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Decision No. 612

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April 20 1989
In Re: Reconsideration of Decision 602.

Statement of Facts

At its November 1988 meeting the Council of Bishops requested rehearing on Decision 602, and the Judicial Council granted rehearing. Bishop Jack M. Tuell presented oral argument on behalf of the Council of Bishops. Decision 602 is reversed. Par. 35 of the Constitution grants the General Conference the authority to define the ministerial membership of the Annual Conferences. The General Conference defines categories of clergy, and the Annual Conferences decide which individual clergy are to be included in those categories. Decision 477 states that "The Annual Conference does not have the authority to define its own ministerial membership." Par. 701.1(e) gives that very authority to the Annual Conference and is, therefore, unconstitutional. Concurring Opinion We concur that Par. 701.1(e) is unconstitutional, but for reasons other than those cited in the majority opinion. Par. 701.1(e) is unconstitutional because it denies the Annual Conference power to determine its ministerial membership, a power specifically given to the Annual Conference and to no other entity or person by the Constitution. (Par. 36) Under Par. 701.1(e), part-time and student local pastors may be made voting members of the Annual Conference only if under appointment. Thus, although ministerial members in fall connection may determine which qualified persons are approved as part-time and student local pastors, they cannot determine who among those approved shall be appointed and thereby made ministerial members of the Annual Conference. The power of appointment is exclusively an episcopal prerogative. (Par. 57) Constitutional conflict exists because the bishop, in selecting those to be appointed, would make the final determination of ministerial membership. The same constitutional conflict exists in Pars. 701, 701.1(d) and 412, which make full-time local pastors voting members of the Annual Conference only if under appointment. Under this provision, also, the bishop in making appointments makes the final determination of Annual Conference membership, contrary to Par. 36 of the Constitution. A similar constitutional problem is created by Par. 427.1, 2, which gives the bishop authority to transfer an ordained minister from another Annual Conference or another Methodist denomination without Annual Conference action. In so doing, the bishop determines the ministerial membership of the Annual Conference, a decision reserved to the Annual Conference by Par. 36 of the Constitution. The conflicts of constitutionality would be avoided if, after appointment and transfer decisions have been made, those persons selected for appointment are submitted by name to the ministerial members in full connection of the Annual Conference for consideration as ministerial members. Wayne Coffin Albert W. Sweazy

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