Decision Number 447
The Authority of the Jurisdictional Conference to Cause Union, Merger, Division or Dissolution of an Annual Conference Without Consent of Each Annual Conference Affected by Such Action.
The Jurisdictional Conference does have the authority to cause union, merger, division or dissolution of an Annual Conference without consent of each Annual Conference affected by such action, subject to the limitations of Par. 26.4 and Par. 41.
Statement of Facts
The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in session in July, 1976 passed a resolution authorizing the naming of a Boundary Study Task Force, and charging it with the responsibility of making an in depth study of both area and Annual Conference boundaries within the Jurisdiction, with progress reports to be made to the Jurisdictional Executive Committee and the final report to the 1980 session of the Jurisdictional Conference. The membership of the Task Force was announced during the 1976 session of the Conference. In the process of developing its report, the Task Force at a meeting in Philadelphia, Pa. on April 16-17, 1978 requested a declaratory decision on the following:
"Do the provisions of Part I, Division Two, Section IV, Par. 26, Article V, No. 4 and Section VIII Par. 45, Article IV of the Constitution of the Church, authorizing Jurisdictional Conferences to determine boundaries of their Annual Conferences" and to make "changes in the number, names and boundaries ... of the Annual Conferences" legally include the authority of the Jurisdictional Conference to cause and direct the union, merger, consolidation, division and/or dissolution of an Annual Conference (whether or not incorporated) without the affirmative consent of each Annual Conference affected by any such union, merger, consolidation, division or dissolution?"
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2515.1,2(f) of the 1976 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The Task Force is a duly authorized "body" of the Jurisdictional Conference as referred to in the minutes of that Conference and in Par. 2515.2(f) of the Discipline.
The power of the Jurisdictional Conferences is stated in the following paragraphs:
Par. 26 (Article V)-"The Jurisdictional Conferences shall have the following powers......... Par. 26.4-"To determine the boundaries of their Annual Conferences; provided that there shall be no Annual Conference with a membership of fewer than fifty ministers in full connection except by the consent of the General Conference; and provided further that this provision shall not apply to Annual Conferences of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church during the first three quadrenniums (sic) after union.
Par. 45 (Article IV)-"Changes in the number, names and boundaries of the Annual Conferences may be effected by the Jurisdictional Conferences ... according to the provisions under the....... powers of the Jurisdictional Conferences"
An additional statement of limitation is found in Par. 41:
"For a period of twelve years following union, Annual Conferences shall not have their names or boundaries changed without their consent . . . "
Since the union of the former churches was declared to be official in May, 1968, the three quadrennia (twelve years) will be completed in May, 1980. After that date the restriction relating to minimum number of ministers will remain in effect as the paragraph now stands.
The Constitutional Paragraph we are considering, minus that restriction, remains the same as that under which Judicial Council Decisions No. 28, 217, and Interim Nos. 1 and 2 were made.
In those decisions it is evident that the Judicial Council recognized not only that the Jurisdictional Conference had the power to determine the number, names and boundaries of their Annual Conferences but also that it was a non-delegable duty of the Jurisdictional Conference to make those decisions.
These earlier opinions refer to the wisdom of placing final determination of merger and boundaries in a "body capable of acting wisely and impartially" and "a body in a better position to weigh the overall consequences than are the conferences themselves."
We are persuaded that this is a sound argument and that the Jurisdictional Conference remains the body to determine changes in number, names and boundaries of the Annual Conferences within their geographical boundaries.
A Jurisdictional Conference has the authority to change the boundaries of its Annual Conferences without the vote of the Annual Conferences subject to the time limitation of twelve years from May, 1968 and the minimum number of ministers required in an Annual Conference.