Decision Number 313
Petition for Declaratory Decision as to the Power of a Central Conference to Delegate to Annual Conferences the Right of Determining Certain Qualifications for Ministerial Membership.
The general power conferred by the General Conference on a Central Conference to make changes and adaptations regarding the ministry and other subjects does not authorize a Central Conference or its Annual Conferences to add to or subtract from the basic ministerial obligations established and pre-empted by act of the General Conference.
Statement of Facts
The Central Conference of the Northern European Area, meeting in Helsinki, Finland, September 4-8, 1968, referred to the Committee on Church Order and Organization the following motion, presented by a lay (alternate) member from the Norway Conference:
"In reference to the decision in the General Conference, Dallas, 1968 as published in The Daily Christian Advocate, April 30, 1968 pages 391-398, especially Paragraphs 318 and 326, the Central Conference is asked to make such additional paragraphs:
"Par. 318 (b) The Annual Conferences within the Central Conference are permitted to decide that local preachers and ministers to be elected on trial, shall pledge to abstain from the use of tobacco and alcoholic beverages. (Par. 318.7(a).)
"Par. 326 e (1) The Annual Conferences within the Central Conferences are permitted to decide that the candidates shall pledge to abstain from use of tobacco and alcoholic beverages." (Par. 326.3 e (1).)
Concerning the motion the Committee on Church Order and Organization included in its report:
"In view of the principle of the right for every country to decide independently provided it is not contrary to the Discipline, the motion is seconded, pending it is approved by the Judicial Council."
The Central Conference then adopted the following question to be submitted to the Judicial Council for clarification:
"Can a Central Conference delegate its authority to make changes regarding the ministry, as mentioned in Paragraph 531.9 (631.9), to the individual conferences within its territory, also when it comes to an interpretation of Paragraphs 318.7 and 326.3 e?"
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under the provisions of Paragraph 1708 of the 1968 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The Constitution refers to the powers of the General Conference and the Central Conferences, thus:
"Par. 15. Art. IV-The General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional, and in the exercise of this power shall have authority as follows:
"2. To define and fix the powers and duties of elders, deacons, supply preachers, local preachers, exhorters, and deaconesses."
* * *
"Par. 30. Art. IV-The Central Conferences shall have the following powers and duties and such others as may be conferred by the General Conference:
"5. To make such rules and regulations for the administration of the work within their boundaries including such changes and adaptations of the General Discipline as the conditions in the respective areas may require, subject to the powers that have been or shall be vested in the General Conference."
In exercise of its "full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional," the 1968 General Conference adopted Paragraphs 301-399 of the Discipline, which include the qualifications for a license to preach (Par. 318) and conditions to be met by a candidate for election to probationary membership (Par. 326).
In exercise of the power referred to above, the 1968 General Conference has not adopted legislation delegating to the Central Conferences power to change or adapt the qualifications and conditions included in Paragraphs 318 and 326.
By its further action the 1968 General Conference delegated to the Central Conferences power to change or adapt specific requirements relating to specific provisions for the ordination of ministers (Par. 631.10) and to the course of study (Par. 631.20).
The power to establish standards, conditions and qualifications for admission to the ministry is a matter of distinct connectional importance and is initially placed by the Constitution in the General Conference.
The General Conference has acted to establish the basic obligations and qualifications of candidates for license to preach and for admission to probationary membership in an Annual Conference (Pars. 318 and 326), and has thereby pre-empted this authority until expressly delegated by it.
The general power conferred by the General Conference on a Central Conference to make changes and adaptations regarding the ministry and other subjects (Par. 631.9) does not authorize a Central Conference or its Annual Conferences to add to or subtract from the basic ministerial obligations established and pre-empted by act of the General Conference.