Decision Number 83
The Continuation of a Central Conference Bishop in EffectiveRelation as a Bishop, He Having Reached His Seventieth Birthday Prior to the First Day of the Regular Session of His Central Conference
Under present provisions of the Discipline no age limit has been made for the retirement of Central Conference Bishops. Paragraph 436 of the 1948 Discipline applies only to Bishops assigned to Jurisdictions under the Plan of Union and those elected by Jurisdictional Conferences since Union. Under Paragraph 8 of the Discipline the General Conference has the right to prescribe a uniform rule for the superannuation of all Bishops, but to date it has not exercised that power.
Statement of Facts
The following request for a Declaratory Decision has been received by the Judicial Council from the Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas, to wit:
"TO THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF THE METHODIST CHURCH
"The Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas requests a Declaratory Statement of the Judicial Council upon the following:
"Whereas Par. 5, Art. IV, See. 6 of the 1948 Discipline in line 3 of said Section 5 provides that the General Conference shall 'provide a uniform rule for their superannuation' and
"Whereas Par. 438 states that 'each Central Conference shall determine the rules for retirement of its Bishops,' and
"Whereas the General Conference in Par. 436 (1) has set the following rule:'A Bishop whose seventieth birthday precedes the first day of the regular session of his Jurisdictional Conference shall be released at the close of that Conference from the obligation to travel through the connection at large, and from Residential Supervision,'
"Therefore, the Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas respectfully asks if a Bishop elected by a Central Conference may be continued in effective relation as a Bishop after having reached his seventieth birthday before the first day of the regular session of his Central Conference.
"LEON T. MOORE, Secretary of the Commission."
The Judicial Council, under Paragraph 914 of the 1948 Discipline, has jurisdiction to grant the request and to render a Declaratory Decision on the question submitted.
Article IV, Section 1, Division Two of the Constitution (Paragraph 8 of the 1948 Discipline) grants to the General Conference "full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional." This is a broad grant of power, and unless there is found elsewhere in the Constitution some modification of, or a limitation to, this power, the General Conference has the right to prescribe one age limit for the retirement of Bishops assigned to or elected by Jurisdictional Conferences and another rule for the retirement of Bishops elected by Central Conferences.
The legislative history on this question reveals that the General Conference has so interpreted its powers in this respect. In Paragraph 436 of the Discipline it has established a rule for the retirement of Bishops assigned to or elected by Jurisdictional Conferences. In Paragraph 438 it has undertaken to delegate to Central Conferences the power to establish rules for the retirement of Central Conference Bishops. Whether the provisions of Paragraph 438 constitute an illegal delegation of power and authority need not be determined in order to answer the question here under consideration.
Central Conference Bishops constitute a part of the "Episcopacy" of The Methodist Church. (See Judicial Council Decision 4.) Under Section 5 of Paragraph 8 of the Discipline, reading as follows:
"To define and fix the powers, duties, and privileges of the Episcopacy, to adopt a plan for the support of the Bishops, to provide a uniform [italics ours] rule for their superannuation .... as well as under the blanket grant of "full legislative power on all things distinctively connectional," given in the first clause of Paragraph 8, the General Conference does have the right to provide a uniform rule for the superannuation of all Bishops, including Central Conference Bishops. So far, however, such uniform rule for the superannuation of all Bishops has not been provided by the General Conference.
It has been suggested that the provision in Section 5 of Paragraph 8 authorizing the General Conference "to provide a uniform rule for [the] superannuation" of Bishops, constitutes a limitation upon the legislative power granted in the first clause of Paragraph 8; and that a proper interpretation of Paragraph 8 as a whole is that in legislating upon the question of superannuation or retirement of Bishops it is limited to prescribing a uniform rule for the retirement of all Bishops.
In view of the broad grant of power contained in the first clause of Paragraph 8, and the fact that the provision set out in Section 5 of Paragraph 8 is not a clearly expressed limitation on this broad grant of power contained in the first clause of said Paragraph, it does not appear that the Paragraph as a whole is subject to the interpretation suggested. It would appear that a more reasonable interpretation would be that the General Conference has "full legislative power on all matters distinctively connectional," including the power and authority "to provide a uniform rule" for April 26, 1952.
In answer to the specific question submitted to the Judicial Council by the Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas, it is the decision of the Council that under present legislation on the subject a Bishop elected by a Central Conference may be continued in effective relation as a Bishop after having reached his seventieth birthday before the first day of the regular session of his Central Conference, but that the General Conference has the constitutional power to provide a uniform rule for the superannuation of all Bishops, including Central Conference Bishops, if it desires to exercise that power.