Memorandum Number 594


May 02, 1988

Constitutionality of Mandatory Categories of Membership on the Judicial Council.


The Judicial Council has been asked to rule on the constitutionality of a proposal before the General Conference that would require specific representation of persons nominated or elected to membership on the Judicial Council.

In Decision No. 540, we ruled that "to guarantee representation to one group is by definition to deny it to another." We further indicated that "to guarantee one of those nine places to one group creates a preferred status which is denied to other groups, thus reducing by a significant degree the access of all others to membership on that body."

The Constitution, to assure inclusiveness in the Church, provides in Par. 4 that: "In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unitof the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, or economic conditions. Similarly, in 15.14, the General Conference is "To secure the rights and privileges of membership in all agencies, programs, and institutions in The United Methodist Church regardless of race or status." Since 15.14 was added to the Constitution in 1968, the Judicial Council has consistently ruled unconstitutional any legislation which would guarantee to any group a preferred status not extended to others. We believe that the democratic process of election is well-served by open nominations from the entire membership of the General Conference.

We affirm the principle set forth in Decision No. 540 and declare as unconstitutional mandatory categories of nomination and membership on the Judicial Council.

Statement of Facts

Mandated minimum requirements for representation tend to become maximums. The proposal for a minimum of three women on the Judicial Council could lock that number in and limit women to three seats on the Council. [See Interim Judicial Council Decision No. 4.]

This is true in the Church as well as in other bodies politic. Mandates thus become exclusive and not inclusive.

The General Conference can best guarantee balanced representation in a slate of nominees through an open nomination system. The same can be said of balanced representation in the election process. The open nomination and election process provide the best opportunity for everyone to the exclusion of no one.

Tom Matheny

Elizabeth B. Gundlach

Willard H. Douglas, Jr.

Albert W. Sweazy

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