Decision Number 98
Ruling of Bishop Roy H. Short Regarding the Legality of the "Conference Council" as Adopted by the Tennessee Annual Conference at Its Session September 4th, 1952
An Annual Conference may create a Commission or "Council" for the purpose of correlating and promoting the work of the various Agencies of the Conference but without authority over those Boards, Commissions and Committees whose powers and duties are defined in certain Paragraphs of the Discipline.
Statement of Facts
The Tennessee Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in session at Pulaski, Tennessee, on September 4, 1952, adopted a proposal for the establishment of a "Conference Council" for the purpose of correlating and promoting the work of the various Boards and Agencies of the Conference (see Journal of the Tennessee Annual Conference for 1952, pages 59, 60, 61). The proposal grew out of the experience of the Annual Conference with an Inter-Board Council which had been in operation since the Conference session of 1945.
At the session of the Tennessee Annual Conference in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on September 4, 1953, the following request for a ruling was made in writing by three members of the Conference:
"The undersigned respectfully request your ruling as to the legality of the Conference Council as adopted by the Annual Conference meeting in Pulaski, Tennessee, on September 4, 1952, found on pages 59, 60, and 61 of the Journal of the Tennessee Conference of 1952.
W. O. Largen Willard H. Blue Cullen T. Carter"
The ruling of the Bishop was as follows:
"The Inter-Board Council or Conference Council is designed to function as a promotional and service agency for all the Boards of the Annual Conference. It is composed of representatives ex-officio or duly elected by the various Conference Boards. It does not alter the structure or functioning of any of the Conference Boards as outlined in the Discipline or take away any of their prerogatives. It is, therefore, not contrary to the law of the Church."
The conditions of Paragraphs 43-3 and 909 of the Discipline having been met, the ruling of Bishop Short is now properly before the Judicial Council.
Analysis and Rationale
The "Conference Council" as adopted by the Tennessee Annual Conference at its session of September 4, 1952, might be alleged to be contrary to the law of the Church if (1), the Conference by its action had exceeded its authority, or, (2) , the "Conference Council" as adopted had been granted powers which contradicted the rights of the General Conference in its establishment of certain Annual Conference Boards, Commissions and Committees with powers and duties as defined in certain Paragraphs of the Discipline. The facts do not support such an allegation.
(l) - An Annual Conference certainly has the right to create its own Agencies for the promotion of the work of the Church within its bounds.
SECTION VII, article 11 of the Constitution (Paragraph 22 of the Discipline) reads as follows:
"The Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church, and as such shall have reserved to it the right to vote on all Constitutional Amendments, on the election of Ministerial and Lay Delegates to the General and the Jurisdictional or Central Conferences, on all matters relating to the character and Conference relations of its ministerial members, and on the ordination of ministers, and such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference under the Constitution, with the exception that lay members may not vote on matters of ordination, character, and Conference relations of ministers. It shall discharge such duties and exercise such powers as the General Conference under the Constitution may determine."
There is ample evidence in the Discipline that among "such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference" is the right of the Annual Conference to govern its own procedures within the limits of the Constitution.
The first sentence of Paragraph 631 of the Discipline reads:
"The Annual Conference may make rules to govern its own procedures; provided that no Annual Conference shall make any rule contrary to the Constitution or to the powers granted it by the General Conference."
Paragraph 630 (1) of the Discipline becomes specific concerning the right of an Annual Conference to create its own Agencies for its work:
"The Annual Conference at the first session following the General Conference or Jurisdictional or Central Conferences shall appoint or elect such Quadrennial Boards, Commissions, or Committees as shall be ordered by the General Conference or the Jurisdictional or the Central Conference of which the said Annual Conference is a part, or by the Annual Conference itself, for the purpose of promoting the work of The Methodist Church within the bounds of the said Annual Conference. The powers and duties of said Boards, Commissions, and Committees shall be prescribed by the Conference authorizing them or as defined in certain Paragraphs of this Discipline."
Certainly the "Conference Council" as adopted by the Tennessee Annual Conference is one of the "Boards, Commissions or Committees" ordered by that Conference for the promotion of the work of The Methodist Church within its bounds.
(2) - The "Conference Council" as adopted by the Tennessee Annual Conference on September 4, 1952, was not granted powers which are in conflict with the powers and duties of Annual Conference Boards, Commissions and Committees established by the General Conference and defined in the Discipline. Paragraph 6(b) of the plan of the "Conference Council" as adopted reads:
"The Conference Council is a promoting and correlating agency of the Boards and Agencies of the Annual Conference and has no authority over the participating Boards and Agencies."
Under the plan, each Annual Conference Board or Agency presents to the Annual Conference its suggested Program for adoption. When adopted, those phases of the Program which are to be promoted by the "Conference Council" are submitted to the "Council" for correlation and promotion. There seems to be no conflict here with the rights of the General Conference or with the powers and duties of Annual Conference agencies established by the General Conference.
It is therefore the Decision of the Judicial Council that the "Conference Council" as adopted by the Tennessee Annual Conference on September 4, 1952, is not contrary to the law of the Church. Accordingly, the ruling of Bishop Short is hereby affirmed.