Decision Number 610
Petition From the Kentucky Annual Conference For a Ruling on the Constitutionality of Par. 510.1.
Those provisions of the Discipline which deny retired bishops the right to vote do not violate the Constitution.
Statement of Facts
The 1988 Kentucky Annual Conference requested a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of Par. 510.1 of the Discipline and "other sections of the Book of Discipline which disenfranchise the retired bishops of The United Methodist Church."
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615.
Analysis and Rationale
The precise issue as to the constitutionality of those provisions of the Discipline which deny retired bishops the right to vote has been considered twice previously (Judicial Council Decisions 35 and 40). In those decisions we upheld the disciplinary provisions. Since the rendering of these decisions, there has been no change either in the Constitution or the Discipline on this issue. Under these circumstances, we are disinclined to overturn a long-standing constitutional interpretation.
Petitioner, Kentucky Annual Conference, however, asks us to reconsider our position in light of Decision 558 which held restrictions to the membership of retired ministerial members on certain Annual Conference boards and agencies to be unconstitutional. While, as we pointed out in Decision 558, the Constitution prohibits discrimination against status (Const. Par. 15, Section 15), the same paragraph in the Constitution authorizes the General Conference "To define and fix the powers, duties, and privileges of the episcopacy . . ." (Const. Par. 15.5.) This specific language is sufficient to uphold the constitutionality of those provisions in the Discipline which deny retired bishops the right to vote.
Furthermore, even though, as petitioner suggests, it maybe argued these provisions of the Constitution conflict, we believe the rule of construction cited by the concurring opinion in both Decisions 35 and 40 "that if an act of a legislative body is not clearly unconstitutional, the Judicial body reviewing same should sustain its constitutionality" is applicable here. The relief sought by the petitioner must be found at the General Conference.
Par. 510.1 and other sections of the Discipline denying retired bishops the right to vote are constitutional.