Decision Number 603


October 28, 1988

Petition From the General Conference Regarding the Constitutionality of Limiting Tenure of Elected General Program Agencies Staff.


The procedure for limiting tenure of elected general program agencies staff is constitutional.

Statement of Facts

Judicial Council Decision No. 567 ruled that  814.1 as worded in the 1984 Discipline was unconstitutional. It provided that the position of General Secretary of a general board could be filled by either a clergy or a lay individual and the language of 814.1 placed a limitation only on those who were clergy.

This, therefore, violated  15.14 of the Constitution and was ruled unconstitutional.

The General Conference amended  814.1 to read as follows:

No elected general program agency staff shall hold the same position more than twelve years. Years of service prior to January 1, 1989, are not counted. The agency responsible for the election of such staff may annually suspend this provision by a two-thirds ballot vote.

Odella B. Williamson of the New York Annual Conference appeared at the oral hearing in Hershey, Pennsylvania on October 27, 1988.


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

Analysis and Rationale

This matter was sent to the Judicial Council by adoption of a motion of the General Conference in response to a question from the floor asking, "Is it legal to set this limitation on some general agency staff but not all general agency staff when all are covered by the same personnel policies in other matters?"

The legislation that was adopted by the General Conference in Calendar Item 1496 was an attempt to correct the language of the Discipline as a result of Decision No. 567 cited above. The change in the legislation equalizes the treatment of lay and clergy individuals who serve in the position of General Secretary.

While questions may be raised regarding the wisdom of limiting the term of general program staff, it is certainly within the authority of the General Conference. Clergy and laity who hold these positions are in the same class and the violation of  15.14 of the Constitution is removed.


The provision limiting the term of elected general program staff in  814.1 of the 1988 Discipline is constitutional.

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