Decision Number 553


October 24, 1985

Lay/Clergy Equalization in the Annual Conference as Provided in the Constitution, Par. 35, of the 1984 Discipline.


An Annual Conference rule which bases the constitutional lay/clergy equalization requirement of Par. 35 of the 1984 Discipline upon Conference clergy attendance rather than Conference clergy membership is unconstitutional.

Statement of Facts

The Constitution Par. 35 of the 1984 Discipline provides in part:

If the lay membership should number less than the ministerial members of the Annual Conference, the Annual Conference shall, by its own formula, provide for the election of additional lay members to equalize lay and ministerial membership of the Annual Conference.

The Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference in 1985 adopted Conference Rule Number 1.015 which reads as follows:

Lay and ministerial membership in the Annual Conference shall be equalized annually on the basis of information provided in the last printed Annual Conference Journal. The Conference Secretary shall certify the attendance of all ministerial members present and recorded in the Journal, additional lay members to be elected shall be certified by the Conference Secretary and local churches shall be notified.

At an Oral Hearing on October 24, 1985 Earl Riddle, representing the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, and David Kinman, representing the Rules Committee of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, appeared before the Judicial Council.


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615 of the 1984 Discipline

Analysis and Rationale

The issue is whether the definition of Annual Conference ministerial membership may be determined by Conference ministerial attendance

The Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference asserts:

The Constitution intends for the Annual Conference to be approximately equal in its representation from lay and clergy concerns. It is our contention that the interpretation of "membership" can well apply to those present and voting in the Annual Conference Session.

If the language of Par. 35 were ambiguous, the intent of the General Conference and the Annual Conferences in adopting Par. 35 would need to be interpreted. Under those circumstances, the interpretation of the intent of Par. 35 by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference might be found to be correct. There is, however, no ambiguity. The Constitution is absolutely clear. Par. 35 provides for the equalization of lay and clergy membership in the Annual Conference, not equalization of those who attend Annual Conference.


The new Conference Rule Number 1.015 adopted in 1985 by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference is unconstitutional. The standard for clergy membership is actual membership in the Annual Conference, not clergy members who attend an Annual Conference.

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