Decision Number 154
Constitutionality of the Adoption of Amendments VII and VIII
Amendments VII and VIII to the Constitution of The Methodist Church were constitutionally adopted
Statement of Facts
On June 7, 1957, Gordon B. Duncan, Assistant Book Editor, reported to the Council of Bishops as follows:
"In the editing of the 1956 Discipline there came to light the fact that two of the three amendments to the Constitution announced by the Council of Bishops shortly before the 1956 General Conference were not validly adopted. Accordingly I am herein reporting the fact to the Council of Bishops as presumably the proper body to take action in such a situation.
"The amendments involved are Amendments VII and VIII, concerned with elections of delegates by Provisional Annual Conferences: and their text appearsin paragraphs 7 and 24, respectively, of the 1956 Discipline, as voted on by the Annual Conference members and announced by the Council of Bishops. However, the amendments voted on by the Annual Conference members differed from those proposed by the 1952 General Conference at a very important point - namely, the election of General Conference delegates. This key provision of the two amendments as supposedly adopted was never voted on by the General Conference.
"The record of the action of the 1952 General Conference on these two amendments appears in the 1952 Daily Christian Advocate, pages 630-31. For your convenience I enclose a transcript of it. This action was taken on the final day without previous notice or any written statement, and the change to be made was stated in quite vague terms. The one definite idea laid before the conference was that Paragraphs 7 and 24 were to be changed to agree with a previous amendment in Paragraph 13. From this record it is obvious that the conference members in their vote intended on actual alteration in the provisions of the Constitution, but merely an editorial harmonization.
"Paragraph 13 applies only to election of delegates to Jurisdictional Conferences, and accordingly the previous amendment referred to (No. IV) is limited to such delegates. On the other hand Paragraphs 7 and 24 apply to delegates to the General Conference and the Central Conferences in addition to the Jurisdictional Conferences. Apparently those who prepared the wording sent down to the Annual Conferences did not notice the difference in breadth of application and thus inadvertently introduced the new provisions about delegates to the General Conference and to the Central Conferences."
On December 4, 1957, the Council of Bishops through its Secretary, Bishop Roy H. Short, did request from the Judicial Council "a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of the amendments."
Division Four of the Constitution of The Methodist Church, Par. 43, 1956 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The Judicial Council interprets the paragraph of the Constitution which deals with amendments (Par. 10 (1 and 2) of the 1956 Discipline) to mean that the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution of The Methodist Church requires: (1) That the exact wording of any proposed amendment be given to theGeneral Conference; (2) That a count vote on this exact wording be taken, with the vote for and the vote against announced to the conference and recorded in the official journal of the conference; (3) That the vote as taken, counted, announced, and recorded shall indicate a two-thirds majority of those present and voting, a quorum being present; (4) That the proposed amendment be voted on under exactly the same wording in the Annual Conferences; (5) That the proposed amendment be approved by a two-thirds (or in the case of an amendment affecting the first Restrictive Rule, a three-fourths) majority of all the members of the Annual Conferences present and voting; (6) That the votes as cast in the Annual Conferences be canvassed and announced by the Council of Bishops.
The official journals of the General Conferences of 1952 and 1956 indicate that each of these requirements was met in the adoption of Amendments VII and VIII to the Constitution of The Methodist Church.
We note that the wording of the two amendments as recorded in the official journal of the General Conference of 1952 differs from the wording as given in The Daily Christian Advocate of that session. But the Journal indicates that the record of proceedings of the session in which the two proposed amendments were adopted was approved by the General Conference. Neither the Daily Christian Advocate nor the Official Journal of either the 1952 or the 1956 General Conference shows any objection raised at any time to the accuracy and correctness of the Official Journal record of the proceedings of the session in which the proposed amendments were adopted.
The Judicial Council must assume the official records of the General Conference to be correct. If they are not correct, the General Conference alone has responsibility for their correction.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that according to the record contained in the official journals of the General Conferences of 1952 and 1956 Amendments VII and VIII to the Constitution of The Methodist Church were duly and constitutionally adopted.