Decision Number 87
The Right of a Retired Traveling Preacher to Vote in Annual Conference
There is nothing in either the Constitution or the General Legislation of The Methodist Church that would deprive a retired traveling preacher of his right to vote as a full member of the Annual Conference.
Statement of Facts
On May 3, 1952, the General Conference in session at San Francisco referred to the Judicial Council the following memorial submitted by the Northern Philippines Annual Conference requesting a Declaratory Decision:
"We respectfully memorialize the General Conference of The Methodist Church, now in session, to: clarify whether or not a retired pastor retains his right to vote in the Annual Conference. If the right to vote is retained, we recommend that it be so stated in Paragraph 367, or some other appropriate Paragraph."
Paragraph 43, Article II of the Constitution states:
"The Judicial Council shall have authority:
"1. To determine the Constitutionality of any act of the General Conference upon an appeal of a majority of the Council of Bishops, or one fifth of the members of the General Conference.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
"5 To have such other duties and powers may be conferred upon it by the General Conference."
Paragraph 914 of the 1948 Discipline reads as follows:
"When the General Conference shall have passed any act or legislation that appears to be subject to more than one interpretation, or when any Paragraphs or Paragraphs of the Discipline seem to be of doubtful meaning or application, any authority in the Church affected thereby that would have the right to appeal thereon to the Judicial Council under the law of the Church from any action of any Conference, ruling of a Bishop, or of any Board, Commission, or body of the Church, may petition the Judicial Council for a ruling in the nature of a Declaratory Decision as to the meaning, application, and effect of such act, legislation, or Paragraph or Paragraphs of the Discipline; and the Decision of the Judicial Council thereon shall be as binding and effectual as a Decision on appeal under the law relating to appeals to the Judicial Council.
"But only those who could appeal from an action under such an act, legislation, or laws can ask for such Declaratory Decision by the Judicial Council. Moot and hypothetical questions shall not be decided, but only those where some action is desired and some doubt or question as to the meaning or application of an act, legislation, action, or ruling is apparent."
From the above quotations from the Constitution and the general law of the Church, it is apparent that on the question set forth in the memorial presented by the Philippines Annual Conference and referred to the Judicial Council for a Decision, the Judicial Council is authorized to take jurisdiction.
Paragraph 21, Article I of the Constitution (1948 Discipline) defines the composition of an Annual Conference as follows: "The Annual Conference shall be composed of all traveling preachers in full connection with it, together with a lay member elected by each pastoral charge." From the earliest history of The Methodist Church the term "traveling preacher" has been interpreted to mean an ordained member of the Conference as distinguished from a local or licensed preacher, and "full connection" has referred to one who has been graduated from the course of study and passed from "On Trial" status to full membership. There can be no doubt that when a Methodist preacher retires either voluntarily, or by age limit prescribed by the legislation of the General Conference, such retirement does not terminate his "full connection" in the Annual Conference.
Moreover there is nothing in either the Constitution or the general legislation of the Church that would deprive a retired preacher the right to vote as a full member of the Annual Conference.
So far as the Judicial Council has been able to determine, the right of a retired preacher to vote in the Annual Conference of which he is a member has never before been questioned.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that a retired traveling preacher "retains his right to vote in the Annual Conference" of which he is a member in full connection.