Decision Number 369
Request from the Executive Board of the Methodist Church in SouthernAsia for a Clarification of Decision No. 350 and Memorandum No. 355.
Pursuant to Judicial Council Decision No. 350 and Memorandum No. 355 in April, 1972, the Central Conference of the Methodist Church in Southern Asia at its session, Nov.-Dec. 1972, appointed a new Committee for Consultation on church union with the Church of North India. Prior to such consultation this committee held a group meeting in February, 1973. From reports we have had on this meeting, there was much discussion about the authority of this Committee on Consultation to make modifications to the Fourth Plan of Union. It was pointed out that some modifications were necessary, in view of the changed situation, particularly in the section on "The Unification of The Ministry." This was due to several factors. The Fourth Plan had envisaged the coming together of seven churches. When the participation of the Methodist Church in Southern Asia was delayed, the other six churches proceeded in 1970 to form the Church of North India. Thus, the present consultation involves two churches instead of the original seven.
Much of the discussion in the Committee on Consultation revolved around the question of whether or not the Central Conference in carrying out the requirements of the Judicial Council Decision, by consultations with the Church of North India, had the authority to modify the Fourth Plan of Union to fit the changed factors in the present situation.
A resolution from the Committee on Consultation was ordered by the Executive Board of the Central Conference of the Methodist Church in Southern Asia to be sent to the Judicial Council as a request for further clarification of Decision No. 350 and Memorandum No. 355. The request was sent by Rev. J. B. Satyavrata, Secretary of the Executive Board. It reads as follows:
"WHEREAS, the Consultation Committee of the Methodist Church in Southern Asia, appointed by the MCSA Central Conference at its regular Twenty-eighth Session from November 28 through December 5, 1972, at Jabalpur, was constituted with authority to enter into consultation as soon as possible with the Church of North India according to the directions of the Judicial Council Decision No. 350 and subsequent Memorandum No. 355, and
"WHEREAS, the Consultation Committee met on February 12, 1973 at the Parish Hall, Christ Church, Delhi, with the intention and purpose of arranging union of M.C.S.A. with the Church of North India on the basis of the Plan of Church Union (revised) IVth edition, and
"WHEREAS, some obstacles came in the way of this Committee in view of the fact that there are two rather than seven churches to be united and that the Fourth Plan is not to be changed, while on the other hand it has been indicated that the final effecting of union will "involve the working out of numerous details" in implementing the Plan of Church Union IVth Edition according to and in terms of Decision No. 350 of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church unless certain modifications in Part II, The Unification of the Ministry, of the Fourth Plan are made, making it possible for the unification of the ministry:
"THEREFORE, this Consultation Committee petitions the Judicial Council through the Executive Board of the M.C.S.A., requesting authorization for this Committee to make necessary modifications in the Fourth Plan of Church Union in consultation with the Church of North India as are necessary in implementing the Decision No. 350 of the Judicial Council."
While we have no further official report on the matter, we assume that this Committee on Consultation has been meeting with the representatives of the Church of North India on the details in question. We have received briefs on this request from Mr. Cecil T. Richards, Mr. S. Charles, and Prof. S. R. Silas.
On the record we have received, this request to the Judicial Council is far from clear as to what specific points need clarification. Sometimes the record of the Committee on Consultation speaks of the need for "substantial changes," sometimes for "minor changes" in the Fourth Plan of Union. The record before us sounds at times as though what is involved is merely a change in wording to fit the present situation, and at other times as though new items, not included in the Fourth Plan of Union, were being introduced into the negotiations. The actual wording of the particular resolution which became the petition sent to us by the Executive Board sounds more like a request for authorization, than for clarification. If what is sought in this request is a clarification of the authority of the Central Conference to enter into consultation with the Church of North India for the purpose of working out any remaining details for the consummation of the union which was voted, the Judicial Council is of the opinion that such authorization, and its limitations, are clearly outlined in its Decision No. 350 and Memorandum No. 355.
We would emphasize again that there is no authority to reopen, revise or re-negotiate the Fourth Plan of Union which was authorized by the General Conference and approved by the required votes of the Central Conference and its constituent Annual Conferences. Any remaining details must be worked out "within the framework of the Fourth Plan." If it is discovered that some matters were omitted, the Plan cannot now be revised to include them. They will have to be worked out within the new, merged Church.
The Judicial Council, at the time of Decision No. 350 and Memorandum No. 355, was aware of the fact that six of the seven churches involved in the Fourth Plan of Union had already come together on the basis of the Plan to become the Church of North India. It is understandable that this would involve some incidential changes in the wording in the Fourth Plan of Union to accommodate the new situation.
We would point out that the Central Conference is still under the mandate of the authorization of the General Conference and the overwhelming vote of the Central Conference and its Annual Conferences to proceed as swiftly as possible to the consummation of union under the Fourth Plan.