Decision Number 709
Provisions for Election to Life Tenure as Bishop in the Philippines Central Conference.
The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction.
Statement of Facts
Par. 53 of the Constitution of The United Methodist Church provides that "each bishop elected by a Central Conference of The Methodist Church shall have such tenure as the Central Conference electing him shall have determined." In 1968, the Philippines Central Conference determined that "a Bishop who is reelected for a third consecutive term ... shall be considered elected for life."
Emerito P. Nacpil, first elected bishop in 1980, was reelected to a third consecutive term in the 1988 session of the Philippines Central Conference, and was declared elected for life by the presiding bishop, W. T. Handy.
The Judicial Council has received from the Rev. Nathanael S. Manuel a petition for a declaratory decision under Par. 2610 of the 1992 Discipline, which provides that the Judicial Council has authority to "determine the constitutionality of any act of a Jurisdictional or Central Conference upon an appeal ... by one-fifth of the members of that Jurisdictional or Central Conference." The petitioner maintains that Bishop Nacpil was reelected only twice following his original election, and thus does not meet the requirement of having been reelected three times.
We have received no indication that any vote was taken on the issue in a session of the Central Conference. Included with the petition was a list of signatures of 122 members of the 1992 Philippines Central Conference, certified by the secretary of that conference to constitute more than one-fifth of the total membership. Accompanying correspondence indicates that the signatures were secured by individual solicitation in October of 1993, at a time when the Philippines Central Conference was not in session.
Analysis and Rationale
The petition cites the authority given the Judicial Council in Par. 2610 to determine the constitutionality of an act of a Central Conference. The petition, however, does not challenge any act of the Central Conference and does not question the right of the conference to elect Bishop Nacpil for a third term. What is challenged is the interpretation of the conditions under which a bishop is considered elected for life.
Since in this case there is no challenge to the constitutionality of any act of the conference, the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction.
It has been called to the Judicial Council's attention that in the 1988 session, prior to the announcement of Bishop Nacpil's election, a motion was adopted by a one-fifth vote "that the Philippines Central Conference file a petition with the Judicial Council for a declaratory judgment to interpret the meaning of the action of the PCC taken in 1968 fixing the episcopal terms for four years provided that a Bishop who is reelected for three (3) consecutive terms shall be deemed considered bishop for life."
We have no record that this petition was ever forwarded to the Judicial Council.
The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction in this case.
We agree that the Judicial Council has no jurisdiction in this matter. We would like to express our opinion that prior to future episcopal elections the Philippines Central Conference should take action to clarify its intent in stating "a Bishop who is reelected for a third consecutive term ... shall be considered elected for life." The Philippines Central Conference is the proper forum for consideration of this matter. It has authority to take legislative action to clarify this matter just as it had authority to enact the originial legislation. It would seem appropriate to take this action prior to the election of additional bishops in the Philippines Central Conference.
Bailey Evelynn S. Caterson
Susan T. Henry-Crowe
Zan W. Holmes, Jr.
Theodore H. Walter