Decision Number 114
Requiring the Consent of a Ministerial Mem- ber of An Annual Conference Before He Can Be Transferred to Another Annual Conference
That part of Paragraph 431, Section 7, of the 1952 Discipline which requires the consent of a ministerial member of an Annual Conference before he can be transferred to another Annual Conference is Constitutional.
Statement of Facts
At a meeting of the Council of Bishops on November 19, 1954, it was voted to request a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council as to the constitutionality of the provision in Paragraph 431, Section 7, of the 1952 Discipline which requires the consent of a ministerial member of an Annual Conference before he can be transferred to another Annual Conference.
Paragraph 904, Section 1, of the 1952 Discipline gives the Judicial Council authority to "determine the constitutionality of any act of the General Conference upon an appeal of a majority of the Council of Bishops." Therefore, the request of the Council of Bishops is properly before the Judicial Council.
Analysis and Rationale
The Constitution makes Provision in Paragraph 34, Article I, that "there shall be an Episcopacy in The Methodist Church of like plan, powers, privileges and duties" as existed at the time of union in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
The question, therefore, resolves itself into one of whether a Bishop had authority to move a ministerial member of one Annual Conference to another without his consent at the time of union in 1939. There was no permissive legislation authorizing such a transfer from one Conference to another, nor was there restrictive legislation preventing such transfer. The general practice, however, was to secure the consent of the ministerial member of an Annual Conference before the presiding Bishop arranged the transfer of the minister; and if a transfer was made occasionally without permissive legislation, it does not constitute such a general practice as to have provided Bishops any established "plan, powers, privileges" in the two Episcopal Methodisms. Legislation in Paragraph 431, Section 7, provided clarification of this question and does not remove from the Bishops any authorized "plan, powers, privileges and duties" in the question of a transfer of a minister from one Annual Conference to another without his consent.
Applicable to this question is the status of the minister in The Methodist Church. Prior to union in 1939 the minister joined an Annual Conference. Methodist Church procedures have long been designed to the end that a minister should and shall belong to an Annual Conference of his own choosing, subject to Disciplinary arrangements for Admission, for continuing his membership, and for possible transfer from one to another. For this transfer to be effective, the consent of the appointive powers has been and is necessary, and it seems entirely proper that the general practice on the part of Bishops to secure the minister's consent for such transfer should be written into the Discipline. The presiding Bishop's authority is clear as to appointment within the Annual Conference where a minister's membership is held. There has been question, however, about the legality of transfer from one Annual Conference to another without the transferee's consent, and it is at this point that the General Conference has acted.
Of equal force with Paragraph 34, Article 1, and bearing directly on this question are other Provisions in the Constitution, namely Article IV, Paragraph 8, which reads "The General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctly connectional," and Section 5 of the same Paragraph which specifically grants to the General Conference the power "To define and fix the powers, duties and privileges of the Episcopacy." This is definite authority for the General Conference to enact the provision in Paragraph 431, Section 7, which requires the consent of a ministerial member of an Annual Conference before the Bishop can transfer him to another.
It is recognized that there may be administrative advantages, and even advantages to the minister involved, of transferring him from one Annual Conference to another within the Episcopal Area where the Conference at any given time is located. However, there has not been in Episcopal Methodism any expressed legal permission to transfer a minister without his consent to another Conference within the Episcopal Area of the Conference's current location, nor beyond it. If Bishops had the right in 1939 to transfer a minister without his consent, such right would have permitted the Bishop to transfer the minister to any Conference not only within his area but also beyond it and even into another Jurisdiction, limited only by the consent of the receiving Bishop. There was no permissive authority at that time nor has there been such expressed authority subsequent thereto. The minister is a member of the Annual Conference where he holds his membership and has the right to retain his membership there unless he is agreeable for his presiding Bishop to arrange a transfer for him.
Paragraph 431, Section 4, gives the Bishops authority "to fix the appointments of the preachers in the Annual Conferences . . . as the Discipline may direct." In case of transfer from one Annual Conference to another, the Discipline directs in Section 7 of the same Paragraph that the Bishops secure the minister's consent.
The Judicial Council, therefore, holds that the provision in Paragraph 431, Section 7, providing for consent by a minister before he can be transferred from an Annual Conference where he holds membership to another is Constitutional.