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April 26 1968
In Re: Request of the Uniting Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to whether Annual Conference with overlapping boundaries may change those boundaries or merge without obtaining Jurisdictional Conference approval of the number, names and boundaries of the Annual Conferences involved.

Digest of Case

Paragraph 9 (B) and (C)of the Enabling Legislation of the Plan of Union does not authorize Annual Conferences with overlapping boundaries, either racial and geographic or formerly Methodist and formerly Evangelical United Brethren, to change such boundaries or to merge with another Annual Conference without approval by the appropriate Jurisdictional Conference of the number, names, and boundaries of such Annual Conferences.

Statement of Facts

The Uniting Conference has requested a Declaratory Decision as to whether Paragraph 9 (B) and (C) of the Enabling Legislation of the Plan of Union grants to Annual Conferences with overlapping boundaries, either racial and geographic or formerly Methodist and formerly Evangelical United Brethren, the authority to merge without approval of the Jurisdictional Conference or Conferences concerned. In context, the question arose with respect to the correctness of the position of the Commission on Interjurisdictional Relations in its report to the Uniting Conference, wherein it stated at page 7 of that report: "As we see it, however, under the new Constitution of the United Methodist Church, and the Enabling Legislation, which under the Plan of Union is considered as Constitutional, no action by a Jurisdictional Conference is required. Paragraph 9 (B) and (C) of the Enabling Legislation permit overlapping Conferences to unite by their own voluntary action. That legislation appears to give such authority in all cases of overlapping Annual Conferences, either racial and geographic or formerly Methodist and formerly E.U.B." The authority of the Jurisdictional Conferences with respect to the merger of Annual Conferences is found in Paragraphs 26.4, 41, and 45 of the Constitution. They read as follows: "Par. 26. Art. V-The Jurisdictional Conferences shall have the following powers and duties and such others as may be conferred by the General Conferences: . . . . "4. To determine the boundaries of their Annual Conferences; ... provided further that this provision shall not apply to Annual Conferences of the former The Evangelical United Brethren Church during the first three quadrenniums after union. "Par. 41. Art. VI-For a period of twelve years following union, Annual Conferences shall not have their names or boundaries changed without their consent; ... but nothing herein shall be construed as preventing the elimination of Annual Conferences based on race "Par. 45. Art. IV-Changes in the number, names, and boundaries of the Annual Conferences may be effected by the Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States of America and Canada and by the Central Conferences outside the United States of America and Canada according to the provisions under the respective powers of the Jurisdictional and the Central Conferences." The Enabling Legislation pertinent to the matter now under consideration is found in Paragraph 9 which reads in part as follows: "9. The objective toward which the new church moves is an inclusive church with no overlapping of Annual Conference boundaries. The Plan of Union contemplates that unification of church, structure shall take place in steps as follows: STEP ONE "(A) Upon the Plan of Union becoming effective all Annual Conferences of both uniting churches will automatically become part of a Jurisdiction or a Central Conference or a Provisional Central Conference of the united church, in each case as shown on the attached schedule. STEP TWO "(B) Wherever in a Jurisdiction or in a Central Conference or in a Provisional Central Conference Annual Conference boundaries overlap, the Annual Conferences involved shall designate committees or agencies to study the possibility of, and bring about as soon as practicable and mutually agreeable , the uniting or rearranging of Annual Conferences and Annual Conference boundaries to the end that there shall be no overlapping of Annual Conference boundaries.... "(C) Annual Conferences shall not, for a period of twelve years following union, have their names or boundaries changed without their consent (Par. 41, Constitution-Division Two, Section VII, Art. VI.). This shall not prevent voluntary action by Annual Conferences and it is anticipated that most, and perhaps all, such Annual Conferences will have taken steps necessary to eliminate overlapping with other Annual Conferences substantially prior to the expiration of the specified time. At the end of the twelve years, if any such Annual Conferences still remain, authority to eliminate overlapping by the redefining of Annual Conference boundaries will vest in the jurisdiction (Par. 26, Constitution-Division Two, Section IV, Art. V, Par. 4) or in the Central Conference (Par. 30, Constitution-Division Two, Section V, Art. IV, Par. 4), as the case may be; but nothing herein contained shall be construed as preventing the elimination of Annual Conferences based on race. "(D) So far as the Annual Conferences formerly of the Methodist Central Jurisdiction are concerned, efforts shall be made to carry out the "Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Central Jurisdiction" as adopted by the Methodist General Conference of 1964. . . . . Both denominations desire and intend that union shall in no way delay or impede, but rather facilitate, strengthen, encourage, and hasten such elimination of any racial structure or distinction. STEP THREE "(E) The uniting of congregations will be encouraged wherever and whenever a single church can better serve the needs of the community." (Emphasis added) JURISDICTION Jurisdiction is based upon the creation of the Interim Judicial Council and the grant of authority given to it by the Uniting Conference (Daily Christian Advocate 190-192); and upon the request to the Council by the Uniting Conference for an advisory opinion on the matters herein discussed (D.C.A. 193-210). ANALYSIS The United Methodist Church inherited its Jurisdictional structure from the former The Methodist Church. It has elected to continue in its Jurisdictional Conferences the constitutional authority which they held in the former The Methodist Church since 1939 over number, names, and boundaries of Annual Conferences, with limitations newly added in Paragraph 41 and the second proviso to Paragraph 26.4. For twelve years, Paragraph 41 protects all Annual Conferences except those based on race from changes in number, names, or boundaries imposed without their consent. The second proviso to Paragraph 26.4 makes the same protection specifically applicable to Annual Conferences of the former The Evangelical United Brethren Church. The current program for unification of church structure by the elimination of overlapping Annual Conferences is set forth in Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation. This legislation, constitutional in status, must be read in the setting of the total Constitution of the church. We are asked whether subparagraphs (B) and (C) of Paragraph 9 free the Annual Conferences with overlapping boundaries to adjust those boundaries by voluntary changes or by merger with another Annual Conference or Conferences, or both, without obtaining the approval of the Jurisdictional Conference. Subparagraphs (B) and (C) do not in terms suspend the operation of Paragraphs 26.4 and 45 of the Constitution. They are simply silent as to their relationship to the permanent constitutional requirements. In our judgment, constitutional provisions re-enacted in the new Constitution simultaneously with Paragraph 9 do not need restatement in the Enabling Legislation to keep them alive. It would take explicit and unequivocal language that constitutional provisions be suspended to accomplish that result. Such language is not to be found anywhere in Paragraph 9. We therefore conclude that it did not have the effect of suspending Paragraphs 26.4 or 45 of the Constitution. Paragraph 9 is primarily a Plan of Action to be implemented in whatever ways are legislatively available to Annual Conferences. There are few if any grants of legislative authority in the paragraph and no authorization to short-cut or ignore constitutional requirements. Subparagraph (A) assigns all Annual Conferences to one or another of the Jurisdictional Conferences in accordance with an attached schedule. This is a major step in the unification of church structure but the result is an overlapping of Annual Conferences to which subparagraphs (B), (C), and (D) are directed. Subparagraph (B) is a direction to Annual Conferences to appoint study committees and to "bring about as soon as practicable and mutually agreeable" the uniting or rearranging of Annual Conferences and boundaries to the end that there shall be no overlapping. No direction is given as to how these goals shall be accomplished or what approval is required of a Jurisdictional Conference. The same may be said of subparagraph (C). It addresses itself to the twelve-year period within which a restructuring cannot be forced on any Annual Conference except those based on race. It is primarily an exhortation to Annual Conferences to proceed voluntarily during the twelve-year moratorium period. The strongest language in the subparagraph is the statement that ". . . it is anticipated that most, and perhaps all, such Annual Conferences will have taken steps necessary to eliminate overlapping with other Annual Conferences substantially prior to the expiration of the specified time." The emphasized words point up the fact that the mandate of the subparagraph is more in the nature of an exhortation than a grant of new legislative powers. Subparagraph (D) is directed to a plan for eliminating the overlapping Annual Conferences based on race. It comments favorably on the "Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Central Jurisdiction" and its subsequent implementation by the former The Methodist Church. No claim is made that any new legislative authority is granted to Annual Conferences by subparagraph (D). In summary, one finds in Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation a program for the voluntary elimination of overlapping boundaries and ensuing mergers of Annual Conferences. No new legislative apparatus is created to enable Annual Conferences to move toward these goals beyond that already granted to them by the Discipline ; nor do we find any language which reasonably can be said to suspend the constitutional duties imposed upon Jurisdictional Conferences to approve number, names, and boundaries of Annual Conferences. We conclude, therefore, that any action taken by Annual Conferences to adjust overlapping boundaries or to merge must be done in full recognition of the approvals required of the Jurisdictional Conference involved with respect to any change in the number, names, or boundaries of Annual Conferences. This should be particularly fortuitous in instances of multiple Conference realignments, of which there are certain to be several. Amendment IX of the Constitution of the former The Methodist Church has no counterpart in the Constitution of The United Methodist Church. Nor can Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation be treated as an updated version of Amendment IX. If constitutional provisions are to be suspended they must be set aside directly and openly just as Amendment IX spelled out step by step the procedures by which Annual Conference transfers could be accomplished without approval of the Jurisdictional Conferences. And to make assurance doubly sure, Amendment IX included in subparagraph 4 the specific provision that transfers under Amendment IX should not be governed or restricted by other provisions of the Constitution relating to change of boundaries of Annual Conferences. We find neither new legislative procedures nor a suspension of old ones in Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation.

Decision

Changes in Annual Conference boundaries or mergers of Annual Conferences, either racial and geographic or formerly Methodist and formerly Evangelical United Brethren, will require approval by the Jurisdictional Conference within which such Annual Conferences are located of the number, names, and boundaries of any Annual Conference desiring to change its boundaries or merge with another Annual Conference. PAUL R. ERVIN President, Interim Judicial Council J. RUSSELL THROCKMORTON Secretary, Interim Judicial Council April 27, 1968 Dissenting Opinion We respectfully and vigorously dissent from the foregoing decision of a majority of the members of the Interim Judicial Council. It seems obvious to us that their decision directly contravenes Decision No. 242 adopted unanimously by the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church November 10, 1966. That case dealt with Article IV, Division One (Paragraph 4) of the Constitution which expressly forbids continuance of racial structures within the new church. Decision No. 242 held that this constitutional interdiction was to be considered to be suspended during a transitional period provided in Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation (Plan of Union) adopted concurrently with the Constitution and given constitutional effect, saying: "Read together Article IV of Division One (Par. 4) of the Constitution and Paragraph 9 of the Plan of Union reveal a pattern to move toward the inclusiveness defined in Article IV of the new Constitution by the policies and procedures set out in Paragraph 9 of the Plan of Union." The majority of the Interim Judicial Council now declines to give equal constitutional effect to these same provisions of Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation in a matter involving terminating of the very racially structured and overlapping Annual Conferences, the continuance of which was the subject of Decision No. 242. While the majority opinion makes no reference to Decision 242, it seeks to avoid its controlling principles by narrow arguments of differentiation which we cannot accept. A principal objective of Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation is to provide means of eliminating racial structures in The United Methodist Church and obtaining promptly a truly inclusive church. This intention appears in Paragraph 9 from start to finish. Thus, its first sentence recites: "The objective toward which the new church moves is an inclusive church with no overlapping of Annual Conference boundaries." Its penultimate sentence reads: "Both denominations desire and intend that union which in no way will delay or impede but rather will facilitate, strengthen, encourage, and hasten such elimination of any racial structure or distinction." The constitutional procedures devised to accomplish these declared goals are set forth in Paragraph 9 (B) and (C) with a specificity quite ample to permit full and direct utilization without further legislative implementation. These are the same steps referred to in Decision No. 242 and found therein to be sufficiently specific and unequivocal to suspend the operation of Paragraph 4 of the new Constitution. Now the majority opinion argues that they are not sufficiently "specific and unequivocal" to suspend the application of certain other paragraphs of the Constitution, namely Paragraphs 26.4 and 45 which the majority view as requiring Jurisdictional Conference approval of Annual Conference mergers. The specific procedures of Paragraph 9 which in our view likewise suspend for a transitional period Paragraphs 26.4 and 45 of the Constitution are found in subparagraphs (B) and (C) of Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation. Paragraph 9 (B) provides for committees or agencies of the Annual Conferences to study the matter of eliminating overlapping boundaries but, more importantly, that such Annual Conferences shall "bring about as soon as practicable and mutually agreeable the uniting or rearranging of Annual Conferences and Annual Conference boundaries to the end that there shall be no overlapping of Annual Conference boundaries." (Emphasis supplied) Paragraph 9 (C) is introduced by a statement providing that the merging of Conferences cannot be required of overlapping Annual Conferences within the twelve-year period following union but that this reservation "shall not prevent voluntary action by Annual Conferences"; also that "it is anticipated that most, and perhaps all, such Annual Conferences will have taken steps to eliminate overlapping with Annual Conferences substantially prior to the expiration of the specified time." The emphasis in these paragraphs upon a voluntary action and mutual agreement of Annual Conferences implies an absence of any requirement of Jurisdictional Conference approval, nor is there any reference in Paragraph 9 to a Jurisdictional Conference role in the process of uniting the Annual Conferences. While Paragraph 9 (C) clearly protects Annual Conferences of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church from compulsory changes of names or Conference boundaries, it also broadly prescribes the procedures for the elimination of all overlapping Annual Conferences, whatever may be the reason for such overlapping. That these procedures and authorizations apply equally to racially structured Annual Conferences is clear from the context and particularly the last clause of Paragraph 9 (C). We feel the provisions of Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation are more explicit and specific in defining procedures for ending overlap of Annual Conference boundaries than anything to the contrary, expressed or implied, to be found in Paragraphs 26.4 or 45 of the Constitution and that therefore Paragraph 9 has controlling constitutional effect during the transitional period, just as was determined in Decision No. 242 in closely related circumstances. We do not believe that it was the intention or plan of The Methodist Church or The Evangelical United Brethren Church in voting union to make more difficult and time-consuming the process of ending racially structured Annual Conferences than were the process and policies in force in The Methodist Church at the time of union. The history of The Methodist Church in the long effort to eliminate racially structured Annual Conferences supports our interpretation. Amendment IX to the Constitution of The Methodist Church was adopted in order to expedite attainment of the inclusive church and to avoid delays in waiting for Jurisdictional Conference approval. (See Decision No. 233 of the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church.) Similarly, the so-called Omnibus Resolutions adopted widely throughout The Methodist Church following its 1966 General Conference, evidenced the then developed policy of The Methodist Church to encourage action by the Annual Conferences in bringing about the elimination of those Conferences based on race; also a policy of avoiding the delays incident to securing Jurisdictional Conference approvals. Therefore, we believe that the decision of the majority of the Interim Judicial Council is erroneous in its failure to give effect to the Enabling Legislation, as well as the provisions of the Constitution itself. We believe therefore that the Commission on Interjurisdictional Relations correctly interpreted the Constitution of the new church in its report to the Uniting Conference (page 7) where it is said: "As we see it, however, under the new Constitution of the United Methodist Church and the Enabling Legislation, which under the Plan of Union is considered as Constitutional, no action by a Jurisdictional Conference is required. Paragraphs 9 (B) and (C) of the Enabling Legislation permit overlapping Conferences to unite by their own voluntary action. That legislation appears to give such authority in all cases of overlapping Annual Conferences, either racial and geographic or formerly Methodist and formerly E.U.B." THEODORE M. BERRY RALPH M. HOUSTON MURRAY H. LEIFFER WILLIAM K. MESSMER SAMUEL W. WITWER April 27, 1968

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