Decision Number 229


October 19, 1965

Appeal of the Chile Annual Conference from the Decision of Bishop Pedro Zottele Concerning the Applicability of Legislation of the Latin America Central Conference As to Limitation of Tenure in the District Superin- tendency


The legislation of the Latin America Central Conference limiting the years of tenure of a district superintendent became applicable on adoption so that after the passing of the legislation a bishop may not appoint any minister as a district superintendent for more than six consecutive years nor for more than six years in any consecutive nine years, including years prior to the enactment of the legislation.

Statement of Facts

An appeal, dated March 11, 1965, from a decision of Bishop Pedro Zottele was received from Eduardo Stevens G., Secretary of the Chile Annual Conference, with the certification that it was "approved by more than two thirds of the members present." He first quoted an action of the Latin America Central Conference taken during the sessions held in Montevideo, Uruguay, July 4-12, 1964:
"Considering that in our annual conference there are District Superintendents who have had this responsibility more than six years, the Central Conference resolves: That Paragraph #432, number 3, has application in the Central Conference.

"It is to be understood that this period of six years is actual service in the Cabinet. The change of a superintendent from one district to another does not signify that the period established can be extended. An Annual Conference can suspend the action of this disposition in individual cases by the vote of two thirds of the Annual Conference."

The entire Par. 432.3 as it appears in the 1960 Discipline of The Methodist Church reads as follows:
"3. He (the bishop) shall choose and appoint the district superintendents annually; but within the Jurisdictional Conferences of the United States he shall not appoint any minister a district superintendent for more than six consecutive years nor for more than six years in any consecutive nine years."

In the Chile Annual Conference, January 5-10, 1965, Bishop Zottele was requested to give an interpretation of this legislation. A letter from Bishop Zottele, dated October 8, 1965, states essentially the same facts which appear in the secretary's letter. He also presents his ruling in the case as follows:

"This legislation of the Central Conference cannot be applied retroactively. The contents of the paragraph inserted as a continuation of paragraph 432.3, do not read that way. If the intention was to have the legislation operate retroactively, that intention should have been expressly established in the wording of the paragraph. In legislation, what is not concretely stipulated, cannot be forced into. The "retroactive" intention having not been written in the legislation means simply that the Central Conference was legislating from that point and date on."

At a later meeting of the same Annual Conference session, a member of the conference moved that the conference appeal from the ruling of the bishop to the Judicial Council. The bishop states that this "motion was approved by more than one fifth of the members present and voting."


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this matter under Par. 908 of the Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale

The first clause in Par. 432.3 clearly states a duty of bishops presiding over the Annual Conferences; the second is limited to those presiding over Jurisdictional Conferences of the United States. The Latin America Central Conference elected to have this same tenure limitation on district superintendents applied in that Central Conference. It would appear that the only point at issue is whether a bishop has a right to continue in the office of district superintendent a person whose total tenure would amount to more than six years if some of those years had been served immediately prior to the legislation of July 1964. Under the interpretation of the bishop it would be possible for a person who had occupied the office of district superintendent for a period prior to 1964 to continue in that office for an additional six years.

Under the law of The Methodist Church, ministers in the effective relation are appointed for one year at a time. This applies to district superintendents as well as other ministers.

In the absence of any statement in the legislation to indicate when the restriction is to take effect, it must be assumed that it applied to all persons who were currently in the office. The first clause in the resolution adopted by the Central Conference strongly supports this interpretation. The assumption of the bishop that the legislation should have stated that it was applicable to all persons currently in office, if this was the intent, is not well founded.

The General Conference of The Methodist Church, when it has sought to exclude years of prior service in comparable situations, has so specified. Illustrative of this is Par. 526.3 which reads in part:
". . . no bishop shall be recommended for assignment to the same residence for more than twelve consecutive years, not counting years before 1960."

Similarly the General Conference of 1964 adopted a revised retirement rule for bishops (Par. 436.1) concluding the new legislation with the words, "This shall become effective with the Jurisdictional Conferences of 1968. Prior to said effective date the provisions of Par. 436.1 of the 1960 Discipline shall apply." The last two sentences of the legislation were included by the General Conference to indicate clearly that this legislation would not become effective immediately. However, it is clear that the legislation when it does become effective in 1968 will be operative for all bishops regardless of the year of their election, whether prior to 1964 or after.

Therefore, since the legislation of the Latin America Central Conference made no specific provision to exempt prior service of ministers as district superintendents from the application of the rule which it has established, it must be presumed that the intent of the legislative body was to have it applied with uniformity so that a bishop may not appoint any minister as a district superintendent for more than six consecutive years nor for more than six years in any consecutive nine years, including years prior to the enactment of the legislation.


The appeal of the Chile Annual Conference from the ruling of Bishop Zottele is sustained, and the ruling of the Bishop is reversed.

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