Decision Number 548
The Constitutionality, Meaning and Effect of 1980 Discipline Par. 649, as to its Fulfillment by the Philippine Central and Annual Conferences, Relating to the Process by which Parts of The United Methodist Church may become Autonomous Methodist Bodies or Affiliated Churches.
Under an Enabling Act which authorizes a Central Conference to enter into an autonomous relationship with The United Methodist Church within a particular quadrennium all votes required by 1976 Discipline, Par. 675 (Par. 649 1984 Discipline) must be taken and properly recorded during the authorized quadrennium.
Statement of Facts
The United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the Philippines on April 18, 1984 requested a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning and application or effect of disciplinary provision Par. 649 of the 1980 Discipline. This provision and its predecessor Par. 675 1976 Discipline (now Par. 649 1984 Discipline) provides the method by which central conferences enter into an autonomous relationship with The United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Youth Fellowship is the official youth body of the Philippines Central Conference.
The 1976 General Conference passed an Enabling Act authorizing the Philippines Central Conference to enter into an autonomous relationship with The United Methodist Church "within the 1976-1980 quadrennium and implement its decision according to the provisions of the Discipline." DCA p. 290 (1976). Subsequently, in November of the same year, the Central Conference at its eleventh session voted in favor of the plan, "in accordance with the enabling act of the 1976 General Conference."
The annual conferences of the following year, 1977, voted to ratify the action of the Central Conference with the following results:
For Against Abstain
Northeast Philippines Annual Conference 80 60 0
Northwest Philippines Annual Conference 50 92 0
Middle Philippines Annual Conference 122 17 0
Philippines Annual Conference (Unanimous Vote) 160 0 0
Southwest Philippines Provisional Annual Conference 46 0 0
Mindanao Annual Conference 101 15 8
559 184 8
The Coordinating Council of the Philippines Central Conference upon receiving notice of the two-thirds aggregate total of affirmative votes of the annual conferences, proceeded to instruct the Commission on Church Structure to prepare the Constitution and Discipline for the new church for presentation to the 1980 Central Conference and then to the annual conferences for ratification before the 1984 General Conference. The commission began its work and presented some drafts which conferences and organizations started to discuss and consider.
In 1978, questions were raised as to the validity of the votes on autonomy taken by the annual conferences in the Manila Episcopal Area:
1. In the Mindanao Annual Conference, all local pastors and deaconesses were allowed to vote.
2. In the Southwest Philippines Annual Conference there were more votes cast than the actual membership of the annual conference, both lay and clergy.
3. In the Philippines Annual Conference, although instructions were made to the conference secretary to cast a unanimous vote in favor of autonomy, the journal does not indicate it was done and no total number of votes cast appears.
In 1979, the Southwest Philippines Provisional Annual Conference voted 23 in favor, 0 against and the Mindanao Annual Conference voted 65 in favor and 40 against with one abstention. In 1980, the Philippines Annual Conference took no action on the matter but the 1981 Philippines Annual Conference took the following action as noted in the Journal:
81: 143: VOTED: To reiterate the Conference action that the Philippines Annual Conference vote on autonomy was unanimous and that the number of delegates who are present and voting be counted.
81: 144: VOTED: That the Philippines Annual Conference take a vote on Autonomy.
Present and voting -- 124
For -- 119
Against -- 2
Abstained -- 3
This 1981 action gave an aggregate vote of 670 cast 459 in favor, 211 against. The required two-thirds vote was 449.
On October 26, 1984 an oral hearing was held in Evanston, Illinois at the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Appearing for the Philippines National Methodist Youth Fellowship were the Rev. Nathanael L. Cortez and the Rev. Leo Constantino.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615.
Analysis and Rationale
The issue is whether the action taken by the Philippines Central Conference and its annual conferences in its votes which provided for entering into an affiliated autonomous relationship is valid. Specifically, did the 1981 action of the Philippines Annual Conference fulfill the directive of the 1976 Enabling Act in a timely fashion? We answer in the negative.
The 1976 General Conference Enabling Act gave the Philippines Central Conference the right to decide within the 1976-1980 quadrennium if it "wants to become an affiliated autonomous Methodist Church or remain a Central Conference." While the record shows the Philippines Annual Conference in 1977 did instruct the Conference secretary to cast a unanimous vote in favor of autonomy, that this was done is not contained in the journal nor does the total number of votes cast appear in the journal.
The record shows the 1981 vote was a reiteration and confirmation of the 1977 action. Thus the petitioner asserts the 1981 vote was not a new and separate action taken by the Philippines Annual Conference but rather should be considered as part of an action taken in 1977.
We disagree. The 1977 vote of the Philippines Annual Conference was not properly recorded. In neither 1979 nor 1980 was this matter acted upon by the Philippines Annual Conference. Par. 649 (Par. 675 1976 Discipline) and the 1976 Enabling Act contemplate that all votes be taken during the quadrennium of the Enabling Act and that these votes be valid. In the case of the Philippines Annual Conference this was not done. Therefore, the Philippines Central Conference has failed to comply with Par. 675 (Par. 649 1984 Discipline).
The Philippines Central Conference has failed to follow the mandate of the Enabling Act of the 1976 General Conference. The votes of the Annual Conferences in the Philippines Central Conference to enter into an autonomous relationship with The United Methodist Church were not timely and are invalid.