Decision Number 139
Ruling of Bishop Bachman G. Hodge in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference Concerning the Application of Paragraph 1103 of the Discipline to the Methodist Children's Home at Selma, Alabama
The General Provisions of Part VII of the 1956 Discipline (Paragraphs 1101-1108) are applicable only to the general administrative agencies of The Methodist Church and cannot be held to apply to a Board of Directors or Trustees of a Children's Home which is the property of an Annual Conference or of Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church.
Statement of Facts
The following is a transcript from the Conference Journal of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, page 186.
REQUEST FOR RULING
"The following request for a ruling was presented at the Alabama-West Florida Conference, which met in Montgomery, Alabama. The request was made by Rev. L. B. Green, a member of the conference in the retired relation. It was presented on Wednesday, May 29, 1957. The following is a syllabus of the request:
"'Brother Green states that two of the leading members of the Board of Directors of the Methodist Children's Home, located at Selma, Alabama, and owned and supported by the Alabama-West Florida and North Alabama Conferences, have used their positions on the board for their own financial advantage. Mr. Green further states that the Chairman of the Board, an architect, received fees for his services as the architect for the Children's Home. Furthermore, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Methodist Children's Home, an insurance agent, received fees for insurance services to the Home. Brother Green is of the opinion that the Board of Directors of the Methodist Children's Home, Selma, Alabama, the property of the Birmingham Area of The Methodist Church, is subject to the provisions of Paragraph 1103 of the 1956 Discipline of The Methodist Church. He requested a ruling on the matter.'
RULING OF THE BISHOP
"Section 1103 of the 1956 Discipline reads as follows:
" 'No person who receives compensation for services rendered or commissions of any kind from a board or other agency shall be eligible for voting membership on that board or agency.'
"It is my opinion, and I so rule, that this section does not apply to inter-conference or conference boards or agencies. This section appears in Chapter I of Part VII of the Discipline and deals exclusively with the administrative agencies governing the general administrative services of the church as the Coordinating Council, Council on World Service and Finance, The Methodist Publishing House, the Board of Missions and other general administrative agencies.
"The fact that the General Conference of 1956 excluded certain general agencies from the provisions of this section, but took no action excluding agencies other than general administrative agencies, is persuasive of the fact that the General Conference intended this Section 1103 to apply only to the general administrative agencies of the entire church.
"An editorial note to Part VII of the Discipline defines 'agency' as a general term, meaning council, board, commission, committee, or other body established to carry out the connectional work of the church. Section 2100 of the 1956 Discipline defines 'connectional' as follows: 'Of or pertaining to the general organization or functioning of The Methodist Church, other than on a local-church basis.' The definitions which appear under Section 2100 are not official definitions, and were inserted by the editors only for the convenience of the reader. It is obvious that the definition of 'connectional' is not complete. It omits entirely any reference to all of the multitude of bodies and agencies between general conference level and the local church level.
"Section 791 of the 1956 Discipline relates to the Conference Commission on World Service and Finance and it is there provided that a member of this commission cannot be a member or employee of any conference board or other agency participating in the funds of the conference benevolence budget.
"Section 1612 of the 1956 Discipline forbids membership on the Board of Conference Claimants to any person indebted to or a beneficiary of conference claimants' funds.
"If Section 1103 applied to conference agencies, then there would be no necessity for the special provisions of similar nature of Sections 791 and 1612.
"The fact that the Discipline, in dealing with conference agencies, forbad interested parties serving only on the Conference Commission on World Service and Finance and on the Board of Conference Claimants, Section 791 and 1612, indicates that these special rules on disqualification would apply only to these particular boards and to no other conference agency.
"If it had been intended that a member of a conference commission or agency should be ineligible for voting if he received compensation for service rendered such commission, board or agency, or any such conference agency; then the General Conference could have specifically legislated thereon. The fact that it did not, in my opinion, sustains my conclusion and ruling.
Bachman G. Hodge, Bishop The Methodist Church Birmingham Area"
The ruling of Bishop Hodge is properly before the Judicial Council under Paragraph 909 of the 1956 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Part VII of the 1956 Discipline is entitled "Administrative Agencies." Chapter 1 of Part VII is entitled "General Provisions." Paragraph 1103 is one of the paragraphs of this chapter. The question before us is whether Paragraph 1103 of these General Provisions can be held to apply to the Board of Directors or Trustees of a Children's Home owned and supported by the Alabama-West Florida and the North Alabama Annual Conferences of The Methodist Church.
The term "connectional" referred to by Bishop Hodge is part of an editorial attempt to define the word "agency' and is not a part of the text of the Discipline here. Connectionalism is a distinctive attribute of Methodism. It indicates that our system of polity is the opposite of congregationalism. The constitution declares that "The General Conference shall have full legislative powers over all matters distinctly connectional" (Par. 8 (1) ). In such distinctively connectional matters the General Conference has exercised its authority on all levels of church organization, including the local church.
This, however, does not imply that specific provisions of the Discipline must be held to apply to all levels of church organization unless such seems to be the clear intent of the provisions.
The question before us is whether the General Conference intended the General Provisions of Chapter 1 of Part VII of the 1956 Discipline to apply to all levels of church agencies or only to the general Administrative agencies of the Church.
A careful reading of these General Provisions compels the conclusion that they could not have been intended to apply to any but the general agencies of The Methodist Church. With the single exception of the provisions in Par. 1103 it would be utterly impossible to apply the paragraphs of these General Provisions to agencies on any other level than that of the general church. It must be assumed that the provisions of Par. 1103 were also intended for such application only.
This is further corroborated by the proposed legislation to implement the report of the Survey Commission to the General Conference of 1952. On page 26 of the Daily Christian Advocate of 1952 is the originally proposed chapter 1 of Part VII of the Discipline. This proposed chapter 1 did not pass the General Conference in this form but it did indicate the thinking of the Survey Commission on "Administrative Agencies." The first paragraph of this proposed chapter 1 reads as follows-"The administrative agencies of The Methodist Church, hereinafter called the general agencies, shall include all committees, commissions, bureaus or sections, divisions, boards, departments and councils (except the Council of Bishops and the Judicial Council) created by the General Conference for the purpose of performing a specific function or functions." It is obvious that the Survey Commission was thinking in terms of "general agencies" when it proposed this chapter out of which the special Committee of Six drew the materials for the General Provisions which became chapter 1 of Part VII on Administrative Agencies.
It is true that Part VII of the 1956 Discipline also has provisions for subsidiary agencies to these general agencies on Jurisdictional, Annual Conferences, District Conference and even Local Church levels. The paragraphs which deal with these subsidiary agencies, however, specify the provisions under which they must function, as chapter 1 specifies the general provisions under which the general agencies must function.
The General Conference has provided Sundry Provisions for "Trustees of schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, homes, orphanages, institutes and other institutions owned or controlled by The Methodist Church" in Paragraph 728 of Part V in "Temporal Economy" which provisions would apply to a Children's Home owned by an Annual Conference or by Annual Conferences. The specific provisions of Paragraph 1103, however, are not included in Paragraph 728.
It is the Decision of the Judicial Council that Paragraph 1103 of the 1956 Discipline is applicable only to the general administrative agencies of The Methodist Church and cannot be held as applying to the Board of Directors of the Methodist Children's Home owned by the Alabama-West Florida and North Alabama Conferences of The Methodist Church. The ruling of Bishop Bachman G. Hodge in this case is hereby affirmed.