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Decision No. 687

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April 22 1993
In Re: Constitutionality, Meaning, Application and Effect of the Formula in Par. 602 for Representation to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences.

Digest of Case

We uphold the constitutionality and legality of Par. 602 of the 1992 Discipline and the present method of determining the distribution of General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates.

Statement of Facts

The Texas Annual Conference petitioned the Judicial Council to issue a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application and effect of the current formula for representation to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences under Par. 602.3. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1992 Discipline . ANALYSIS Historically, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Par. 32, 1894 Discipline) based representation on the total membership of the Annual Conference comprising itself of all ministerial members in full connection plus four laity from each district. The Methodist Episcopal Church formula was based strictly on ministerial membership in the Annual Conference until unification. At the union in 1939 the formula was based on ministerial membership exclusively. According to the 1967 Discipline of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the basis was ministerial and lay membership in the Annual Conference. Lay and Clergy membership was equal. The 1968 merger adopted a compromise plan set forth in Par. 601 of the 1968 Discipline, and it remains essentially unchanged. The General Conference shall be composed of not less than 600 nor more then 1000 delegates, one half of whom shall be ministers and one-half lay delegates, to be elected by the Annual Conferences. Par. 14 gives to the General Conference authority to fix the ratio of the Annual Conference representation. This has been done in Par. 602. The General Conference has constitutional authority to fix the formula for representation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences. The Constitution gives no guidelines by which to judge the appropriateness of Par. 602 other than that the final result be between 600 and 1000 and be half clergy and half lay. Par. 602 is constitutional. The principle of "one person/one vote" is prized in American society but has not been integrated into either the church's Constitution or laws. The Constitution is clear on the point that every Annual Conference, no matter what size, shall have at least one clergy and one lay representative (Par. 12). It further grants representation to certain concordat churches without reference to number of clergy or lay members. These provisions would have to be removed from the Constitution in order to fulfill the request of the Texas Conference. If the Texas Annual Conference or any of its members wishes to petition the General Conference to provide a new formula based on "one person/one vote" and based on lay membership alone, they may choose to do so. The matter is legislative, not judicial.

Decision

We uphold the constitutionality and legality of Par. 602 of the 1992 Discipline and the present method of determining the distribution of General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates. Note: This copy subject to final editing and corrections. DISSENTING OPINION Decision No. 687 I respectfully disagree with my colleagues. It is my opinion that the framers of our Constitution intended to and in fact did establish in Par. 14, membership in the General Conference based on two equal factors, namely, (1) total number of ministers in the denomination and (2) total number of church members in the denomination with each Annual Conference being entitled to representation based on its pro-rata share of each factor. There is no indication that these factors are to be treated other than equally. Therefore, by way of illustration, if the General Conference sets the number of delegates to the General Conference at one thousand (1,000), under the Constitution, one-half (1/2) or five hundred (500) of these delegates must be chosen on the basis of the total number of ministerial members in the denomination and one-half (1/2) or five hundred (500) based on the total number of church members in the denomination. Each Annual Conference is entitled to its pro-rata share of the one thousand delegates based on the two factors, (1) the number of its ministerial delegates in the Annual Conference and (2) the number of church members in the Annual Conference, as relates to the corresponding totals in the denomination. Therefore, if the number of ministerial members of the Annual Conference represents five percent of the total number of the ministers in the denomination, then that Annual Conference would be entitled to five percent of the five hundred delegates based on number of ministerial members, and if the same Annual Conference's number of church members of the Annual Conference represents five percent of the total number of the church members in the denomination, then that Annual Conference would be entitled to five percent of five hundred delegates based on church membership to the General Conference. Obviously, allowances and adjustments must be made to assure a minimum of one lay and one ministerial delegate from each Annual, Missionary and Provisional Conference. The present formula, as set forth in Paragraph 602 of the Discipline, is illustrated only in terms of ministerial delegates but provides for an equal number of lay delegates and ostensibly on its face provides for ratio representation by Annual Conferences based on the two factors, namely, (1) number of ministerial delegates and (2) number of church members. Whether the stated formula of "a) One clergy delegate for the first 140 clergy members of the Annual Conference and one clergy delegate for each additional 140 clergy members or major fraction thereof, and b) One clergy delegate for the first 44,000 members of local churches of the Annual Conference and one clergy delegate for each additional 44,000 local church members or major fraction thereof" with each Annual Conference, in fact, produces a composition of the General Conference body of one-half of the delegates being elected based on ministerial membership and one-half based on church membership, can only be determined upon the examination of the statistics which are not before us but can easily be obtained by each Annual Conference. Any computation which produces other than a one-half basis for each factor, based on total membership of each factor, is not within the Constitution and would result in disenfranchisement of members of one Annual Conference and over-representation of members of another Annual Conference. This would result in a situation hard to defend based on present trends in our society even if it was permitted by our Constitution, which I contend it is not. Wesley Bailey

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