Decision Number 370
Action of the Tenth Philippines Central Con- ference on the Status of Bishops Pending Episcopal Elections.
Bishops of a Central Conference elected for a term are entitled to continue service in their episcopal office until the close of the Central Conference session in which their successors are to be elected. The action to adjourn the session to a future date to continue the election balloting postpones the closing of the session and expiration of term of office.
Statement of Facts
At the Tenth Regular Session of the Philippines Central Conference held November 29 to December 3, 1972, 23 ballots were conducted without election of two bishops to succeed incumbent bishops elected for a term of the quadrennium 1968-1972. At the conclusion of the 23rd ballot, the Conference voted "that an adjourned session of the Philippines Central Conference be called in 1974," to complete the episcopal election and other unfinished matters. By authority of the conference, the Coordinating Council has fixed January 23-27, 1974 as dates for the adjourned meeting of the Central Conference.
Thereafter, the Philippines Central Conference voted the following actions:(1) that Bishop Cornelio M. Ferrer be retired as bishop under the 1972 Discipline Paragraph 396.2 and referred the action to the Council of Bishops; (2) that the outgoing bishops be permitted to stay in their episcopal residences for a period of not more than six months from adjournment of the conference or the arrival of the bishops sent by the Council of Bishops to provide residential supervision, whichever occurred first; (3) that the Council of Bishops be requested to provide episcopal supervision over the Manila and Baguio Areas under provisions of Paragraph 385 of the 1972 Discipline.
The question as to the status of incumbent Bishops Cornelio M. Ferrer and Paul L. A. Granadosin was sought to be presented to the Judicial Council by petitions from two individual members of the Central Conference; by petition from the National United Methodist Young Adult Fellowship of the Philippines; and by an appeal of the College of Bishops of the Philippines Central Conference. The views of the Council of Bishops on this matter have been presented by brief to the Judicial Council.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1508 of the 1972 Discipline on finding that an appeal has been made by a majority of bishops of the Philippines Central Conference.
Analysis and Rationale
The Constitution of The United Methodist Church (Par. 30.2) provides that Central Conferences shall have the power to elect the bishops in number as may be determined, "upon a basis fixed by the General Conference."
The Constitution further authorizes Central Conferences to make rules and regulations for the administration of work within their boundaries, "subject to the powers vested. . . in the General Conference" (Par. 30.5).
The enabling act of the General Conference creating the Philippines Central Conference authorized the election of two bishops.
The 1968 Philippines Central Conference enacted legislation that bishops be elected for four year terms, provided that a bishop elected for three consecutive terms shall be considered elected for life. It was at this same conference that Bishops Cornelio M. Ferrer and Paul L. A. Granadosin were elected for the quadrennium 1968-1972 and were consecrated.
It is apparent from the record that the general impression is prevalent in the Philippines Central Conference that the election of bishops for the term of a quadrennium is a fixed term and the entitlement to the office of bishop terminates with the quadrennium.
If this was the intent of the 1968 legislation establishing a term episcopacy, it failed to regard "the basis fixed by the General Conference" in the exercise of Central Conference power to elect bishops. (Par. 30.2)
The power of a Central Conference to fix and terminate the term of office of a bishop is limited and controlled by legislation of the General Conference in Paragraph 399 which provides that bishops shall be elected, "subject to such other conditions as the General Conference shall prescribe." Specifically, Paragraph 399.4 provides that in a Central Conference where term episcopacy prevails, "their (bishops') term of office shall expire at the close of the Central Conference at which their successor is elected." The statute does not provide for the failure to elect a successor.
In the instant case, the failure or inability of the Central Conference to elect, after 23 ballots, successors to the incumbent bishops, and the action to continue the conference to an adjourned session to complete the election, effectively postponed the official closing of the conference and the expiration of terms of office. Had the Central Conference adjourned its session sine die, thereby officially closing its session without electing successor bishops, the incumbent terms of episcopal service would have then expired. The provisions of Paragraph 385 might then have been appropriately invoked.
We conclude that Bishops Ferrer and Granadosin continue in the function of their respective episcopal powers, duties and obligations, and are entitled to all the privileges of their episcopal offices, until their successors are elected or the adjourned session of the 1972 Philippines Central Conference is closed. The acts of the 1972 Philippines Central Conference (1) to retire a term bishop; (2) to limit or curtail the privilege of episcopal residence; and (3) to request episcopal supervision over areas which are the episcopal responsibility of the elected incumbent bishops were and are unconstitutional and without legal authority or effect.
Bishops Cornelio M. Ferrer and Paul L. A. Granadosin elected for a quadrennium term (1968-1972) continue in their episcopal offices until the close of the 1972 adjourned session of the Philippines Central Conference.
When a Central Conference in regular session acts to continue its election balloting at an adjourned session at a particular time, the regular session continues in recess and the conference is not closed. Any declaration of the presiding officer that the conference is closed after action establishing an adjourned session is in error and of no legal effect to close the conference.
I respectfully dissent from the opinion of the majority for the following reasons.
The election of a bishop for a term of four years imposes a binding tenure agreed on prior to the balloting.
The Philippines Central Conference in keeping with Par. 30.2 of the Constitution had the power to elect bishops "in number as may be determined from time to time, upon a basis fixed by the General Conference."
The enabling legislation of the 1968 General Conference fixed the number and authorized the election of two bishops by the 1968 Philippines Central Conference.
Par. 631.3 gives to Central Conferences the power to fix the tenure of a bishop elected by said Central Conferences.
Par. 631.3 states:
"When a Central Conference shall have been authorized to elect bishops, such elections shall be conducted under the same general procedure as prevails in the Jurisdictional Conferences for the election of bishops. A Central Conference shall have power to fix the tenure of bishops elected by the said Central Conference."
Pursuant to the above authority and in keeping with Par. 631.3 the 1968 Philippines Central Conference elected for a four-year term (1968-1972) Bishops Cornelio M. Ferrer and Paul L. A. Granadosin.
Par. 631.3 gives to the Philippines Central Conference the power to fix the tenure of a bishop elected by said Central Conference. In Par. 631.3 there is no limitation stated of the power "to fix the tenure."
The fact of tenure for four years was not only voted by the 1968 Philippines Central Conference but acknowledged by Bishops Ferrer and Granadosin in running for re-election in 1972 for another four-year term and in their personal remarks made by the bishops to the Conference when they were not re-elected.
My dissent is also in the interpretation by the majority of Par. 399.4. This paragraph presupposes the expiration of a term of a bishop and the election of a successor at the Central Conference session. It offers no provision on procedure when a successor is not elected and a term is expiring.
The legislation states in Par. 399.4 that:
" . . . bishops whose term of office expires prior to the time of compulsory retirement because of age and who are not re-elected by the Central Conference shall be returned to membership as traveling elders in the Annual Conference (or its successor) of which they ceased to be a member when elected bishop."
Par. 399.4 further states:
"Their term of office shall expire at the close of the Central Conference at which their successor is elected, and they shall therefore be entitled to participate as a bishop in the consecration of the successor."
The intent is to give a bishop whose term is expiring the right to "participate as a bishop in the consecration of the successor" and fixes that the authority of the office of the bishop whose term is expiring "shall expire at the close of the Central Conference at which their successor is elected."
But what happens if the Central Conference does not elect a successor? Can a bishop whose term is expiring and who is not re-elected be kept in office by the Central Conference holding an adjourned session at which there may or may not be an election?
Par. 399.4 does not provide legislation on what to do when the Central Conference fails to elect a successor and terms are expiring.
To use Par. 399.4 to extend the term of office of a term bishop when no successor is elected violates the integrity of the binding and limiting tenure of a term bishop authorized in Par. 631.3. Further, it achieves by non-election what could not be realized by re-election, the continuance in office of a term bishop beyond his tenure.
When there is no elected successor and there is an expiration of term of service and an adjourned session of the Philippines Central Conference is voted to be held later in 1974, then in the interim, in this instance over a year between the regular and the later adjourned session, an emergency exists.
Par. 385 states:
"In the case of an emergency in a Central Conference through the death, expiration of term of service, or any other disability of a bishop, the Council of Bishops may assign one of its members to furnish the necessary episcopal supervision for that field."
Par. 385 is the legislation, not Par. 399.4, that in my judgment provides for continuity of the affairs of the Philippines Central Conference when there is "an expiration of term of service" of a bishop.
Based on this interpretation of the legislation, the College of Bishops of the Philippines Central Conference is vacant until two successors are elected.
The action of the Philippines Central Conference to invoke the emergency provision of Par. 385 for the interim because of the "expiration of term of service" was proper.
TRUMAN W. POTTER