Decision Number 485


October 30, 1980

Administrative Location-Validity of Discipline Par. 449.2.


The provisions for administrative location set forth in subparagraph 449.2 of the 1980 Discipline are constitutionally valid. They must be read in relation to subparagraph 449.3 and Par. 2621. So read, they do not deprive a minister who is the subject of an administrative location proceeding of his constitutional right to choose a trial.

Statement of Facts

On April 25, 1980 the General Conference adopted the legislation which appears in the 1980 Discipline as Par. 449.2. The General Conference then adopted a motion of

... referral to the Judicial Council for a declaratory ruling on Item 1070, Par. 436 of the Discipline as to its validity in light of due process provisions for charges of indifference, incompetence and inefficiency, that we adopted under Par. 2521 by this body this morning. (1980 DCA pg. 1010)

What was referred to in the motion as Par. 436 appears in the 1980 Discipline as subparagraph 449.2 and Par. 2521 has been renumbered 2621.


We have jurisdiction under Par. 2507 of the 1976 Discipline. (Par. 2607.1 of the 1980 Discipline)

Analysis and Rationale

Par. 449.2 is a new provision for administrative location whereby a ministerial member, after an administrative hearing, upon recommendation of the Board of Ordained Ministry may be located involuntarily and thereafter not entitled to appointment. The effect of such location is not therein so spelled out, but logically it must include termination of the minister's membership in the conference. We note that Par. 448.2 specifically states such is the effect of honorable location. Par. 449.2 provides that the hearing is informal and not a trial and that the minister is not allowed to have counsel. It does not include reference to a right of the minister to choose a trial.

If the provisions of Par. 449.2 were exclusive, and a minister against whom administrative location procedures had been initiated had no right to a trial and appeal, the question would arise whether such provisions are constitutional in the light of Par. 18 of the Constitution which reads:

... the General Conference shall not do away with the privileges of our ministers of right to trial by a committee and of an appeal; ...

We would then have to decide whether to adhere to our former opinion in Decision No. 351 which upheld the provisions of the 1968 Discipline for involuntary location under a process quite similar to administrative location. On the other hand, if there are other provisions of the present Discipline that do afford a right of trial and appeal to one faced with an administrative location procedure, the constitutional question does not arise. We find such provisions in Pars. 449.3 and 2621.

We received and studied a memorandum urging that we not be influenced by the editorial arrangement whereby two entirely separate actions have been printed as subparagraphs .2 and .3 of Par. 449 and hence may appear to be more closely interrelated than intended by the General Conference. The pertinent legislative provisions have been substantially retitled, rearranged and renumbered in the printing of the 1980 Discipline. We have therefore studied the titles, order and numbering of the various paragraphs as they were before the General Conference.

Some titles are part of the committee reports upon which the General Conference acts and in some instances may help in determining the intention of the legislation. Others are editorially inserted. Even these may be of some slight assistance when they were in the Discipline from which the General Conference was working when it made changes. Similarly, the sequence of legislative provisions may sometimes throw some light on the intention Of the legislators. We have, therefore, studied the arrangement of the 1976 Discipline as affected by the actions of the 1980 General Conference. The relevant paragraphs, with the changes made by the General Conference, are as shown below on the left hand side. The same paragraphs after the editorial rearrangement, renumbering and changes of titles appearing in the 1980 Discipline are shown on the right-hand side-:

1976 1980 Changes in Conference Relationship Section VII Changes of Conference Relationship for Full, Probationary and Associate Members 430 no title 443 no title 431 Disability Leave 446 Disability Leave 432 Maternity Leave 445 Maternity/Paternity Leave 433 Leave of Absence 444 Leave of Absence 434 Retirement 447 Retirement

Section VIII Termination of Conference Membership 435 Honorable Location 448.2 By Honorable Location 436 Administrative Location (new) 449.2 By Action of the Annual Con- ference; Administrative Location

Section IX Readmission to Conference Relationship 437 Readmission after Honorable 451 Readmission after Honorable or Location Administrative Location

Termination of Conference Member- ship 437-438 Discontinuance from Proba- 448.1 (in Section VIII) tionary Membership Voluntary Termination-1. By Discontinuance from Proba- tionary Membership 438-9 Termination by Action of 449.1 (in Section VIII) Involuntary the Annual Conference Termination-1. General Pro- visions 439.1-440.1 Withdrawal-1. By Sur- 448.4 By Surrender of the Ministerial render of the Ministerial Office Office. 439.2-440.2 To Unite with Another 448.3 By Withdrawal to Unite with Denomination Another Denomination 439.3-440.3 Under Complaints or 448.5 By Withdrawal under Complaints Charges or Charges 2439.4-440.4 Between Conferences 448.6 By Withdrawal Between Congerences 440-441 Trials 449.3 By Trials

Note: Pars. 437-440 of the 1976 Discipline were not specifically renumbered bythe 1980 General Conference to become Pars. 438-441 as indicated above, but the General Conference inserted a new Par. 436 and did specifically renumber 1976 Par. 436 to become 437, so the subsequent Pars. 437-440 necessarily became 438-441.

Under the 1976 Discipline the conference relationship of a minister was carefully safeguarded. Leaves of Absence could not be involuntarily imposed. (See Decision No. 473.) Termination of membership by Annual Conference action under Par. 438 was expressly subject to the minister's right to elect trial. Par. 440, coming at the end of the series of provisions regarding loss of membership pointed to the procedural safeguards with respect to charges and trials set forth in Pars. 2520-21, 2524.

There was a proposal before the 1980 General Conference to amend Par. 438 (the amended provisions for termination by Conference action would have retained the express reference to the right to choose a trial.)

So far as we have been able to determine, Par. 438 of the 1976 Discipline was not amended by the 1980 General Conference. Report No. 143 of the Committee on Higher Education and Ministry, calendar item 807, DCA page 485, would have amended it to read, except for changes in titles and numbering, as set forth in the 1980 Discipline as Par. 449.1 That proposed amendment, however, does not appear to have been adopted.

As reported at pages 790-791 of the DCA, an "omnibus" motion was proposed with respect to calendar items on which committees had voted unanimously. It was explained, however, that if any delegate requested a particular calendar item to be treated separately it would be lifted from the "omnibus" motion. At page 1017 of the DCA it is reported that calendar item 807 was one of those so lifted. Thereafter, as reported on the same page, the "omnibus" motion was adopted.

Later, as reported at pages 1041 and 1042, efforts were made by two delegates to have calendar item 807 acted upon, but they were told, erroneously so far as appears from the record, that it was part of the "omnibus" resolution.

As the various paragraphs relating to changes in Conference relationship were before the 1980 General Conference and acted upon, Par. 440 was still at the end of the series. It was amended. The new provision as it was presented and adopted read:
440. Trial. If a bishop or ministerial member of an Annual Conference chooses trial, the procedures are provided for in Pars. 2520-21, 2524 (Par. 438)

In the printing the title and numbering were changed and what was enacted as a separate paragraph appears as subparagraph 449.3. The provision for administrative location, which also was enacted as a separate paragraph is printed as subparagraph 449.2. In reaching our conclusion we have treated the two provisions as separate paragraphs, but both are among the provisions relating to Conference membership and they must be read in relation to each other. So read, Par. 440 as adopted by the 1980 General Conference gives the minister faced with the possibility of administrative location the option to demand a trial in which he has the right to counsel and the right to appeal from an adverse result.

Equally applicable is Par. 2621 (Par. 2542 of the 1976 Discipline) which was amended by the 1980 General Conference. In its present form its applicability to the administrative location procedure is even more clear. The paragraph reads in pertinent part:

Paragraph 2621-Chargeable Offenses-1. A bishop, ministerial member of an Annual Conference (Par. 412), local pastor, or diaconal minister may choose a trial when charged with one or more of the following offenses: ... (d) (2) incompetence, (3) inefficiency; ...
The effect of Par. 2621 is that when the Cabinet notifies the members of the Board of Ordained Ministry in writing of its intention to initiate administrative location procedure under Par. 449.2, so that the Annual Conference may decide whether a member has demonstrated an inability effectively and competently to perform the duties of full-time itinerant ministry, the minister may choose a trial and is entitled to all the procedural safeguards, including the right to counsel and appeal, set forth in Pars. 2622-6.

We find nothing in Par. 449.2 or in its legislative history indicating intention to deny or restrict the constitutional right to trial by a committee and of an appeal. Par. 449.2 is therefore valid.


The provisions for administrative location set forth is subparagraph 449.2 of the Discipline are constitutionally valid. They must be read in relation to subparagraph 449.3 and Par. 2621. So read, they do not deprive a minister who is the subject of an administrative location proceeding of his constitutional right to choose a trial.

United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

©2023 United Methodist Communications. All Rights Reserved