THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF
THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH
IN THE MATTER OF
THE PETITION OF FRANK E. JONES
DECISION No. 2011-26
The case comes before the Council by petition for declaratory judgment filed by Rev. Frank E. Jones, a member in good standing of the New York Conference, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, hereinafter referred to as (“The A.M.E. Zion Church”), pursuant to the Act passed by 1988 General Conference and in accordance with the Rules of the Judicial Council, (as amended.) which reads in part as follows:
a) The Council shall have appellate function.
b) The Council shall not have original jurisdiction, since decisions are declaratory and final in the interim of the General Conference.
c) The Council is amenable to the General Conference, and any decision of the Council may be reversed or modified by the General Conference in regular or special session.” Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church 8, (hereinafter referred to as “The Discipline”) Article II, ¶ 360.
b) To hear and make declaratory judgments when petitioned to do so when any law is subject to more than one interpretation or any paragraph in The Book of Discipline is of doubtful meaning. Any person in good and regular standing in The A.M.E. Zion Church can petition the Judicial Council for such a judgment. The Council's decision is final, unless revised or reversed by the General Conference.” Id. Par. 361, Art. III.
FACTS OF THE CASE
No testimony was presented to the Council. No hearing requested, as none is needed.
The Petitioner alleges that in a significant number of Annual Conferences in The A.M.E. Zion Church, Superannuated Ministers have been discouraged from participating in the voting process for Annual Conference Delegates to the General Conference. In some Annual Conferences of The A.M.E. Zion Church, Superannuated Ministers have been denied the right and privilege of voting in the election of Annual Conference Delegates to the General Conference.
He further alleges that in most Annual Conferences of The A.M.E. Zion Church, Superannuated Ministers have been denied the right and privilege to run as a candidate to represent their annual conferences as a delegate to the General Conference.
1. Under Church law, does a Superannuated Minister have the right to vote in the election of Annual Conference Delegates to the General Conference?
2. Does a Superannuated Minister have the right to be a candidate for delegate to represent his/her Annual Conference to the General Conference?
Before addressing the questions presented, it is first proper to define a Superannuated Minister. To do so, we only need to look to The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, hereinafter referred to as “The Discipline.” Accordingly,
A Superannuated Minister is one who has been retired because of age or other infirmity. When a traveling minister has rendered no less than ten years of effective service in The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, maintained a good standing in the traveling connection and becomes too feeble to hold a charge by reason of infirmity, he/she may by vote of the annual conference of which he/she is a member, be placed in the superannuated relations. He/she shall still be a member of the annual conference, and shall enjoy the privileges of the quarterly conference where he/she resides. He/she shall be taken cognizance of by the presiding elder, who shall report his/her Christian and ministerial conduct to the annual conference.
Paragraph 257, The Discipline. From this provision of The Discipline, it is clear, beyond doubt, that a Superannuated Minister is a member of the annual conference and quarterly conference. Even though superannuated membership is a special category of membership, it is afforded the same rights and privileges as other members of the annual conference. Absent any contrary provision in The Discipline, the question has to be answered in the affirmative.
(Note: The Annual Conference should adhere to the requirements of The Discipline, when considering the request for superannuated status in theory and in practice, namely the minister has become too feeble to hold a charge by reason of infirmity).
Additionally, recognition must be given to the other references regarding the superannuated minister. A superannuated minister can be brought up on charges for immoral or unchristian-like conduct and tried the same as other traveling ministers. In such cases, the “… superannuated ministers shall be dealt with in the same manner as traveling ministers.” Paragraph 306.8, The Discipline. This also includes the right to appeals as outlined in The Discipline.
Further support for the Superannuated Minister to have the same rights and privileges as other traveling ministers, it has long been established, as adopted by the General Conference in 1896, and published in 1898 by Bishop John B. Small, that:
… [A] superannuated preacher possesses all the privileges of an itinerant minister." He(/She) has a voice and vote in conference session equal to any other member, and may represent the annual conference, as a delegate, in the General Conference - whether he[/she] resides within the bounds of the conference district or not – his[/her] church privileges are unabridged. (Emphasis added).
Bishop John B. Small, Section 40, page 127, Code on The Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, (1898).
THEREFORE, we conclude that under The A.M.E. Zion Church law, a superannuated minister has the right to vote in the election of Annual Conference Delegates to the General Conference.
FURTHER, a superannuated minister has the right to be a candidate for delegate to represent his/her Annual Conference to the General Conference.
BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL THIS 24TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, 2011.
Justice Reed for the Council