Decision Number 416


October 29, 1976

Effective Date for the Eight Year Limitation on Assignment of a Bishop to the Same Residence, and the Legality of Assignment of a Bishop to an Area Where He Has Had Prior But Not Consecutive Service.


The effective date for beginning the imposition of the disciplinary limitation of eight years for episcopal assignment to the same area, was September 1, 1976. Those who complete eight or more years of consecutive service in a residence in 1980 should he assigned to a new area on September 1, 1980. A bishop may be reassigned to an area where he has had prior, but not consecutive, service.

Statement of Facts

The Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, in session July 15, 1976 requested a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council on Paragraph 507.1, the portion reading: "A bishop shall not be recommended for assignment to the sameresidence for more than eight consecutive years. For strategic missional reasons only, the Jurisdictional Committee on Episcopacy on a two-thirds vote may recommend one additional four-year term in the same Area."

The judgment requested was: "What is the effective date of this rule and areprior years of service applicable if a bishop is reassigned to an Area where he has had prior, but not consecutive, service?"


Jurisdiction is accepted under provisions of Paragraph 2512.2. 

Analysis and Rationale

Paragraph 507 in the 1976 Discipline replaces the provisions for assignment of bishops in Paragraph 624.3 of the 1972 Discipline which stated, "-no bishop shall be recommended for assignment to the same residence for more than twelve consecutive years, not counting years served before 1960."

The current disciplinary requirements in essence reduce the maximum term of consecutive years in the same residence from twelve to eight. The former limitation was clearly defined in terms of starting date, namely 1960. Thus, some bishops completed sixteen and twenty years respectively in the same residence after the limiting legislation was adopted. No specific date for the imposition of the new limitation is stated.

The "Plan of Implementation" as passed by the 1976 General Conference stated:

"2. The provision in proposed 506.2 (1976 Discipline, Paragraph 507) for limitation of assignment of a bishop to an area to not more than eight years shall not apply to bishops currently concluding their eighth year. Such bishops shall be eligible for another quadrennium in the area they are serving if the Jurisdictional Conference so directs.

"3. The mandatory retirement of bishops under the proposed Par. 507 shall not be effective until 1980." (DCA, page 188, adopted on page 973.)

The General Conference of 1976 sought to provide the Jurisdictional Conference and its Committee on Episcopacy flexibility and autonomy in making its episcopal assignments. It has the power to fix the boundaries of episcopal areas and to assign its active bishops therein. However, the Discipline includes certain restrictions on that process contained in Paragraph 507. No bishop may serve more than eight consecutive years in the same residence. A newly elected bishop may not be assigned to the area from which he was elected, except where the Jurisdictional restriction be ignored and the Jurisdictional Conference by majority vote may concur. Further, all elections must be completed and all bishops consulted before any assignments are made. Other than these restrictions, the Jurisdictional Conference may exercise its discretion in episcopal assignments.

Paragraph 507.1 has as its closing sentence, "The effective date of assignment for all bishops is September 1, following the Jurisdictional Conference." It would appear that in the absence of any other specific date, the date of September 1, 1976, is the inaugural date for the application of the eight year limitation. The legislative provisions are neither retroactive nor cumulative on a non-consecutive basis. Thus, bishops beginning service in an area on that date, would complete their mandatory eight year limit on August 31, 1984. Bishops reassigned to areas on September 1, 1976, are not eligible for reassignment in 1980.

The additional question is raised concerning "prior, but not consecutive" years of service in an area. Can a bishop who served an area, or a portion of what now is an area, be reassigned to that area after he has served in another area? The question is to the point because, on occasion, Jurisdictional Conferences exercise their proper authority in realigning annual conferences from one episcopal area to another. If prior assignment to the same area would cause a bishop to complete eight years of service that were not consecutive, is he eligible for re-assignment to that area for an additional four years in 1980?

To be sure, the Jurisdictional Conference is qualified to re-assign him in 1980 under the disciplinary provision which makes possible an additional four year term after eight consecutive years, with two-thirds vote of the recommending Committee on Episcopacy and majority vote of the conference. Indeed, some Jurisdictional Conferences exercised this prerogative by re-assigning some bishops for a third four-year-term at the 1976 conferences.

It is the judgment of the Judicial Council that "consecutive" means what the dictionary says: "following one another in uninterrupted succession or order; successive." After eight consecutive years in one residence, the bishop is ineligible to be re-assigned there. Since the Discipline clearly implies the limitation as applied to "consecutive years," it would be permissive for a Jurisdictional Conference to assign a bishop to an area where he has had prior, but not consecutive, service.


The effective date for beginning the imposition of the disciplinary limitation of eight years for episcopal assignment to the same area, was September 1, 1976. Those who complete eight or more consecutive years of service in a residence in 1980 shall not be reassigned to the same area, except under the special provisions in 507.1.

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