Decision Number 177


October 27, 1960

Request of General Conference for Opinion Concerning Procedure Regarding Consecration and Induction of Bishops


Under the existing constitutional and legislative provisions for declaratory decisions, the Judicial Council has no authority to render a declaratory decision on request of the General Conference to interpret the meaning of the language in the Constitution or the constitutionality of possible future legislation.

Statement of Facts

On May 7, 1960 (Daily Christian Advocate, General Conference of 1960, p. 627) the General Conference adopted Report No. 15 of the Committee on Conferences, (Daily Christian Advocate, General Conference of 1960, p. 448) referring Memorial 2266 to the Judicial Council. This Memorial requested that "the Discipline provisions regarding the consecration and induction into office of bishops be reviewed and, if necessary, be clarified."

Paragraphs 20 and 35 of the Discipline, being Division Two, Section VI (1) and Division Three, Article II of the Constitution, are cited with their respective provisions for induction into the episcopacy in Central Conferences and for the consecration of bishops in both Jurisdictional and Central Conferences. The memorial in its concluding paragraph, asks for specific clarification as follows:

"If the Report of the Commission for Study and Action on Jurisdictional System is adopted, it might be well to have clarification. Could an Elder who has been elected a bishop be 'inducted into office' by the electing Jurisdictional Conference or Central Conference and postpone his 'consecration' until the next ensuing session of the General Conference? Or would it be essential that he be consecrated first, before being 'inducted into office'?"


The analysis sets forth the reasons the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction in this case.

Analysis and Rationale

The action of the General Conference is in the nature of a request for a declaratory decision "as to the meaning, application and effect of" portions of the Constitution of the Church contained in Paragraphs 20 and 35 of the 1960 Discipline.

The Judicial Council has been authorized to receive appeals from the General Conference, under two sets of circumstances: 1. The Judicial Council hasconstitutional power "to determine the constitutionality of any act of the General Conference upon an appeal of ... one-fifth the members of the General Conference." (Paragraph 43 (1) of the 1960 Discipline); 2. Acting under Paragraph 43 (5) of the 1960 Discipline the General Conference has empowered the Judicial Council "to pass upon the constitutionality of any proposed legislation (emphasis supplied) when such declaratory decision is requested by the General Conference. . . ." Paragraph 904 (2) of the 1960 Discipline.

These provisions allow only for requests concerning the constitutionality of legislation proposed or passed by the General Conference. There is no indication that any legislation, which involved the two cited paragraphs, had been enacted or was being proposed by the General Conference of 1960. The statement that a future General Conference might wish to pass legislation involving the interpretation and application of the constitutional paragraphs in question is hypothetical and does not afford sufficient basis for this Council to accept jurisdiction under the powers granted in Paragraphs 43 (1) and 904 (2) of the 1960 Discipline.

Paragraph 914 of the 1960 Discipline does provide that "when any paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline seem to be of doubtful meaning, or application, the Judicial Council, on petition as hereinafter provided, shall have jurisdiction to make a ruling in the nature of a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, and effect of such act, legislation or paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline." If this provision should be construed to include in "paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline" the Constitution of the Church, the Judicial Council might then on proper appeal interpret the two paragraphs (20 and 35). But in the enactment of Paragraph 914 the General Conference did not include itself among the bodies entitled to request such declaratory decisions.


Under the existing constitutional and legislative provisions for declaratory decisions the Judicial Council is without authority to take jurisdiction in this request.

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