Decision Number 85
General Legislation to Permit Individual Churches of the Central Jurisdiction to Become a Part of Any Other Jurisdiction
The transfer of a local church of the Central Jurisdiction to an Annual Conference of another Jurisdiction can be done only in accordance with appropriate action of the General Conference, Jurisdictional Conferences, and Annual Conferences, as provided in the Constitution. This method of making such a change can only be changed by a Constitutional Amendment.
Statement of Facts
The General Conference has referred to the Judicial Council the following proposed legislation for a Declaratory Decision as to the constitutionality thereof, to wit:
"COMMITTEE ON CONFERENCES
REPORT No. 1
"Subject: Membership in Jurisdictions.
"Your Committee recommends the passage of necessary enabling legislation, so that any local church or churches of the Central Jurisdiction may become a part of any other Jurisdiction in which the church or churches concerned may be located, providing such membership is mutually desired by the said church or churches of the Central Jurisdiction concerned, the particular Annual Conference of each Jurisdiction concerned and a majority of the Annual Conferences of each Jurisdiction concerned."
(See page 187 of the Daily Christian Advocate.)
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to determine the constitutionality of proposed legislation under Resolution adopted by the General Conference April 29, 1952, reading as follows:
"Be it resolved that to facilitate the determination of the constitutionality of proposed legislation when same seems important, that the Judicial Council be and it is hereby given jurisdiction to pass upon the constitutionality of any proposed legislation when such Declaratory Decision is requested by the General Conference or by the Council of Bishops."
No specific legislation is contained in the above quoted Report. Since it was referred to the Judicial Council by the General Conference immediately following the above Resolution, it is to be assumed that the General Conference intended that the Judicial Council should have jurisdiction to pass upon the subject in general, such Declaratory Decision to serve as a guide to Committees and other parties in framing legislation relating to the subject involved.
On that assumption the Judicial Council here determines that it has jurisdiction to render a Declaratory Decision of a general nature on the subject outlined in the above quoted report.
The character of the proposed legislation indicated by the Report involves the question of changing boundaries of Jurisdictions. In the presentation of the matter in argument before the Council representatives of the Committee on Conferences referred to Paragraph 538 of the Discipline reading as follows:
"538. For methods of changing the number, names, and boundaries of the Jurisdictional and Annual Conferences see Paragraphs 28, 29 in the Constitution."
Par. 28 of the Constitution relates to changes in Jurisdictions, and reads as follows:
"28. Art. III.-Changes in the number, names, and boundaries of the Jurisdictional Conferences may be effected by the General Conference upon the consent of a majority of the Annual Conferences of each of the Jurisdictional Conferences involved."
The proposed legislation indicated by the Report under consideration is based upon an interpretive theory that this Constitutional provision for the changing of the "number, names, and boundaries of Jurisdictional Conferences" authorizes such change in racial boundaries as well as in geographical boundaries.
With this interpretation of this Constitutional provision the Judicial Council is in accord. Otherwise it would have no meaning for the Central Jurisdiction. It was so determined by the Judicial Council in Decision 55 of date May 6, 1948, in which a proposal to change the boundaries of the Central Jurisdiction and the Northeastern Jurisdiction so as to allow the "New York and New York East Annual Conferences ... to organize and promote new Negro work, which work, when organized, (to] be within the geographical boundaries of the Conference in which it is organized, and . . . be constituent churches thereof."
The Report under consideration indicates that the legislation to be proposed is to deal with individual local churches, and that in addition to the Constitutional provisions by which the boundaries of Jurisdictions may be changed, the legislation will also require the approval of the local church or churches involved and the consent of the particular Annual Conference affected in each Jurisdiction concerned.
Under Paragraph 8 of the Constitution the General Conference has "full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional." It appears, therefore, that it does have the power to throw around the matter of such changes in the boundaries of Jurisdictions other safeguards to arbitrary action of Jurisdictional and Annual Conferences contrary to the wishes of the local church or churches involved.
Under the Constitution, however (Paragraph 28), it appears that each change must rest upon its merits, and must be proposed by a specific act of the General Conference and be approved by a majority of the Annual Conferences in each Jurisdiction involved; but that the General Conference, under its broad legislative powers, may enact a general act to apply to all such proposed changes in the boundaries of Jurisdictions requiring that before such change can be effected, consent therefor must be had from the local church or churches involved and from the particular Annual Conferences concerned.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that no blanket enactment may be made by the General Conference for changes in the "number, names, and boundaries of the Jurisdictional Conferences," it appearing from the content of Paragraph 28 of the Constitution that specific action on each case is required.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council, however, that the General Conference may pass legislation applicable to all such proposed changes, requiring the consent of the local church or churches involved and the consent of the particular Annual Conferences concerned, and may prescribe the method in which such consent shall be obtained - either by petitions or memorials to the General Conference in advance of action by the General Conference, or by ratification or consent after the action of the General Conference. In all cases, however, there must be an act of the General Conference making the particular change in the boundaries of the Jurisdictions desired.
Since the inclusion of a local church of the Central Jurisdiction in an Annual Conference of another Jurisdiction would be, from a racial standpoint, the changing of the boundaries of an Annual Conference, it appears from the provisions of Paragraph 29 and Section 4 of Article 15 of the Discipline that the Jurisdictional Conferences of the two Jurisdictions involved would also have to take appropriate action.
It is argued by some that such a complicated procedure for such changes is not in keeping with the trend of the thinking in our Church, and therefore should not be held to be necessary. Regardless of such changes in sentiment and thought it must be held in mind that this Constitution was prepared with a view of getting it adopted by all three of the Uniting Churches, and such procedural restrictions were inserted as seemed necessary to bring about the desired result - Unification. Along with these restrictions, however, were inserted provisions for the amendment of the Constitution. It is not the province of the Judicial Council to effect by judicial interpretation changes in the procedure set out in the Constitution. Apparently a more liberal procedure should be provided. It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the Constitutional provisions for the transfer of work from the Central Jurisdiction to another Jurisdiction can be changed only by Constitutional amendment as provided under the Constitution.