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Decision No. 875

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October 28 1999
In Re: Request from the California-Pacific Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning, Application and Effect of the Amendment to the Constitution Ratified in 1997 Which Says "The Ordained Ministerial Delegates to the General Conference and to the Jurisdictional or Central Conferences Shall Be Elected by and from the Ordained Ministerial Members in Full Connection with the Annual Conference or Provisional Annual Conference."

Digest of Case

For a person to vote in elections for ordained ministerial delegates to General and jurisdictional conferences that person must be a member of the annual conference in full connection and ordained.

Statement of Facts

At the 1999 session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference a motion was made and passed to ask the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the meaning, application and effect of the amendment to ¶ 33 (Article VI of the Constitution) which was ratified by the annual conferences in 1997. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2616 the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale At the 1996 General Conference an amendment to Article VI of the Constitution was approved and referred to the annual conferences for ratification. At the November 1997 meeting of the Council of Bishops it was announced that the amendment had received the required votes and, therefore, was officially a part of the Constitution. Par. 33 says in pertinent part "[t]he ordained ministerial delegates to the General Conference and to the jurisdictional or central conferences shall be elected by and from the ordained ministerial members in full connection with the annual conference or provisional annual conference." Prior to the amendment of ¶ 33 ministerial delegates were required to be elected by ministerial members in full connection with the annual conference or provisional annual conference. Additionally, ministerial delegates were required to "have been traveling preachers in The United Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding their election and "in full connection with the annual conference or the provisional annual conference electing them when elected and at the time of holding the General and jurisdictional or central conferences." The amendment to ¶ 33 did two things: first, it dropped the requirement for ministerial delegates to have been traveling preachers in The United Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding their election; and, second, it required that the both the persons electing the ministerial delegates and the persons elected be "ordained ministerial members in full connection...." In many, if not most, annual conferences the first ballots for election of delegates to General and jurisdictional conferences take place in the opening session. Most have already had the required clergy session to vote on conference membership and recommendations for ordination. Ordination services usually come later during the annual conference. While it may be argued that the service of ordination is a mere formality and the real crux of ordination is the vote in the clergy session, the amendment to ¶ 33 clearly says that in order to vote for ministerial delegates persons must be "ordained ministerial members in full connection...." There is no room for misinterpretation of this paragraph. Whether the amendment was intended to have the effect of preventing some members in full connection who have not been ordained from voting in elections to General and jurisdictional conference until after the actual ordination takes place, that is what it does. Because the amendment was passed by General Conference, ratified by the annual conferences by the required majority and announced as ratified by the Council of Bishops, it would take another constitutional amendment to change that effect.

Decision

For a person to vote in elections for ordained ministerial delegates to General and jurisdictional conferences that person must be a member of the annual conference in full connection and ordained.

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