Decision Number 1082
Request for Declaratory Decision from the Memphis Annual Conference with respect to the Meaning, Application and Effect of the 2004 Book of Discipline to a Conference Policy Entitled "Identifying and Strengthening Effective Clergy Leadership."
The policy of the Memphis Annual Conference entitled "Identifying and Strengthening Effective Clergy Leadership" violates the 2004 Book of Discipline.
Statement of Facts
In June 2005 the bishop of the Nashville Area named persons from the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences to a Clergy Effectiveness Task Force. The focus of the task force was to address clergy ineffectiveness. The Task Force developed a policy that included definitions of effectiveness and ineffectiveness, provided intervention proposals, exit strategies and procedures. The policy entitled "Identifying and Strengthening Effective Clergy Leadership" was adopted by the 2007 session of the Memphis Annual Conference. The Conference requested a declaratory decision as to whether the policy conformed to the 2004 Book of Discipline.
Solomon Christian recused himself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Â¶ 2610 of the 2004 Book of Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The policy adopted defines the meaning of effective clergy and ineffective clergy, and makes the identification of ineffective clergy the sole responsibility of the cabinet upon the recommendation of the pastor's district superintendent. Following the designation of the clergyperson as ineffective, an intervention team was to be formed consisting of the district superintendent, the individual clergyperson, chair or representative member of the pastor/staff parish relations committee, the district lay leader, a clergy board of ordained ministry representative, and a nonvoting clergy advocate of the individual clergyperson's choice.
The policy sets forth an aggressive timeline for identifying the problem(s) of the ineffective clergyperson and a plan for remediation that must be followed to make the pastor effective. However, the policy states, [i]f there is insufficient evidence of growth, the Cabinet will initiate the exit process and [i]f the clergyperson declines to exit voluntarily, then a complaint will be filed by the District Superintendent and the procedures for due process in an administrative complaint, as outlined in the current Book of Discipline, shall be followed.
The policy entitled Identifying and Strengthening Effective Clergy Leadership is not in compliance with, circumvents and violates the 2004 Book of Discipline. The deficiencies in the policy include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. The policy circumvents fair process as defined in the 2004 Discipline and prior Judicial Council decisions. The policy provides no means for the clergyperson to challenge the determination of ineffectiveness or to have access to all records that were relied upon in making that determination.
2. The policy does not provide for the clergyperson to be informed in writing of the problems or issues which caused the cabinet to determine ineffectiveness.
3. The policy does not allow the board of ordained ministry and its executive committee to carry out their disciplinary responsibilities for dealing with clergy ineffectiveness as provided in Â¶ 362 of the 2004 Discipline.
4. The policy does not provide adequate pastoral care and support to the clergyperson who has been declared ineffective, nor is there any mention of pastoral care and support for his or her spouse and family.
5. The twelve month whirlwind process for dealing with a clergyperson's ineffectiveness and the number of times the clergyperson is offered the opportunity to exit suggests that the primary purpose of the policy is to weed out ineffective clergy rather than developing the skills and abilities which would enable them to become effective.
6. The policy supplants the disciplinary provisions for dealing with clergy incompetence, ineffectiveness, and unwillingness or the inability to perform ministerial duties as provided for in Â¶ 362.2, .3, and .4 of the 2004 Discipline by establishing its own process for dealing with these issues. According to the policy, the initiation of an administrative complaint will be done only if the ineffective clergyperson fails to exit voluntarily.
7. The policy limits the range of remedies available in response to an administrative complaint as provided for in the 2004 Discipline.
8. Specific disciplinary paragraphs are not cited in the policy.
The policy of the Memphis Annual Conference entitled Identifying and Strengthening Effective Clergy Leadership violates the 2004 Book of Discipline.
James W. Holsinger, Jr., Jon R. Gray and Shamwange P. Kyungu were absent. C. Rex Bevins, the first clergy alternate. Solomon Christian, the first lay alternate, was present at the session at which this decision was decided, but did not participate in this decision.