Decision Number 121
Request of the Northwest Philippines An- nual Conference for a Declaratory Decision Concerning Its Right or Power to Ordain a Woman as Local Deacon
Since the Philippines Central Conference has failed to take action regarding the ordination of women, the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference has the right to ordain a woman as a Local Deacon.
Statement of Facts
The following action was taken at the session of the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference in San Jose, Neuva Ecija, Philippines, February 17-21, 1954.
"Upon motion of Melanio M. Loresco seconded by Cenon Gacutan it was approved that the ordination of Miss Romana Amson as a Local Deacon be deferred until an opinion of the Judicial Council be received approving the same. The Secretary was then ordered to write the President, Judicial Council, for such opinion on Women's Ordination."
The Judicial Council received the following letter from the Conference Secretary:
"Sirs: January 11, 1955
"The Northwest Philippines Annual Conference in its last session voted to defer the ordination of a qualified local preacher as Local Deacon pending receipt of an opinion from the Judicial Council as to whether an Annual Conference like this Northwest Philippines Annual Conference, has the right or power to ordain a woman as Local Deacon upon expressed approval of its members. In this connection, it is hereby informed that the Philippines Central Conference to which this Annual Conference belongs, failed to provide Rules and regulations for the ordination of a woman as per Paragraph 578 of the 1952 Methodist Discipline. However, Paragraph 22 of the same Discipline and other provisions relative to the above case were fully discussed after which this Conference approved the idea of ordaining a woman as Local Deacon. Upon recommendation of the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications, however, action relative thereto has been held pending until an opinion from that honorable body is received.
In view of the foregoing and by authority of the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference, I have the honor to request this honorable Judicial Council to please render an opinion relative to this matter of Woman Ordination and to send the same opinion at the earliest possible time through the undersigned to this Annual Conference at the above address.
"Respectfully yours, "/s/ Gregorio R. Bailen "GREGORIO R. BAILEN Conference Secretary"
Under Paragraph 914 of the 1952 Discipline an Annual Conference has the right to request the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision. The action of the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference constitutes such a request and the matter is therefore properly before the Judicial Council.
Analysis and Rationale
Section VII, Article 11, of the Constitution (Par. 22 of the 1952 Discipline ) declares - "The Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church, and as such shall have reserved to it the right to vote on all Constitutional Amendments, on the election of ministerial and lay delegates to the General and the Jurisdictional or Central Conferences, on all matters relating to the character and Conference relations of its ministerial members, and on the ordination of ministers, etc."
Paragraph 313 of the 1952 Discipline, at the close of a series of Paragraphs dealing with local preachers, ordained and unordained, states that "Women are included in the foregoing provisions except in so far as they apply to candidates for the traveling ministry." Certainly, then, a woman may be granted a Local Preacher's license and, if she meets the qualifications for ordination, may be granted ordination as a Local Preacher by vote of the Annual Conference.
In the case of Annual Conferences outside the United States of America, however, these rights and powers may be modified by action of a Central Conference under the powers granted to it by the Constitution.
Section V, Article IV, of the Constitution (Par. 18 of the 1952 Discipline) states that:
"The Central Conference shall have the following powers or duties and such others as may be conferred by the General Conference... (5) to make such rules and regulations for the administration of the work within their boundaries as the conditions in the respective areas may require, subject to the powers that have been or shall be vested in the General Conference."
Under the authority of this section of the Constitution the General Conference has conferred many other powers and duties upon the Central Conference. Paragraph 578 states:
"A Central Conference shall have the power to make such changes and adaptations as the peculiar conditions on the fields concerned require regarding the local church, ministry, special advices, worship, and temporal economy within its territory, and shall have power to decide the official status and ordination of women; provided that no action shall be taken which is contrary to the Constitution and the General Rules of The Methodist Church."
Under this authority the Philippines Central Conference could change or modify, for all the Annual Conferences within its boundaries, the provisions in the Discipline which give an Annual Conference the right and power to grant ordination to a woman as a Local Preacher.
However, since, as the Secretary of the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference states, the Philippines Central Conference has taken no action in this regard, it is the judgment of the Judicial Council that the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference may proceed under the provisions of the Constitution and Discipline of the Church which grant an Annual Conference the right and the power to ordain a woman either as a Local Deacon or as a Local Elder providing she meets the disciplinary qualifications for such ordination.
It is therefore the Decision of the Judicial Council that unless or until the Philippines Central Conference takes some action changing or adapting the disciplinary provisions concerning the ordination of women as Local Preachers, the Northwest Philippines Annual Conference has the right and the power to ordain a woman as a Local Deacon.
Saturday, July 30, 1955.