Decision Number 314


October 29, 1969

Ruling of Bishop Reuben H. Mueller Concerning Proposed Restructuring of the South Indiana Annual Conference.


An Annual Conference may not restructure itself in such a manner that it disregards the mandatory structures established by the General Conference and described specifically in the Discipline.

Statement of Facts

A Committee on Conference Structure was established by the South Indiana Annual Conference to prepare recommendations for the restructuring of the conference. Its report was presented to the June 1969 session of that conference.

The report of the committee was adopted by a vote of 355 to 264. The reorganization plan as adopted, and printed in the conference journal, pages 181-187, would establish, inter alia, six program divisions. It makes no direct mention of or provision for certain specific structures which are mandated by the General Conference. Because of this the presiding bishop was asked to rule on the legality of the proposed reorganization. Bishop Mueller ruled that the proposed plan, in so far as it failed to provide for agencies which are specifically required by the Discipline, was not legal. A member of the conference then moved that the ruling be appealed to the Judicial Council. The motion carried.


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1711 of the Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale

The Committee on Conference Structure of the South Indiana Annual Conference in presenting its report stated: ". . . All structures and forms should be subject to modification any time it would assist the Church to fulfill her mission. . . ." The committee then presented an entirely new structural design which was intended to take into account and provide suitably and efficiently for all of the benevolent and program interests of the church within that Annual Conference. It proposed the establishment of six Divisions and certain other agencies. Some of the agencies required by the Discipline of The United Methodist Church, as the Board of Pensions and the Commission on World Service and Finance, are specifically included. Others are not-as the Board of Evangelism and the Board of Missions.

The question before the Judicial Council is neither (1) whether the plan which was approved by the South Indiana Annual Conference is more efficient or more suitable for the felt needs of that conference nor (2) whether all of the Christian interests and concerns covered by the agencies mandated by the General Conference are cared for in some manner under the proposed plan. The central question is whether an Annual Conference may, at its own option, disregard a specific instruction adopted by the General Conference and made applicable to every Annual Conference. For example, Paragraph 1146 states: "Each AnnualConference shall elect ... a conference Board of Evangelism...." To cover the prescribed functions but not provide for the prescribed agency is not to meet the requirement of the law. If the Discipline uses permissive language, as in Paragraph 1391.1, "Each Annual Conference may create a conference Commission on Ecumenical Affairs," the establishment of the structure is left to the discretion of the conference (Emphases supplied.) If the organizations and assignment of functions in Annual Conference agencies are unsatisfactory to members of a conference they may, of course, seek to effect desired changes through General Conference action.

The foregoing conclusions necessarily follow from the nature of The United Methodist Church as a connectional institution. See Paragraph 665.1 and 665.2 of the Discipline


The action of the South Indiana Annual Conference in adopting the recommendations of the Committee on Conference Structure, in so far as they are in conflict with the specific requirements established by the General Conference, is void and of no effect. The ruling of Bishop R. H. Mueller is affirmed.

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