Decision Number 88
Questions Proposed by Ruben V. Candelaria, Delegate from the Philippines Annual Conference, and Referred by the General Conference to the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision
A retired member of an Annual Conference may be elected to membership in a Central Conference if he meets the conditions required by law of all those who represent their Annual Conferences in the General or Central Conferences.
Statement of Facts
The above captioned matter arose in the following manner: On May 6, 1952,Dr. W. A. Stanbury presented to the General Conference, on behalf of the Judicial Council, a brief Report on a matter that had been previously referred to the Judicial Council. When Dr. Stanbury had concluded this Report, the following transpired:
Bishop Reed: Thank you. While we are on the matter of the Report from the Judicial Council, will you permit the Chair to grant the courtesy of the floor to a Delegate from the Philippines on a matter of reference to the Judicial Council?
Ruben V. Candelaria (Philippines): Mr. Chairman and members of the General Conference, I certainly do not wish to take this moment, knowing we are pressed with time. I have two questions regarding our Central Conference in the Philippines:
First: Can a retired member of an Annual Conference now appointed as a Supply Pastor be elected to the Central Conference?
Second: Can a Committee of Investigation under certain circumstances terminate a case and render a Decision? With the permission of this body I move these be referred to the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision.
Bishop Reed: You have heard the motion. Is it seconded? (The motion was duly seconded)
Bishop Reed: As many as will refer indicate it with the uplifted hand; contrary the same. It is done.
(Page 549, Daily Christian Advocate, 1952)
Later that same afternoon (Page 575, Daily Christian Advocate), consent was asked for the privilege of announcing the Judicial Council's Decision on these questions "at the next meeting following the adjournment of the General Conference."
The General Conference, under Subdivision 5 of Article 11 of Division Four of the Constitution (Paragraph 43 of the 1952 Discipline), has broad powers in the matter of conferring additional jurisdiction upon the Judicial Council. This Paragraph 43 of the Discipline sets out the Constitutional duties and powers of the Judicial Council, and ends with this Subdivision 5, reading as follows:
5. To have such other duties and powers as may be conferred upon it by the General Conference.
Since these questions were specifically submitted by the General Conference to the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision thereon, it is the Decision of the Judicial Council that, under the Constitutional Provision above quoted, it has jurisdiction to render such requested Declaratory Decision.
Can a retired member of an Annual Conference now appointed as a Supply Pastor be elected to the Central Conference?
Analysis and Rationale
Article IV of the Constitution of The Methodist Church (Paragraph 24 of the 1952 Discipline) reads as follows:
"The Ministerial Delegates to the General Conference and to the Jurisdictional or Central Conference shall be elected by the ministerial members of the Annual Conference, provided that such Delegates shall have been traveling preachers in the constituent Churches forming this union, or in The Methodist Church, for at least four years next preceding their election and are in Full Connection with the Annual Conference electing them when elected and at the time of holding the General and jurisdictional or Central Conferences."
To answer correctly the question here under consideration, it appears advisable that the Judicial Council shall first determine the true meaning of the above quoted Provision in the Constitution relating to the qualification of the Ministerial Delegates to the General Conference. In order to arrive at a satisfactory interpretation of this provision, a review of the background of same, as reflected in the Discipline and Judicial Decisions of the "Constituent Churches forming the union" seems important.
The Constitution of the Methodist Protestant Church contains the following provisions: 2. The General Conference of the Church shall consist of an equal number of ministers and laymen. (Sec. 2, Art. VIII of the 1936 Discipline.)
No other qualifications were prescribed for the Ministerial Delegates to the General Conference.
The Constitution of the Methodist Episcopal Church (Paragraph 82 of the 1936 Discipline) defined the qualification of Ministerial Delegates to the General Conference as follows.
Such Delegates shall be Elders at least twenty-five years of age, and shall have been Members of an Annual Conference at least four successive years, and at the time of their election and at the time of the session of the General Conference shall be Members of the Annual Conference which elected them.
The Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, defined the qualifications of its Ministerial Delegates to the General Conference as follows:
Question: Who compose the General Conference, and what are the regulations and powers belonging to it? ...
Answer 2: The clerical representatives shall be elected by the clerical members of the Annual Conference; provided that such representatives shall have been traveling preachers at least four calendar years next preceding their election, and are in Full Connection with an Annual Conference when elected, and also at the time of holding the General Conference. (Page 29, Discipline of 1938).
It will be observed that the present law on this subject is identical in all essential parts with the law as it existed in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It is to be presumed that no change in its meaning was intended by its insertion in the Constitution of The Methodist Church. At least there seems to be no evidence of any intended change in its meaning and application.
In the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, any member of an Annual Conference, whether active or retired, was considered a "traveling preacher." In that Church even a preacher "On Trial" was considered to be a "traveling preacher" and, under the Episcopal Decision rendered in 1914, never over-ruled and quoted below, could be elected to the General Conference provided he had traveled four calendar years and had been received into Full Connection by the time of the election:
Par. 676. What Traveling Preachers can be elected Delegates to the General Conference?
The four "Calendar Years" a preacher must have traveled before he can be elected a Delegate to the General Conference should be counted from the time of his reception On Trial (1914). (Paragraph 676, 1938 Discipline.)
Historically, retired members of an Annual Conference have been eligible to election as Delegates to the General Conference. The General Conference of 1808, that established the General Conference as a delegated body, was composed of 131 preachers, three of whom were superannuates (Journal of the 1808 General Conference). They were elected under a provision of the 1804 Discipline reading as follows:
Who composes the General Conference?
All the preachers who shall have traveled four year from the time they were received On Trial by an Annual Conference, and are in Full Connection at the time of holding the conference. (Page 15, Discipline F 1804.)
The General Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church, passing upon the question of whether or not a retired minister could be elected as a Delegate to the General Conference, ruled as follows:
46. A Retired Minister is eligible to election as a Delegate to the General Conference. Journal of the General Conference, 1932, p. 611. (Par. 101.46-1936 Discipline.)
The Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, answering the question, "Who shall compose an Annual Conference?" provided as follows:
All the traveling preachers in Full Connection with it. (Page 33, 1938 Discipline.)
No distinction is made here between preachers in the effective relationship and those in the retired relationship. A minister did not cease to be a member of the Annual Conference upon his superannuation. He therefore continued to be a "traveling preacher" although not actually serving a charge, as the Annual Conference, so far as its clerical membership was concerned, was composed only of "traveling preachers."
The Judicial Council in its Decision, rendered to the General Conference at its 1952 session (Pages 527-528 of the Daily Christian Advocate), reaffirmed this historic relationship of retired ministers to the Annual Conference. (See Decision No. 87 of the Judicial Council.)
Based on the historical interpretations of what constitute a "traveling preacher" and on who compose the General Conference, it appears that a retired minister, meeting the other qualifications for membership in the General Conference, is eligible for election as a member of the General Conference regardless of whether he is or is not serving as a Supply Pastor.
It is the Decision of the Judicial Council that a retired member of an Annual Conference serving as a Supply Pastor is eligible to election as a Delegate to the General Conference (and to a Jurisdictional or Central Conference) provided he has been a "traveling preacher" (On Trial or in Full Connection) in The Methodist Church for at least four years next preceding his election and is in Full Connection with the Annual Conference electing him when elected and at the time of holding the General Conference.