Decision Number 311


January 30, 1969

Proposal of the Africa Central Conference to Permit Annual Conferences to Nominate by Secret Ballot Candidates for the Episcopacy for Election at the Ensuing Central Conference Session.


A Central Conference may authorize its Annual Conferences to nominate, by secret ballot, qualified members for consideration as candidates for the episcopacy at the ensuing Central Conference session.

Statement of Facts

The Africa Central Conference, meeting in August, 1968, in Botsawana authorized its secretary, Thomas L. Curtis, to seek a decision as to the constitutionality of a proposal for "nomination for episcopal election." The request grows out of the difficulty, in South Africa, in knowing the various sections of that Central Conference. The delegates in their action were seeking a way of more adequately ascertaining the feelings of the respective Annual Conferences or episcopal areas. The motion, duly passed by the Africa Central Conference states:
"In order to help the Central Conference in its appraisal of the wishes of its Annual Conferences in regard to Episcopal supervision, be it resolved:

"that each Annual Conference, at its session immediately preceding the session of the Central Conference, nominate candidates for the episcopacy in the following manner:

"(a) One secret ballot shall be taken without any previous nominations, all ministerial and lay delegates voting for two names.

" (b) The ballots, together with the Conference Secretary's report of the number of votes cast, shall be sealed, uncounted in the presence of the Annual Conference.

"(c) The sealed ballots shall be carried by the chairman of the Annual Conference delegation to the site of the Central Conference and delivered to the care of the Executive Committee.

"(d) The ballots from the several Annual Conferences shall be opened and counted by the Committee on the Ministry in its session immediately preceding balloting for the episcopacy. It will then bring to the Central Conference a primary slate of candidates consisting of those names which received a majority of the votes cast by each Annual Conference. The names shall be listed in alphabetical order and without the number of votes received by each.

" (e) This shall not preclude the casting of the name of any elder qualified for the episcopacy in terms of the Discipline as a vote in any of the ballots for the episcopacy at the Central Conference."reclude the casting of the name of any elder qualified for the episcopacy in terms of the Discipline as a vote in any of the ballots for the episcopacy at the Central Conference."


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715 of the 1968 Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale

In delegating powers to a Central Conference, the 1968 Discipline provides in Paragraph 631, as follows:
"2. A Central Conference, when authorized by a specific enabling act of the General Conference, may elect one or more bishops from among the traveling elders of The United Methodist Church. The number of bishops to be elected by each Central Conference shall be determined from time to time by the General Conference.

"3. When a Central Conference shall have been authorized to elect bishops, such elections shall be conducted under the same general procedure as prevails in the Jurisdictional Conferences for the election of bishops. A Central Conference shall have power to fix the tenure of bishops elected by the said Central Conference."

Paragraph 15.10 of the Constitution grants the General Conference the power:

"To fix a uniform basis upon which bishops shall be elected by the Jurisdictional Conferences and to determine the number of bishops that may be elected by Central Conferences."

Paragraph 382 (1968 Discipline) authorizes the Jurisdictional and Central Conferences "to fix the percentage of votes necessary to elect a bishop" recommending "that at least three-fifths of those present and voting be necessary to elect."

Paragraph 619 (1968 Discipline), "The Jurisdictional Conference shall adopt its own procedure, rules, and plan of organization. . . ."

That the powers of the Jurisdictional Conferences exercised in electing bishops are varied in different jurisdictions in terms of procedure is self-evident, i.e., at least one jurisdiction for the last three sessions has ordered its secretary to provide for all delegates following the first ballot a 50 word biographical sketch of all persons receiving 10 or more votes on that ballot.

The proposal of the Africa Central Conference would appear to provide for all requirements of the Discipline in regard to the election of Central Conference bishops, and does not appear to be in violation of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church.


A Central Conference may authorize its constituent Annual Conferences to nominate candidates from its membership for the episcopacy by secret ballot in the Annual Conference session next preceding the electing conference session, provided this does not preclude the casting of the votes for any qualified elder in the balloting for the episcopacy.

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