Chapter 5: The Connexion

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5.1 Conference provides direction and inspiration for the Church and is the Church’s governing authority and supreme legislative body. Conference is the sole and final authority in respect of the doctrines of the Church and their interpretation.

5.2 Conference, at one time affiliated to the British Conference and subject in certain respects to its control, acquired complete independence and autonomy under and in terms of Act 17 of 1927 referred to in para. 2.2. Subject to the provisions of Act 111 of 1978, Conference has power to alter its Constitution, to make Rules and Regulations for the good government of the Church and for the due and proper exercise of its jurisdiction, and to do all such acts, matters and things as are expedient and necessary for the maintenance, advancement and benefit of the Church and its objects.

5.3 Conference shall meet annually. Functions and Duties:

5.4 The functions and duties of Conference are:

5.4.1 to give spiritual and missional leadership to the Connexion, this being Conference’s primary function;

5.4.2 to exercise general oversight over all matters in the Connexion;

5.4.3 to decide the general policy and direction of the Connexion;

5.4.4 to determine the doctrines of the Church and their interpretation;

5.4.5 to delegate to the Connexional Executive the functions in para. 5.38 and any other functions;

5.4.6 to delegate whatever powers and functions it may deem necessary to Districts, Committees, Organisations and Units.

5.4.7 to elect the Lay President and Executive Secretary by an absolute majority of votes cast;

5.4.8 to conduct any other business it deems necessary.


5.5 Conference comprises the following Ministers and Lay Members, such Lay Members being members of the Church for at least the past 2 years:

5.5.1 The Presiding Bishop;

5.5.2 The immediate past Presiding Bishop for two years after his/her term of office has ended.

5.5.3 The Presiding Bishop-elect once that election has taken place;

5.5.4 The Lay President;

5.5.5 The Executive Secretary;

5.5.6 The Assistant Secretary or Secretaries, if appointed;

5.5.7 The Bishops of the Districts;

5.5.8 The District lay representatives to the Connexional Executive

5.5.9 Three lay representatives from each District elected by Synod. One shall be elected each year and they shall serve for three years.

5.5.10 Three ministers from each District elected by Synod. One shall be elected each year and they shall serve for three years.

5.5.11 Districts which include independent territories/ countries shall be entitled to send one additional lay representative from that country and one additional ministerial representative from that country, elected by Synod.

5.5.12 Districts with fewer than 15 000 members shall be classified as ‘small Districts’ and shall be represented by two lay representatives and two ministerial representatives.

5.5.13 One lay youth representative from each District elected by the Youth Synod, who shall serve for two years.

5.5.14 Four Representatives of women’s work, one each to be elected by the Women’s Association, the Women’s Auxiliary, the Women’s Manyano and the Young Women’s Manyano;

5.5.15 Two Representatives of men’s work elected by the Young Men’s Guild, or, if the Men’s League has a registered membership of more than 2 000, by the Young Men’s Guild and the Men’s League acting together

5.5.16 The Lay General Treasurer and the Director of the MCO

5.5.17 Three representatives of the Mission Unit

5.5.18 Three representatives of EMMU

5.5.19 The Dean of John Wesley College

5.5.20 One representative of the Youth Unit

5.5.21 One representative of the Ecumenical Affairs Dept

5.5.22 Two representatives of the Local Preachers

5.5.23 The Information Officer

5.5.24 One representative of the Connexional Music Association

5.5.25 The Warden of the Order of Deacons

5.5.26 The Wardens of the Order of Evangelists and the Order of Biblewomen

5.5.27 The Convener and one representative of DEWCOM

5.6 Districts should ensure a balanced representation of women, men and youth.

5.7 Each District, Unit, Organisation and Order shall bear the costs of its Representatives.

5.8 If any Representative is unable to attend for the full duration an Alternate may be appointed, by the District or Organisation represented, to attend for the balance or the whole of the time. The Organisation concerned shall bear any additional cost.


5.9 All legal proceedings by or against the Church shall be instituted in the name of the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Secretary for the time being or in the name of the Registrar if such an appointment has been made by the Connexional Executive for and on behalf of the Church.

5.10 Acting in their official capacity, no person holding any office in the Church, and no organisation, Society, Circuit or Synod in the Church shall institute legal proceedings for or against the Church, save as provided for in para. 5.9.

5.11 No legal proceedings shall be instituted by any formal or informal structure or grouping of the church or any minister or any member of the church, acting in their personal or official capacity, against the church or any formal or informal structure or grouping of the Church, Minister or member thereof for any matter which in any way arises from or relates to the mission work, activities or governance of the church. The mediation and arbitration processes and forums prescribed and provided for by the church for conflict dispute resolution (Appendix 14) must be used by all Ministers and members of the church. If a matter is referred to arbitration, the finding of the Arbitrator shall be final and binding on all Ministers and members of the church. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this paragraph, the provisions thereof do not apply to the Presiding Bishop in conjunction with the Executive Secretary when acting in their official capacity in the interests of the Church.

5.12 Any notice, writ or other legal process to be served on the Church shall be served on the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Secretary for the time being. They shall be reimbursed and fully indemnified out of the funds of the Church for all loss and expense they may sustain in consequence of any action or proceeding instituted by or against them for and on behalf of the Church.


5.13 If the Bishop is unable to attend Conference, the Vice-Chairperson failing whom an elected Representative shall attend. The District may make up the number of its Representatives from among the elected Alternates.

5.14 Any Representative to Conference who is unable to attend shall immediately notify the Bishop who shall arrange for an Alternate to attend.

5.15 Conference or the Connexional Executive may refer any matter to the Synods, the Circuits or other Organisations for their consideration and report through Synod to Conference or the Connexional Executive, with the following provisos:

5.15.1 Districts and Circuits shall as far as possible shall be consulted when making decisions which affect them.

5.15.2 Only matters which directly affect major policy or the life and mission of the Circuit should be referred to Circuit Quarterly Meetings

5.15.3 Matters relating to doctrine, procedures, changes to Laws and Discipline and the general management of the Church should normally be processed at District level through Synods and District Executives.


5.16.1 No new legislation of a material and important nature introduced by Conference shall come into effect until it has been referred to District Synods, their reports have been considered and such legislation has been confirmed by the next Conference. Such legislation before coming into effect shall be considered by the Revision Committee and the Connexional Executive.

5.16.2 If proposed new legislation, which amends the Laws and Discipline, is opposed by more than one-third of the Synods it shall not be authorised by Conference, or by the Connexional Executive, provided that where Synods ignore or do not respond to resolutions, that Synod shall not be taken into account as one of the Synods in determining the “one-third requirement”.


The President:
5.17 The President, who is known as the Presiding Bishop, is the official head and chief pastor of the Church and shall exercise the powers, privileges and authority of that office subject to the directions of Conference and the laws and usages of the Church.

5.18 The Presiding Bishop shall be a Minister of the Church and be elected according to the provisions of Appendix 10.

5.19 The Presiding Bishop shall normally assume duty on the 1st January some 18 months after election and shall continue in the office for a three-year term, but is eligible for re-election. S/he shall be inducted by the Presiding Bishop who most recently vacated the office and who is available.

5.20 The powers, duties, privileges and authority of the Presiding Bishop are inter alia:

5.20.1 to give spiritual leadership to the Church;

5.20.2 to watch over the interests of the Connexion, to give counsel and guidance where necessary, and to promote within the provisions of the Laws and Discipline and Regulations the spiritual advancement of the Church and its general well-being;

5.20.3 to be pastor to the Bishops and the Executive Secretary and other persons in the Church;

5.20.4 to be a member of and to preside at or depute the power to preside at the Sessions of Conference, the Connexional Executive and all Connexional Committees;

5.20.5 to ensure the observance of the resolutions and directions of Conference and of the Connexional Executive, having authority to permit exceptions or departures;

5.20.6 to approve or otherwise the suspension from office or ministry of any Minister who is the subject of disciplinary procedure;

5.20.7 to appoint when necessary a Committee to consult and make recommendations as to the manner of dealing with questions of public importance;

5.20.8 in association with the Executive Secretary to ordain Ministers to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments;

5.20.9 to be the Official Trustee and Vestee for the Church of all property, movable and immovable, belonging to or which may be acquired by the Church;

5.20.10 to execute on behalf of the Church, subject to there having been compliance with all of the relevant regulations and requirements, any power of attorney or other document which may be required in connection with the acquisition, alienation, transfer or mortgage of landed property (Chapter 9);

5.20.11 in conjunction with the Executive Secretary to represent the Church in all legal proceedings instituted by or against it unless a Registrar has been appointed by the Connexional Executive

5.20.12 to assist or to depute someone to assist at any Synod if applied to for that purpose by the Bishop or by a majority of the Superintendents in the District;

5.20.13 to visit any Circuit to inquire into its affairs and, in consultation with the Bishop, to redress any grievance;

5.20.14 to exercise all other powers, privileges and authority entrusted by Conference or the Connexional Executive.

5.20.15 to institute such processes as may be deemed necessary for the proper exercise of the Oversight Ministry implicit within the normal duties and responsibilities of the Presiding Bishop

5.21 The Presiding Bishop has the privilege and power of two members in all the acts of Conference and of the Connexional Executive.

5.22 In Conference, the Connexional Executive and all Connexional Committees the Presiding Bishop shall represent and be charged with the general interests of the Connexion.

5.23 Should any matter arise in the interval between Conferences or meetings of the Connexional Executive for which no provision is made in Laws and Discipline or in the decisions of Conference or the Connexional Executive, and which cannot be deferred for decision by the next Conference or dealt with by the Connexional Executive without the interests of the Church or individuals concerned being prejudiced thereby, the Presiding Bishop may take any necessary action and such action shall be deemed to be the act of Conference or of the Connexional Executive and to have the full force and effect thereof. When using this power The Presiding Bishop shall only be obliged to consult with or give a hearing to such person or persons as he/she at their sole discretion deems necessary.

5.24 In the event of the death, affliction, impeachment of or inability to serve for any other reason, of the Presiding Bishop:

5.24.1 the Presiding Bishop-elect shall temporarily or permanently, as the case may be, assume the office. Such extra term of office shall not be considered part of the Presiding Bishop-elect’s first term of office.

5.24.2 if a Presiding Bishop-elect has not yet been elected, the Executive Secretary shall as soon as possible convene the Connexional Executive who shall elect an interim Presiding Bishop. The first meeting of the District Synods thereafter shall elect a Presiding Bishop who shall immediately assume the office.

5.24.3 the Presiding Bishop shall designate one of the District Bishops as Acting Presiding Bishop during any period of extended absence from the Connexion.

5.24.4 a properly appointed or designated substitute shall assume all the duties, powers, privileges and authority of the Presiding Bishop. A certificate by the Executive Secretary shall be sufficient proof of such substitute’s power to act.

5.25 An accusation made against the Presiding Bishop should be dealt with in terms of Chapter 11.

The Lay President:
5.26 Conference shall elect a Lay President according to the provisions of Appendix 12. The Lay President assumes office on the 1st January after election and holds office for a term of three years but is eligible for reelection.

5.27 The Lay President has no executive power but shall represent the Church on ceremonial occasions either on behalf of or in addition to the Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop may delegate certain duties and tasks to the Lay President.

5.28 The Lay President shall visit Districts and Circuits to encourage the people and, in consultation with the Presiding Bishop and with the endorsement of the Connexional Executive, may nominate a mission project to pilot while in office.

5.29 Should the Lay President die, resign or become unfit to continue in office the Connexional Executive shall elect a successor for the remainder of the term who is not eligible for immediate re-election.

5.30 The Lay President is a member of Conference and of the Connexional Executive. The Presiding Bishop-Elect:

5.31 The official designation of the Minister elected by Conference for the next term of office is the ‘Presiding Bishop-elect’, who on election becomes a member of all Connexional Committees upon which the Presiding Bishop serves ex officio.

5.32 Should the Presiding Bishop-elect die or become unfit to assume office, the incumbent Presiding Bishop shall continue in office until another Presiding Bishop is elected. This shall be done by the Synods of the following year, operating in terms of Appendix 10. The person so elected by the Synods shall immediately assume the office of Presiding Bishop.

The Secretary:
5.33 The Secretary of Conference, known and referred to as the Executive Secretary, shall be a Minister and be elected by the Conference according to the provisions of Appendix 13.

5.34 The Secretary shall assume office on the 1st January after election and continue in the office for a three-year term, but is eligible for re-election.

5.35 Should the Secretary die or become unfit to hold the office, the Connexional Executive shall appoint a substitute.

5.36 The Secretary’s duties are inter alia:

5.36.1 to be a member of Conference, the Connexional Executive and all Connexional Committees;

5.36.2 under the direction of the Presiding Bishop, to prepare, organise and conduct the business of Conference and of the Connexional Executive;

5.36.3 to be the Official Correspondent of the Connexion;

5.36.4 to obtain and submit to the Connexional Executive all Reports, Statistical Returns, Recommendations, Accounts and other documents;

5.36.5 to receive from each District Secretary the Minutes of the Synod and the Draft of Stations in the District;

5.36.6 to remit the resolutions of Synods to the Connexional Executive or to the appropriate Departments or Committees;

5.36.7 to prepare the obituaries of deceased Ministers for inclusion in the Connexional Year Book

5.36.8 to transmit the Resolutions of Conference and of the Connexional Executive and replies to memorials to the persons or bodies concerned;

5.36.9 to notify the Bishops of the business to be brought forward at the Synods;

5.36.10 to send notification of all matters referred to Quarterly Meetings to every Superintendent as soon as possible after Conference or the meeting of the Connexional Executive;

5.36.11 to give official notification to any person appointed by Conference or the Connexional Executive to any position, duty or committee;

5.36.12 to prepare for publication the Year Book of the Church containing inter alia the resolutions of Conference and of the Connexional Executive;

5.36.13 to compile the Draft of Stations for presentation to the Connexional Executive;

5.36.14 to be associated with the Presiding Bishop and the former Presiding Bishop in the imposition of hands at the Ordination of Ministers;

5.36.15 in conjunction with the Presiding Bishop to represent the Church in all legal proceedings instituted for or against it unless a Registrar has been appointed by the Connexional Executive;

5.36.16 should the Presiding Bishop-Elect die or become unfit to assume office, to call on the Synods to elect the new Presiding Bishop-Elect;

5.36.17 to receive and deal with any accusation made against the Presiding Bishop:

5.36.18 to act on behalf of and instead of the Presiding Bishop in executing any power of attorney, declaration, consent, agreement or other document necessary for the purchase, lease, letting, sale or mortgage of any Church property, subject to due compliance with the relevant regulations and requirements;

5.36.19 to make such textual amendments to the Laws and Discipline as are rendered necessary by the resolutions of Conference or of the Connexional Executive.

5.36.20 to be the Official Correspondent of the Church.

5.36.21 to be the Custodian of Connexional Documents.

5.36.22 to prepare an index of all Connexional documents lodged in the Connexional Strong Room.

5.36.23 to be the Connexional Registrar of Marriages.

5.36.24 to discharge such other duties as Conference, the Connexional Executive or the Presiding Bishop may direct.

5.36.25 Conference may elect such Assistant Secretary or Secretaries as it deems necessary. Such person or persons become members of that Conference.


5.37 There shall be a Connexional Executive which may meet whenever necessary, but at least once a year to prepare for Conference. 80% of its membership shall constitute a quorum. The membership shall comprise:

5.37.1 The Presiding Bishop;

5.37.2 The Presiding Bishop-elect once elected;

5.37.3 The Bishops;

5.37.4 The Lay President;

5.37.5 The Executive Secretary;

5.37.6 The past-Presiding Bishop, for two years immediately after leaving office.

5.37.7 The Lay General Treasurer and The Director of the MCO.

5.37.8 One Lay Representative of each District, elected by the Synod for a term of three years;

5.37.9 A Representative each of Women’s work and Men’s work in rotation, to be decided in consultation between the various Organisations

5.37.10 A Youth Representative elected by the Connexional Youth Consultation;

5.37.11 The Director of the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit;

5.37.12 The Director of the Mission Unit.

5.37.13 The Director of the Ecumenical Affairs Unit

5.38 The powers and duties of the Connexional Executive include:

5.38.1 such functions as are delegated to it by Conference;

5.38.2 general oversight of the administration and management of the Connexion acting on behalf of Conference, especially implementing the lead and direction set by Conference for the Connexion;

5.38.3 appointing annually a Revision Committee, which shall include the Executive Secretary, to maintain and ensure the integrity of Laws and Discipline, and to publish revised editions from time to time. The Revision Committee shall report to The Conference through The Connexional Executive. The Revision Committee shall only be an advisory committee.

5.38.4 processing amendments to Laws and Discipline on behalf of Conference.

5.38.5 referring matters to Districts, Circuits, Units, Organisations, Committees or individuals for consideration and, if necessary, action;

5.38.6 accepting Candidates for the Ministry;

5.38.7 progress of Ministers on Probation;

5.38.8 approving Candidates for Ordination;

5.38.9 matters related to Supernumeraries;

5.38.10 acting as the Connexional Stationing Committee and finalising the stations of ministers and appointment of Superintendents of each Circuit for the following year;

5.38.11 receiving and considering such reports as may be required from Districts, Circuits, Organisations and Institutions in the Connexion;

5.38.12 receiving reports on matters dealt with by the Connexional Disciplinary Committee;

5.38.13 serving as a Court of Appeal in respect of a charge laid against the Presiding Bishop;

5.38.14 dealing with memorials from the Circuits and passing on those which need to be referred to Conference;

5.38.15 appointing the Connexional Registrar;

5.38.16 appointing the Connexional Marriage Registrar and, when necessary, the Executive Secretary.

5.39 The Connexional Executive may co-opt or consult and may appoint ad hoc task forces.


5.40 The Connexional Executive may from time to time appoint a Registrar who shall be a member in good standing and an attorney of the High Court and who shall:

5.40.1 represent the Church in all legal proceedings.

5.40.2 initiate or defend legal proceedings on behalf of the Church only with the agreement of the Presiding Bishop in conjunction with the Executive Secretary. Pastoral Commission:

5.41 A Pastoral Commission may be instituted to investigate any circumstance of a minister and /or member(s) that seems to the Bishop to merit such investigation. The Commission should conduct its proceedings in a pastoral and constructive manner. It is not to arrive at a verdict about a dispute but should submit recommendations or findings to the Bishop and the Presiding Bishop.

5.42 The Presiding Bishop or a Bishop may determine the membership (ministerial and/or lay, all of whom must be members of the Church) and terms of reference of a Pastoral Commission and convene it for any matter which arises from or relates to the mission work, activities or governance of the Church. The findings of the Commission shall be communicated to the person who is under consideration.


5.43.1 Review of Ministry Conference 1995 endorsed the accountability interview process (Review of Ministry) for the bi-annual review of every Minister’s work and directed that it be implemented in every Circuit

5.43.2 Continuing Ministerial Education in Districts The onus for Continuing Ministerial Education lies on the Districts that are requested to take the initiative in setting up such training.

5.43.3 African Language Study Conference urged all its Ministers to undertake the study of one African language, and suggested that each Minister invite a small group of persons from the Circuit to initiate and undertake the study as well, utilising the teaching resources available in the Circuit or in neighbouring Circuits.

5.43.4 Ascension Day Conference draws the attention of the Methodist people to the value of using Ascension Day as a Holy Day.

5.43.5 Pentecost Conference draws the attention of Circuits to the importance of the Pentecost period in the life of the Church, and urges Circuits to have special services at this time.

5.43.6 Transfer of Church Members Conference urged all our Ministers to exercise the utmost care in transferring members from one Circuit to another, and called upon all Superintendents to carefully observe our long-established practice in this connection. Conference resolved that where full members leave home Circuits to take up temporary domicile at University, Training College or School, or to undergo Military Training, their Church membership be retained at the home Circuit and that Superintendents of those Circuits, where such members live temporarily, be sent advice of such domicile and not Removal Notes. Notwithstanding para. 2, in the case of Methodist Hostels, Schools and Training hospitals, the membership of students may be held in the institution or local Circuit as decided by the home Circuit.

5.43.7 Custody of Records Conference recommended that Circuit records which are more than fifty years old be placed in the custody of the Methodist Archives at the Cory Library for Historical Research at Rhodes University.

5.43.8 Invitations to Visiting Speakers From Outside Conference resolved that before inviting a visiting speaker from outside The Methodist Church of Southern Africa to conduct a preaching or teaching mission in any Circuit the Superintendent shall obtain the approval of the Bishop and, if necessary, the Presiding Bishop.

5.43.9 Marrying Members of another Society Conference recommended that our Ministers, when asked to marry people whose membership is with another Methodist Society, ask them for a letter of approval from their own Minister. Conference further recommended that when one of the partners is a member of another church, and chooses to remain a member of that church, that person either brings a letter of approval from the Minister, or if that is not possible, undertakes to advise the Minister.

5.43.10 Bursaries for Tertiary Education for The Children of Ministers and Laity The Connexional Bursary Secretary and the Lay General Treasurer are authorised to disburse the Baumann and Mabel Smith Bursaries, according to the stipulations of the donors and among the applicants for bursaries who qualify for them. An amount of set from time to time (see yearbook) is allocated for bursaries for Ministers’ children from the Circuit Assessment Account. Bursaries awarded shall not total more than the amount voted plus the interest on the bequests and gifts, plus half the amount received from Circuit Bursary Fund levies to a maximum (see yearbook) in any one year. Where applicants fail their examinations, the bursary lapses and reapplication may be made after successful completion of a year’s work. Application for Connexional Bursaries Applications for bursaries shall be forwarded to the Connexional Bursary Secretary, from whom the prescribed forms are obtainable, by 30th September preceding the year for which the bursary is required. Applications from children of Ministers should be approved by the Bishop. Applications from children of lay persons must be accompanied by a testimonial from the applicant’s Minister. Late applications cannot be considered. Bursary Fund Levy The Bursary Fund levy on Circuits per annum per Minister is recorded in the Yearbook. The Connexional Bursary Secretary is requested to process the receipt of these levies.

5.43.11 Safekeeping of Historical Objects Societies and Circuits are invited to deposit objects of historical and cultural interest, such as clothing, vessels and paintings, in the care of the Albany Museum, Grahamstown. If such objects are retained locally, the Albany Museum offers advice about methods of conservation. The Connexional Executive resolves to deposit the minutes of its meetings with the Cory Library.

5.43.12 Church Public Relations The Presiding Bishop is the Chief Public Relations Officer of the Connexion. Statements on matters of national importance shall be issued by the Presiding Bishop. In matters of public concern s/he may consult the Bishops. Officers of Connexional Departments shall communicate with the Presiding Bishop if needs be on matters which may require consideration. Bishops are the Public Relations Officers within their areas. Superintendents may communicate with them on matters that require their consideration. A Bishop may appoint liaison officers with the local Press and the SABC Regional News.

5.43.13 Grants to Extraneous Societies Applications for Grants to Extraneous Societies should be sent to the officers of the Connexional Office not later than 1 June, together with an audited balance sheet of the Society concerned. The Officers of the Connexional Office shall consider all such applications and present a list of recommended grants to the Connexional Executive.

5.43.14 Affiliation with other Organisations No organisation within the Church shall affiliate with an outside organisation without the approval of the Superintendent, who may consult the Bishop if necessary.

5.43.15 Loans No loan from Circuit or Connexional Funds may be made to any private person or body.

5.43.16 Matters Referred to Quarterly Meetings Certain circuits tend to believe that they maintain unity by not allowing the Quarterly Meeting to debate contentious Connexional resolutions issues. They thus prevent the Church from becoming involved in critical debates. Superintendents and Circuit Stewards are reminded of their duty to ensure that all matters sent down for debate in Quarterly Meetings be so debated and that failure to do so is a breach of our discipline.

5.43.17 Bishops and Superintendency Conference directs that District Bishops be appointed as Superintendents of Circuits in exceptional cases and where there is a strong motivation.

5.43.18 Connexional and District Conveners No Connexional or District Conventions shall be held in a Circuit that is not financially viable, or that is in arrears with stipend assessments. No Connexional or District Convention shall be held in any Circuit without the authority of the District Executive Committee.

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