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Decision No. 545

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October 25 1984
In Re: Constitutionality of Discipline Pars. 920.3 and 1630.2 Relating to the Ministerial Education Fund.

Digest of Case

Pars. 920.3 and 1630.2 of the 1980 Discipline are constitutional. The General Conference can require that the Ministerial Education Fund be a priority for the Annual Conferences.

Statement of Facts

The Memphis Conference in annual session June 5, 1984 adopted the following motion: The Council on Finance and Administration moved that the Memphis Annual Conference, in session June 3-6, 1984 request the Judicial Council to render a declaratory decision relative to the constitutionality of Pars. 920.3 and 1630.2 of the Discipline. The motion was approved. Par. 920 deals with legislation for the Ministerial Education Fund and Par. 920.3 places a limitation on the use of such funds by an Annual Conference. The paragraph states, "The fund shall be regarded by Annual Conferences as a priority to be met before any additional benevolences, grants, or funds are allocated to a theological school or school of religion." Par. 1630.2 reads the same as Par. 920.3 except for the addition of, "in the Conference's region." The request states that Par. 37, Art. II, "The Annual Conference is the basic body in the church . . .," appears to render Par. 920.3 and 1630.2 unconstitutional by removing a basic right from the Annual Conference by placing a priority on the use of the Ministerial Education Fund. The Memphis Conference apportioned the Ministerial Education Fund to the local churches but in addition they allocated funds to the Cumberland Presbyterian Seminary within the bounds of the Conference to maintain a Chair of Methodist Studies. An oral hearing was held on October 26th at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Dr. C. Wayne Fesmire appeared for the Memphis Annual Conference and Craig R. Hoskins for the General Council on Finance and Administration. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615 of the Discipline. ANALYSIS The Memphis Annual Conference raises a question as to whether or not the General Conference has a right to insist that the Ministerial Education Fund be given priority status. The Memphis Annual Conference contends that under Par. 37, as the basic body in the Church, it has the right to determine priorities including the question of ministerial education funding. However, continued reading of Par. 37 states ". . . rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference under the Constitution . . . " Under Par. 15 it is stated that the General Conference ". . . shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional . . ." Under Section 8 of Par. 15 the General Conference is specifically given the power to "initiate and to direct all connectional enterprises of the church . . ." The operation of the Ministerial Education Fund is a connectional enterprise of the church and thus is a right given specifically to the General Conference. Further, under Section 9 of Par. 15 the General Conference has authority "to determine and provide for raising and distributing funds necessary to carry on the work of the Church."

Decision

The General Conference has full legislative powers over all matters distinctively connectional and can direct that the United Methodist Ministerial Education Fund is a priority, and as such, is to be met before funds can be given by an annual conference to theological seminaries or schools of religion. Pars. 920.3 and 1630.2 of the 1980 Discipline are constitutional.

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