Decision Number 451
Constitutionality of Discipline Par. 804.1 as it Relates to the Number of Basic Members of the General Boards Elected by Each Jurisdiction.
Discipline Par. 804.1 is consistent with the Constitution which allows the General Conference to determine the number and manner in which members of the general boards of the Church shall be chosen by the Jurisdictional Conferences.
Statement of Facts
The 1972 session of the General Conference enacted legislation with regard to jurisdictionally-elected membership of each of the four general boards of the Church. This legislation was continued, with some revision, by the 1976 General Conference and the formula for membership on general program boards was referred to the General Council on Ministries for study to bring any recommendations to the 1980 General Conference (p. 421, p. 1893, 1976 Journal Report No. 92).
Par. 804.1 of the Discipline provides:
"Basic membership of the program boards shall be nominated by the Annual Conferences and elected by the Jurisdictional Conferences. Each jurisdiction shall elect twelve persons for membership: four laymen, four laywomen, and four clergy in full connection. At least one of the clergy shall be a woman. Each jurisdiction shall be responsible for observance of Par. 21, Article VIII."
Requests were received from the 1978 sessions of the South Georgia Annual Conference and the Tennessee Annual Conference for a ruling by the Judicial Council on the constitutionality of Discipline Par. 804.1 concerning basic membership on general boards of the Church by jurisdictions.
Briefs were received from the South Georgia Annual Conference and the Tennessee Annual Conference. Open hearings were held on April 26, 1979 and oral arguments were heard from Augusta Carruth, Carlton Carruth and G. Ross Freeman.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2515.2(i).
Analysis and Rationale
The issue raised by these requests for a decision is that there is a considerable variance in membership, from fewer than 600,000 to almost 3,000,000 in Jurisdictions, while each board has 12 basic members elected by each Jurisdiction. The question raised by both Annual Conferences is whether the present plan is discriminatory in that it provides for unequal representation of the members of the churches in the various jurisdictions and is therefore unconstitutional.
Par. 15 of the Constitution provides that "the General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional . . ." Par. 26.3 provides that the Jurisdictional Conference has powers and duties which include: ". . . and to choose their representatives on the general boards in such manner as the General Conference may determine."
It should be pointed out that the representative bodies of the Church are the general, jurisdictional, central, annual, and provisional conferences. In these units the principles of inclusiveness and representation are preserved. With respect to Par. 15.14 of the Constitution, the rights and privileges of membership on all boards is secured because the plan recognizes the eligibility of all members. The issue with which the Judicial Council must deal is not whether equal representation to the general boards is maintained among Jurisdictional or Annual Conferences, nor whether the historic traditions and the representative numbers are maintained, but whether the General Conference has the authority to determine how many members shall be elected to its general boards by each Jurisdictional Conference. We hold that it does possess such authority and that Par. 804.1 is therefore constitutional.
Discipline Par. 804.1 is constitutional in that the Constitution allows the General Conference to determine the number and manner in which members of the general boards of the Church shall be chosen by the Jurisdictional Conferences.