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Decision No. 541

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May 07 1984
In Re: Changes by a Central Conference of the Number of its Annual Conferences. Unconstitutionality of Portion of Par. 638.11.

Digest of Case

Under Par. 45 of the Constitution a Central Conference may change the number of its Annual Conferences without regard to the limitation on that authority expressed in Par. 638.11. To the extent Par. 638.11 restricts that right, it is unconstitutional.

Statement of Facts

In the plenary session of the General Conference on May 4, 1984, the following motion requesting a declaratory decision was adopted by more than one-fifth of the delegates: Since the Commission on Central Conference Affairs is charged with matters pertaining to the Central Conferences, and Annual Conferences therein (Par. 2301), and since the manner by which the number of Annual Conferences within a Central Conference is determined, and who grants such authorization, is not clear, the Commission on Central Conference Affairs, recommend that the General Conference requests a declaratory decision as follows: Are the restrictions in Par. 636.1, lines 3-5 (". . . in such numbers as the General Conference by a two-thirds vote shall determine. . ."), and Par. 638.11, lines 6-9 ("provided, however, that the number of Annual Conferences which may be organized within the bounds of a Central Conference shall first have been determined by the General Conference.") in conflict with the Constitution, Par. 45, Article IV? JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Discipline Par. 2615 ANALYSIS The issue is whether a Central Conference may change the number of its Annual Conferences without regard to any action by the General Conference under subparagraph 638. 11. The decision depends on the meaning and effect of Par. 45 of the Constitution which reads: Changes in the number, names, and boundaries of the Annual Conferences may be effected by the Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States of America and by the Central Conferences outside the United States of America according to the provisions under the respective powers of the Jurisdictional and the Central Conferences. This would clearly decide the issue were it not for the final words, "according to the provisions under the respective powers of the Jurisdictional and the Central Conferences." To what provisions does this reference pertain? Par. 26 with respect to the Jurisdictional Conferences includes two pertinent provisions relating to boundaries. One requires that there be no Annual Conference with less than fifty ministerial members in full connection. The second provides that during the first three quadrenniums after union, which have now passed, subparagraph 4 does not apply to Annual Conferences of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church. A similar restriction is in Par. 41 of the Constitution. Hence changes in the boundaries of those Annual Conferences by the Jurisdictional Conferences could not be made during that twelve year period and changes in the boundaries of any other Annual Conference could be made by a Jurisdictional Conference only according to the provision regarding the minimum number of ministerial members. Except for the temporary restrictions of Par. 41, changes of number or names by Jurisdictional Conferences, or changes of number, names, and boundaries by Central Conferences, however, are not subject to any provisions or restrictions. See also Par. 30.4. Any other interpretation of Par. 45 would make it meaningless and superfluous. Every presumption must be that a paragraph of the Constitution has meaning and purpose. Subparagraph 15.3 authorizes the General Conference: To define and fix the powers and duties of Annual Conferences, Provisional Annual Conferences, Missionary Conferences and Missions, and of Central Conferences, District Conferences, Charge Conferences, and Congregational Meetings. We have repeatedly held, though, that the General Conference may not limit or contravene the powers of the Annual Conference which are expressly given to them by the Constitution. Similarly, the general legislative authority granted the General Conference does not extend to restriction or contravention of the specific powers granted to the Central Conferences by Par. 45 or Par. 30. Hence, a Central Conference has unrestricted constitutional authority under Par. 45 to change the number of its Annual Conferences. Subparagraph 638.11 is unconstitutional to the extent it limits that right by stating . . . provided, however, that the number of Annual Conferences which may be organized within the bounds of a Central Conference shall first have been determined by the General Conference." We need not rule upon subparagraph 636.1, for it relates to determination of the number of Central Conferences, not to the number of Annual Conferences within a Central Conference. It does not conflict with Par. 45 of the Constitution.

Decision

Under Par. 45 of the Constitution a Central Conference may change the number of its Annual Conferences without regard to the limitation on that authority expressed in Par. 638.11. To the extent Par. 638.11 restricts that right, it is unconstitutional.

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