Memorandum Number 586
A Review of a Ruling by Bishop Jesse DeWitt in the Northern Illinois Conference Concerning the Eligibility of a Candidate for Deacon's Orders Who Did Not Receive the Necessary 3/4 Vote by Written Ballot in the District Committee.
This matter concerns whether Phyllis Athey was eligible to be presented to the Northern Illinois Annual Conference for deacon's ordination. The facts as submitted by the Conference are as follows:
1. Phyllis Athey was recommended by the Chicago Northern District Committee on Ministry for Probationary Membership and Deacon's Orders on October 30, 1986. The undated letter of recommendation to the Board of Ordained Ministry indicated that she was recommended with an affirmation of gifts and graces but with "some question as to whether she was properly before us." The presumption was that she had been duly recommended by a Charge Conference and had been a certified candidate in proper order.
2. The Conference Board of Ordained Ministry processed her candidacy and, on March 11, 1987, recommended her for Probationary Membership in the Northern Illinois Conference and Deacon's Orders; contingent upon her receiving an appointment.
3. Questions were subsequently raised about the vote for recommendation by the district committee to the point that it had been conducted on a consensus basis as was its custom for at least ten years, and was not a 3/4 majority vote as specified in 414.3 of the 1986 (sic) Discipline.
4. The Chicago Northern District Committee met on April 30, 1987 and voted 3 in favor, 3 opposed, 0 abstentions on the recommendation of Phyllis Athey. Four other candidates were subject also to a second vote and were recommended by a 3/4 majority.
5. Bishop Jesse DeWitt ruled on May 11, 1987 that because Phyllis Athey had not properly been recommended by the District Committee, her candidacy was improperly before the Conference Board and could not be recommended to the Annual Conference for Probationary Membership and Deacon's Orders.
These facts show Phyllis Athey was recommended to the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry by the District Committee on Ordained Ministry in accordance with 749.7 of the Discipline. Once this occurs, the matter of ordination is out of the hands of the District Committee; it no longer may redetermine the eligibility of the candidate. The question of eligibility at that point rested with the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. The Conference Board, acting upon what was presumed to be a proper recommendation from the District Committee, then recommended Ms. Athey for probationary membership, contingent upon her receiving an appointment. Once this had been done the question of membership rested with the ministerial members of the Annual Conference.
It may well be the irregularities alleged in the statement of fact did occur. The remedy, however, is not to allow the matter to be returned to the District Committee. Rather, it is to submit the issue of probationary membership to the ministerial members of the Annual Conference who must vote on the issue. At that time the arguments as to probationary membership and Deacon's Orders may be considered and debated. If the ministerial members agree there have been irregularities which contravene the Discipline, they may vote to refuse probationary membership
It is the responsibility of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to make certain disciplinary procedures have been followed by the District Committee. The Conference Board accepted the vote of the District Committee and recommended Ms. Athey to the Annual Conference; it may not now withdraw that acceptance based on a mere allegation of irregularity by the District Committee. Any other procedure would be a denial of due process and grossly unfair to the applicant.
We make two other observations: (1) the word consensus indicates the generalagreement or accord of the entire body. This being so, it would appear the 3/4 requirement of 414.3 has been met; (2) to uphold the ruling of the Bishop would cast into doubt the credentials of all persons from the Chicago Northern District Committee for the past 10 years. The ruling of the presiding Bishop is vacated; the issue of whether Phyllis Athey should receive probationary membership and Deacon's Orders is before the ministerial membership of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.
Requests for a re-hearing on Memorandum 586.
The request is denied.