist Church have not been fully protected for all members whose possibility of election ... has been reduced." For one among a multitude of examples, when one of the nine members at large of the General Council on Finance and Administration must not be over twenty-one years of age, a preferred status has been granted which is denied to the other groups. The possibility of election has been reduced for all who have passed their twenty-first birthday. The Central Conferences are as much a part of The United Methodist Church as are the Jurisdictional Conferences. If guaranteeing representation to the Central Conferences as one group but not to any of the five jurisdictions were an unconstitutional denial of representation, how much more invalid would it be to guarantee representation to each of five jurisdictions but not to the Central Conferences even as a single group? Par. 805 guarantees representation on each general board to each of the five jurisdictions but not to the Central Conferences. The same is true of Par. 905 with respect to the General Council on Finance and Administration and Par. 1702 with respect to the Board of Pensions. In each instance, however, there are at-large memberships for which members of the Central Conferences are eligible, so they have not been unconstitutionally excluded. Par. 4 of the Constitution prohibits exclusion on the basis of race, color, national origin, or economic condition. Par. 2601 does not exclude anyone from the Judicial Council. Subparagraph 15.14 of the Constitution authorizes the General Conference, when it sees fit, to use its legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional to secure the rights and privileges of membership in all agencies regardless of race or status. The 1980 amendment of Par. 2601 is legislation designed to secure representation on the Judicial Council for a very important sector of the church which has never yet had such representation. It does not deny such representation to any other sector. Some may think it unwise or unnecessary, but it in no way violates any provision of the Constitution. Respectfully submitted, Leonard D. Slutz