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Decision No. 217

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October 29 1964
In Re: Authority Over Mergers of Annual Conferences

Digest of Case

The authority to authorize a merger of two Annual Conferences is vested by the Constitution of The Methodist Church in the Jurisdictional Conference of which the Annual Conferences are members, and this authority may not be delegated to the Annual Conferences.

Statement of Facts

At its 1964 session, the Central Jurisdiction adopted in amended form a series of recommendations of a previously authorized Study Committee (popularly known as the "Committee of Five") looking toward, among other things, the merger of certain of its Annual Conferences, the realignment of the boundaries of others, and the ultimate transfer of its Annual Conferences into other Jurisdictional Conferences on terms and conditions mutually satisfactory. In an apparent effort to speed up the process of merger of Annual Conferences within the Central Jurisdiction between sessions of the Jurisdictional Conference, the 1964 session of the Central Jurisdictional Conference adopted in amended form a recommendation of its Committee of Five, as follows: "That the Jurisdictional Conference enact enabling legislation granting authority to any two Annual Conferences within the same region jurisdiction to merge and form a single annual conference, provided the boundaries of the new conference shall coincide with the geographical boundaries of that Jurisdiction." JURISDICTION The Central Jurisdictional Conference, at its 1964 session authorized and directed an appeal in its name to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to the Constitutionality of the action quoted in the statement of facts. Jurisdiction to make such a declaratory decision is granted the Judicial Council in Paragraph 914.5 of the Discipline ANALYSIS Authority to determine number, names, and boundaries of Annual Conferences in the United States is vested in the several Jurisdictional Conferences by Section IV, Article V, Paragraph 4 and Section VIII, Article IV of the Constitution of The Methodist Church. The provisions appear in Paragraphs 15 and 29 of the 1960 Discipline. The merger of two Annual Conferences may have far-reaching consequences affecting voting rights at General Conference sessions, episcopal supervision, salary and pension rights of ministers, the support of institutions and agencies of the Annual Conferences concerned and, quite possibly, the overall effectiveness of the Christian ministry in the Annual Conferences involved. A Jurisdictional Conference is in a much better position to weigh the overall consequences of a merger of two Annual Conferences than are these conferences themselves. It should be able to resolve conflicting interests of the two Annual Conferences. It is for these reasons, among others, that we determine that a Jurisdictional Conference may not delegate to its constituent Annual Conferences its authority to determine when, and under what conditions, two Annual Conference may merge. We made a similar ruling twenty years ago with respect to delegation of authority to determine boundaries between two Annual Conferences (In re: Boundaries, Baltimore and Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference -Decision No. 28) and the reasoning of that decision still persuades us of its soundness.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the action of the Central Jurisdiction is unconstitutional as a delegation of authority to its Annual Conferences which it alone may exercise. However, nothing in this advisory opinion is intended to cast doubt upon the Constitutionality of the action of the Central Jurisdiction at its 1964 session wherein it authorized the merger of the Mississippi and Upper Mississippi Annual Conferences. No delegation of its authority was involved in that action.

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