Decision Number 246
Petition of the Commission on Interjurisdictional Relations for a Clarification of Decision No. 242 and a Declaratory Decision as to the Effect of Certain Paragraphs of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church on Elimination of Annual Conferences Based on Race.
Paragraph 41 of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church and Paragraph 9(C) of the Enabling Legislation of the Plan of Union permit, during the transitional period of twelve years, the continuation of overlapping Annual Conferences even though such be based on race. Nothing in our Decision No. 242 held or was intended to hold that any Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, by itself, would possess power to block the elimination of any Annual Conference based on race which would otherwise be terminated under the program outlined in Paragraph 9 of the Enabling Legislation or other constitutional procedures undertaken to secure a racially inclusive church.
Statement of Facts
The Commission on Inter jurisdictional Relations at its meeting October 1, 1967, voted unanimously to petition the Judicial Council for clarification of Decision No. 242 which the Commission felt had been widely misunderstood and misconstrued. It also requested a declaratory decision as to the interpretation and effect of Paragraphs 4 and 41 of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 914.
Analysis and Rationale
In our Decision No. 242 we found that the Enabling Legislation in the Plan of Union adopted by the 1966 General Conference has constitutional status as fully as the new Constitution in said Plan of Union and that they must be read and construed together. Paragraph 41 of the Constitution reads:
Paragraph 41. Art. VI - For a period of twelve years following union, Annual Conferences shall not have their names or boundaries changed without their consent; and during such period Annual Conferences formerly of The Evangelical United Brethren Church may in electing delegates to General, Jurisdictional, and Central Conferences and their Superintendents of Districts continue their time-honored methods, the provisions of Division Two, Section VII, Arts. IV and V; Division Two, Section VIII, Art. IV; and Division Three, Art. IX, notwithstanding; but nothing herein shall be construed as preventing the elimination of Annual Conferences based on race. (Emphasis added)
Paragraph 9 (C) of the Enabling Legislation reads as follows:
(C) Annual Conferences shall not, for a period of twelve years following union, have their names or boundaries changed without their consent. (Par. 41) (Constitution Division Two, Section VII, Art. VI.) This shall not prevent voluntary action by Annual Conferences and it is anticipated that most, and perhaps all, such Annual Conferences will have taken steps necessary to eliminate overlapping with other Annual Conferences substantially prior to the expiration of the specified time. At the end of the twelve years, if any such Annual Conferences still remain, authority to eliminate overlapping by the redefining of Annual Conference boundaries will vest in the Jurisdiction (Par. 24) (Constitution Division Two, Section IV, Art. V, Par. 4) or in the Central Conference (Par. 27) (Constitution Division Two, Section V, Art. IV, Par. 4), as the case may be; but nothing herein contained shall be construed as preventing the elimination of Annual Conferences based on race. (Emphasis added)
The essential question raised by the petition is whether, in light of these paragraphs and under our prior decisions, a twelve-year "veto," power will inhere in any Annual Conference of the new church to prevent a merger or other reorganization designed to eliminate an Annual Conference which is based on race. No possible question as to the exercise of such a veto power beyond twelve years can exist in light of the broad constitutional interdiction set forth in Paragraph 4 of the new Constitution.
It is clear to us that Paragraph 41 of the Constitution and Paragraph 9 (C) of the Enabling Legislation were intended to assure the Annual Conferences of the Evangelical United Brethren Church that following merger of the two denominations they would not be hurried into mergers with Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church or into name or boundary changes, without their specific consent during the twelve-year interval. It seems equally clear that neither of the cited provisions extends this power so as to permit any conference to block the program which is described in Paragraph 9(A), (B), (D) and (E) of the Enabling Legislation, or any other constitutional procedure looking toward the elimination of all Annual Conferences based on race. The final clause in the cited paragraphs specifically states ". . . nothing herein shall be construed as preventing the elimination of Annual Conferences based on race."
Our Decision No. 242 merely affirmed that Paragraph 4 of the new Constitution when read in the light of the Enabling Legislation did not forbid continuation of overlapping Annual Conferences even though one might be predominantly or exclusively of the Negro race and the other predominantly or even exclusively of another race. That decision permits the continuation of such a condition pending fulfillment and carrying out of the "step" program outlined in Paragraph 9(A), (B), (D) and (E) of the Enabling Legislation. We did not in Decision No. 242 state nor intend to state that any one Annual Conference of the new church would possess the power to block unilaterally the elimination of an Annual Conference which is based on race.
Our Decision No. 85 was based on the Constitution of The Methodist Church as it existed at that time. We therein held that a transfer of a local church of the Central Jurisdiction into an Annual Conference of a regional jurisdiction would effect a "change of boundaries" viewed from a racial standpoint, therefore necessitating the approval of both Jurisdictional Conferences involved, under then existing constitutional requirements. While certain Annual Conferences which were established on the basis of race may continue to exist for the immediate future, race may no longer be used as a basis for establishing new Annual Conferences or other units within the church. We are dealing here with a new Constitution, which has made obsolete the concept that race may be a factor in the determination of boundaries. This is the clear effect of the provisions of the new Constitution to which we have referred.
No Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church may unilaterally block the elimination of an Annual Conference based on race, even during the twelve year transitional period, if such elimination be in accord with the program outlined in Paragraph 9(A), (B), (D) and (E) of the Enabling Legislation or pursuant to any other constitutional procedure undertaken to secure a racially inclusive church.