Decision Number 441


April 13, 1978

Requests for a Ruling on Discipline Paragraph 705.3 as it Relates to the Limitations in Paragraph 706 Concerning the Maximum Number of Persons Who May Be Elected to a Conference Council on Finance and Administration.


Discipline Paragraph 705.3 does not affect the Paragraph 706 provision for membership on a Conference Council on Finance and Administration.

Statement of Facts

The 1976 session of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference increased the size of its Council on Finance and Administration to 15 members. Subsequently, the question of the validity of such action was submitted to the resident bishop, Roy C. Nichols, who ruled that the action was in violation of Paragraph 706 and invalid. From the information submitted to us it is not clear whether the question was submitted to the bishop in writing in the regular business of a session so as to come within the provisions of Paragraph 2512, but on June 10, 1977 the Conference appealed the ruling to the Judicial Council.

On June 15, 1977 the Pacific and Southwest Annual Conference voted to request the Judicial Council to rule on the intent of Sub-paragraph 705.3 as it relates to the limitations in Paragraph 706, specifically asking whether the Pacific and Southwest Conference Council on Finance and Administration may be composed of 10 ministers and 12 lay persons.

Written and oral presentations were made by Bishop Charles Golden and John Kirkman, treasurer of the Pacific and Southwest Conference.


We need not decide whether the jurisdictional requirements were met by the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference since we have jurisdiction under Paragraph 2515 of the request of the Pacific and Southwest Annual Conference for a declaratory decision that involves the same question. 

Analysis and Rationale

Under the Constitution the General Conference has authority to legislate on matters distinctively connectional. (Paragraph 15) The establishment of Annual Conference committees, boards, commissions or councils and their composition, including size of membership, are distinctively connectional matters. The General Conference therefore has power to prescribe such requirements. On the other hand, it may decide to permit the Annual Conferences to exercise considerable flexibility in establishing their own structure. In Decision No. 417 we upheld the constitutionality of Discipline Paragraph 705.1 which gives the Annual Conference the option to create certain conference boards or to assign their functions to other agencies of the conference.

Paragraph 705.3 gives the Annual Conferences some flexibility with respect to the size of their agencies. That grant, however, is not an abdication by the General Conference of its authority, nor is it unlimited.

Paragraph 705.3 does not authorize an Annual Conference to create an agency smaller than the number specified by the General Conference. Neither does it permit a larger agency when the General Conference has fixed an upper limit.

Turning to Paragraph 706 we find that the General Conference has specified both an upper and a lower limit. Within those limits the Annual Conference has flexibility but not outside of them. Paragraph 706 clearly establishes a minimum membership of five for an Annual Conference Council on Finance and Administration. It has not fixed the upper limit as precisely but the clear intent and effect is to grant flexibility and authorize the Annual Conference to decide on any number between five and eleven inclusive. Eleven, however, is the maximum.


The maximum number of persons who may be elected to a Conference Council on Finance and Administration is limited by Paragraph 706 to five ministers and six lay persons and that limitation is not affected by Paragraph 705.3. The Pacific and Southwest Annual Conference Council on Finance and Administration may not be composed of ten ministers and twelve lay persons.

Dissenting Opinion

I concur with the "Statement of Facts" and jurisdiction of Decision No. 441 but I respectfully dissent from the majority in the Decision.

The Annual Conference is the basic body of the Church, having powers given to the Annual Conference by the Constitution of the United Methodist Church and by General Conference legislation. Par. 705.3 is specific legislation dealing with size of membership of the legislative committees of the Discipline.

The substance and basic wording of Par. 705.3 has been in every Discipline of the United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church since 1940, as a power given to Annual Conferences by the General Conference. (Italics for emphasis.) 

Par. 452.1 of the 1940 Discipline of the Methodist Church stated:

"The Annual Conference at the first session following the General Conference or Jurisdictional or Central Conference shall appoint or elect such Quadrennial Boards, Commissions, or Committees as shall be ordered by the General Conference . . . " 

Par. 452.2 of the 1940 Discipline reads: 

"In the appointment of Annual Conference Committees, the provisions of the Discipline concerning membership requirements shall be held to be minimum requirements and that each Annual Conference may make its Committees of such size as its work may need."

The similarity of substance and wording of Par. 452.2 of the 1940 Discipline to Par. 705.3 of the 1976 Discipline is obvious. The fiscal committee of the Annual Conference was titled: "The Conference Commission on World Service and Finance," and was included in the listing of categories under Par. 452.1.

The General Conferences, since 1940 realizing that the work of Annual Conferences differ, sometimes greatly, has granted flexibility to each Annual Conference concerning membership size of its legislative agencies, providing that in Par. 705.3 each Annual Conference may make its agencies of such size as its work requires, over and above the membership requirements of the Discipline.

The 1976 General Conference granted this authority in Par. 705.3 to the Annual Conference. The Annual Conference is authorized by the Constitution to discharge such duties and exercise such powers as the General Conference under the Constitution may determine. In the provisions of Par. 705.3 the General Conference acted within its constitutional powers and the Annual Conference which deems it wise to increase the size of the legislative agencies is acting within the legislative authority granted by the 1976 General Conference.

To hold that Par. 705.3 applies only to the program boards named in Par. 705.1 is to allow the editorial placement by some editor or legislative committee, to circumvent the legislation and intent of Par. 705.3 as 1976 General Conference legislation.

Or to say that the Conference Council on Finance and Administration is a special committee outside the application of the legislation of Par. 705.3 because of the specific flexibility of membership sizes of the legislation of Par. 706; or that the word "Council" is not mentioned in the listed categories of 705.3; thus Par. 705.3 is not applicable, is not only to deny the Annual Conference of one of its basic constitutional rights, but furthermore, sets aside the 1976 General Conference legislation.

As I read Par. 705.3 and understand its history, its legislation may be applied to increase the membership size of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, as an agency of the Annual Conference beyond the 11 persons listed in Par. 706. In the enlargement of the Council on Finance and Administration membership, the restrictions of Par. 706 must be observed: "that in every case there shall be at least one but not more than two lay persons more than ministerial included on the Council."

Truman W. Potter

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