Decision Number 210
In Re: Petition of the Boundaries Committee of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The Methodist Church for a Declaratory Decision as to the Status of Bishop Newell Booth with Respect to an Assignment to an area in the Northeastern Jurisdiction
1. Bishop Newell Booth is available for assignment by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference;
2. Said Jurisdiction has the same responsibility to provide for assignment as for any other effective bishop elected by and in connection with that jurisdiction.
Statement of Facts
On April 20, 1964, the Committee on Boundaries of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference requested a declaratory decision as to whether Bishop Newell Booth is available for assignment to an area in the Northeastern Jurisdiction and, if so, whether it is the responsibility of the said jurisdiction to so structure its territory that an area is available for assignment to Bishop Booth.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to render such a Declaratory Decision under the provision of subsection 5 of Paragraph 914 of the 1960 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The General Conference of 1944 enacted an Enabling Act authorizing the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference to provide residential and presidential episcopal supervision for the Africa Provisional Central Conference by the election of an additional bishop beyond its quota.
In discharging this responsibility the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in its 1944 session requested its bishops to rule on the question:"Under the law of the Church has the Jurisdictional Conference a right to elect a Missionary Bishop?"
The College of Bishops answered through Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam as follows:
"The question submitted was, Does this Jurisdictional Conference have the legal right to elect a Missionary Bishop? "Answer (a) It has, if authorized by the General Conference.
"(b) Authorization was given 'to provide residential supervision for the work in Angola, Belgian Congo, Portuguese East Africa, Southern Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa of the Africa Provisional Central Conference and is hereby authorized according to the provisions of Par. 8, Section 4 and Par. 339 as amended to elect one bishop in addition to its membership quota in order to provide for this supervision.'
"We believe that when the General Conference passed this legislation it had in mind a General Superintendent.
"The above decision was unanimous."
There appears never to have been further question that the additional bishop to be elected would be a General Superintendent, nor does it appear from all information presented to the Judicial Council on this matter that there is presently any doubt in the minds of those presenting such information that Bishop Booth is a General Superintendent and not a missionary bishop.
Nevertheless the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference of 1944 adopted the following provisions in regard to the election of the additional bishop:
"That the Jurisdictional Conference elect four Bishops, and that the first ballot be taken for three Bishops for the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, and that balloting be held until all have been elected; . . . that a separate ballot be used for electing the Bishop for service in the Provisional Central Conference of Africa, and that this election be made with the understanding that any minister accepting said election does so with the expectation of continuing his service in office in this field during the remainder of the period of his effective ministry."
After three bishops had been elected, nominations were made for the fourth bishop on the basis of seeking men especially prepared for service in Africa. Five nominations were made and on the first ballot Newell S. Booth was elected.
He was consecrated with the other three bishops elected at the 1944 session of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference and was assigned for residential and presidential supervision in the Africa Provisional Central Conference.
Succeeding Quadrennial sessions of the General Conference of The Methodist Church have continued the authorization for the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference to provide residential and presidential episcopal supervision in the Africa Central Conference, and Bishop Booth has been returned each quadrennium to the Africa Central Conference. By 1960 however, conditions had so changed in Africa as to raise serious question as to the advisability of episcopal supervision on that continent provided from America. In an attempt to meet possible contingencies during this present quadrennium the 1960 General Conference authorized a plan by which an additional bishop might be elected, if necessary, in the Africa Central Conference during the quadrennium (Par. 2005.2 of the 1960 Discipline). This plan, however, was declared unconstitutional by Judicial Council Decision No. 182, and no attempt was made to elect this additional bishop in the Africa Central Conference.
The 1960 session of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference was also aware of the new climate in Africa and there was extended debate on the advisability of returning Bishop Booth to the Africa Central Conference. The conference, however, saw fit to return him and he is now completing the quadrennium in the Africa Central Conference.
These facts indicate that Bishop Booth was elected as a General Superintendent by the Northeastern Jurisdiction, that he has been continuously recognized as such, has received his assignments as such, and is now, as he has been since election, such a General Superintendent in connection with the Northeastern Jurisdiction and subject to that jurisdiction.
It is, therefore, the decision of the Judicial Council that:
1. Bishop Booth is available for assignment by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference.
2. Said Jurisdiction has the same responsibility to provide for his assignment as for any other effective bishop elected by and in connection with that jurisdiction.