Decision Number 131


October 23, 1956

Whether a Minister on Missionary Service Shall Be Counted on the Mission Field or at His Annual Conference for Representation at the General Conference


A missionary minister serving on the field shall be counted in the Annual Conference of which he is a member for General Conference representation.

Statement of Facts

The General Conference of 1956 received and adopted report No. 26 of the Committee of Conferences (see page 552 of the 1956 Daily Christian Advocate) stating that "Missionary ministers who so desire may maintain membership without annuity claim in the Annual Conference from which they are sent, while at the same time exercising active relationships to the Annual Conference on the field during the periods they are in missionary service."

Reference was made to this provision in a discussion on the floor of the General Conference relating to the present ratio of representation and to the possibility of more delegates being elected to the next General Conference than the constitutional maximum of 800. The question of how "active relationships" is to be construed gave rise to the question "whether a minister on missionary service shall be counted on the mission field or at his Annual Conference for representation at the General Conference." In the absence of a ruling from the chair, it was moved that this question be referred to the Judicial Council for decision. (See 1956 Daily Christian Advocate), page 616.) (While, later in the session, the General Conference reconsidered its action adopting Report No. 26 of the Committee on Conferences and referred that Report to the Study Commission On Methodism Overseas (Daily Christian Advocate), pages 620-621), its action referring this question to the Judicial Council was not reconsidered.)


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction to hear and determine questions submitted to it by the General Conference for declaratory decisions under subdivision 5, Article II of Division IV of the Constitution, Par. 43 of the 1952 Discipline. (See Decision No. 88 of the Judicial Council.)

If the reconsideration and referral of Report No. 26 of the Committee on Conferences had made the question referred to the Judicial Council a moot and hypothetical question, the Council should refuse jurisdiction. It stands, however, as a valid question. While it was prompted by one of the provisions in the proposed legislation of said Report No. 26, it came out of the discussion of the larger question of General Conference representation and where a minister on missionary service should be counted for such representation. It is not a hypothetical question but one constantly involved in the working out of the relationships of ministers who serve in areas other than those represented by their own Annual Conferences. The question is properly before the Judicial Council. We, therefore, assume jurisdiction.

Analysis and Rationale

Par. 21 of the 1952 Discipline reads in part as follows:

"The Annual Conference shall be composed of all the traveling preachers in full connection with it, together with a lay member elected by each pastoral charge.. . ."

The ratio of representation of an Annual Conference in the General Conference is specifically defined in Par. 501 of the 1952 Discipline as follows:

"The General Conference shall be composed of one ministerial member for every seventy ministerial members of each Annual Conference and one additional member for a majority fraction thereof and an equal number of lay members. . . ."

Every minister in the traveling ministry of The Methodist Church must hold membership in one Annual Conference and one only. It is therefore clear that he may be counted for General Conference representation only in the Annual Conference of which he is a member, otherwise conditions would obtain by which an Annual Conference might violate the ratio of representation for General Conference as determined by the General Conference.


It is the decision of the Judicial Council that a minister on missionary service shall be counted at the Annual Conference of which he is a member for representation at the General Conference.

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