Decision Number 129
Whether or Not a Minister in a Sister Church Can Be Given the Privileges of the Floor, Including the Right to Vote, by An Annual Conference of The Methodist Church
An Annual Conference may grant the privileges of the floor to a minister in a sister Church, but cannot grant to such minister the right to vote.
Statement of Facts
On May 3, 1956 the Judicial Council received the following communication form the Council of Bishops:
"May 3, 1956 The Hon. J. Ernest Wilkins, Secretary The Judicial Council of The Methodist Church Minneapolis, Minnesota
My dear Mr. Wilkins:
The Council of Bishops of The Methodist Church in session in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 2, 1956 voted to request a Declaratory Judgment upon the question submitted to the Judicial Council by Bishop Raymond L. Archer of the Singapore Area in his letter of May 1, 1956, as follows:
The Methodist Church in England and in Australia are interested in sending missionaries from their respective Churches to work in one of the Annual Conferences in the Southeast Asia Central Conference (i.e. The Singapore Area). In case we receive an ordained minister from these sister Churches we would hope he might become a member of one of the Annual Conferences of the Singapore Area. However, since that person will be supported by his Church in England or Australia it is his conviction that he should maintain his membership in his home Conference.
The question is - could we accept such a missionary as an associate member of one of our Annual Conferences and ask that Conference to grant such a person the privileges of the floor including the right to vote so long as he is under appointment to serve in that Conference?"
Very respectfully yours, /s/ G. Bromley Oxnam GBO:ck
Under sub-section (1), Paragraph 914 of the 1952 Discipline, the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to render a Declaratory Decision on the question thus submitted to it by the Council of bishops.
Analysis and Rationale
The right to vote in an Annual Conference is inherent only in the members of that Conference. The Constitution of The Methodist Church (Section VII, Article I, Division two of the Constitution, Paragraph 21 of the 1952 Discipline), reads 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 Lay Members shall be at least twenty-one (21) years of age and shall have been for the four years next preceding their election members of one of the constituent Churches forming this union, or of The Methodist Church."
Article II of said Section VII of the Constitution, Paragraph 22 of the 1952 Discipline, reads as follows:
"The Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church, and as such shall have reserved to it the right to vote on all Constitutional Amendments, on the election of Ministerial and Lay Delegates to the General and the Jurisdictional or Central Conferences, on all matters relating to the character and Conference relations of its ministerial members, and on the ordination of ministers, and such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference under the Constitution, with the exception that the Lay Members may not vote on matters of ordination, character, and Conference relations of ministers. It shall discharge such duties and exercise such powers as the General Conference under the Constitution may determine."
Article III of said Section VII of the Constitution (Paragraph 23 of the 1952 Discipline), reads in part as follows:
"The Annual Conference shall elect Ministerial and Lay Delegates to the General Conference and to its Jurisdictional or Central Conference. . . ."
It is hardly conceivable that an Annual Conference could grant to a non-member the right to vote on these important matters. There is no provision in the Constitution or in the law of the Church for an associate member of an Annual Conference.
There is nothing in the Discipline of The Methodist Church that would prevent an Annual Conference from extending to a minister of a sister Church the privileges of the floor, including the right to speak on matters pending before the Conference; but to allow such minister the right to vote would be in violation of the Articles of the Constitution of The Methodist Church above set out. Only members of the Annual Conference can vote on the matters enumerated in the Constitution. By implication, it would be unconstitutional for an Annual Conference to grant the right to vote on any matter to a person not a member of the Annual Conference.
It is the Decision of the Judicial Council that an Annual Conference may grant the privileges of the floor to a minister of a sister Church but cannot grant to such minister the right to vote.