Decision Number 34
Ruling of Bishop Charles C. Selecman in North Texas Annual Conference as to Casting of Ballot by Secretary of a District Conference Under Paragraphs 670-673, Discipline 1944
District Conferences may license proper persons to preach and other orders, under the provisions of Paragraph 670, et seq., Discipline 1944, but "all votes to license shall be by ballot"; and the casting of a ballot by the Secretary pursuant to a vote authorizing him to do so is illegal.
Statement of Facts
At the last session of the North Texas Conference, which convened at Greenville, Texas, October 24-28, 1945, the presiding Bishop, Charles C. Selecman, was called upon to make a decision of law, as recorded in the Journal, page 41, as follows:
Friday afternoon, October 26
"The Chairman read a letter from George C. French asking for the Bishop's decision on matters described in the following manner:
"To the Bishop presiding at the North Texas Conference of The Methodist Church, now in session in Greenville, Texas.
"Whereas, Paragraphs 670-673 specifically provide that all votes to recommend Preachers for admission on trial, for local Deacon's orders, for local Elder's orders, for readmission into the traveling connection, and for restoration of local Preacher's credentials, shall be by ballot; and also to license candidates to preach; and,
"Whereas, Paragraph 46 in Robert's Rules of Order, titled 'Voting,' in sub-paragraph titled 'Voting by Ballot,' says, 'The main object of this form of voting is secrecy,' and, 'As the usual object of the ballot is secrecy, where the by-laws (in this case the Discipline as cited above) require the vote to be taken by ballot, any motion is out of order which members cannot oppose without exposing their views on the question to be decided by ballot. Thus it is out of order to move that one person cast the ballot of the Assembly for a certain person when the by-laws require the vote to be by ballot'; and "Whereas, The same Rules of Order in Paragraph 47 titled 'Votes that are Null and Void even if Unanimous.' "'NO MOTION IS IN ORDER THAT CONFLICTS WITH THE LAWS OF THE NATION AND STATE, OR WITH THE ASSEMBLY'S CONSTITUTION OR BY-LAWS, and if such a motion is adopted even by a unanimous vote, it is null and void'; and
"Whereas, The Journal of the 1945 session of the Dallas District Conference which met in Grace Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, on May 10, 1945, states that said District Conference instructed and permitted its Secretary to cast the ballot for the following purposes:
"(A) To license Lee Alvin Bedford, Robert Vreeland Brickell, and Fred Keller Hill to preach;
"(B) To recommend to the Annual Conference for admission on trial, Clarence Marvin Collins, Horace Neil McFarlin;
"(C) To recommend Clarence Marvin Collins and Earl Esker Harvey, Jr., for Deacon's Orders;
"Whereas, These actions, in the light of the Authorities cited above, seem to be of no force, binding power, or validity, utterly null and void;
"Therefore, As provided for in Paragraph 40 of our 1944 Discipline, I am herewith asking for your official ruling on the following points of Law, all of which seem clearly involved in the situation specifically set forth above.
"Respectfully submitted, "GEORGE C. FRENCH"
RULING OF THE BISHOP
"(1) Under the circumstances cited above, can any Annual Conference legally include in its Official List of Local Preachers any man who has been recommended or licensed to preach in the manner set forth above by any District Conference? Answer-It cannot.
"(2) Under the circumstances cited above, can any Annual Conference legally admit on trial any man who has been thus recommended therefor by any District Conference? Answer-It cannot.
"(3) Can any Annual Conference legally elect to Deacon's or Elder's orders anyone who has been thus recommended therefore by any District Conference? Answer-It cannot.
"In brief: When the Discipline clearly requires the vote of the District Conference to be taken by ballot for the purpose of licensing one to preach, or recommending one for admission on trial into the Annual Conference, or Deacon's orders or Elder's orders, and that District Conference instructs and permits its Secretary to cast the ballot of the Conference for such purposes, is that action of said District Conference legal and valid, or is it illegal and null and void? Answer-Such action is illegal.
"(Signed) CHAS. C. SELECMAN"
At the 1945 session of the Dallas District Conference, the Secretary was instructed and permitted to cast the ballot to license certain named persons to preach, to recommend certain named persons for admission on trial, to recommend certain named persons for deacon's orders.
The matter having taken the above recorded course, comes to us under Paragraph 43-3, viz.: "To pass upon decisions of law made by Bishops in Annualor District Conferences" and we therefore take jurisdiction.
As is set forth in the preamble leading up to the questions recorded above, Paragraphs 670 and 671 of the Discipline clearly state that "All votes shall be by ballot." The question arises as to whether a vote by ballot is synonymous with a vote cast by some designated person for a District Conference, and in this realm of parliamentary law we follow Robert's Rules of Order, which says:
"It is out of order to move that one person cast the ballot of the Assembly for a certain person when the By-Laws (Discipline, in this case) require the vote to be by ballot, and no motion is in order that conflicts with the laws of the nation or state, or with the Assembly's Constitution or By-Laws, and if such a motion is adopted even by a unanimous vote, it is null and void."
We sincerely sympathize with any persons who have been put to trouble, but we must hold to the opinion that the action of the Dallas District Conference was illegal. We therefore affirm the decision of Bishop Selecman.