Decision Number 554
Constitutionality, Meaning and Application or Effect of the Second Sentence of Discipline Par. 425.1 and Whether a Person Must Consent to an Appointment Under Par. 425.1.
The provisions of Par. 425.1 do not conflict with either Pars. 418 through 420 (associate membership) or Par. 443.4 (affiliate membership). Persons appointed under Par. 425.1 of the 1984 Discipline must consent to their appointment.
Statement of Facts
The Council of Bishops requested the Judicial Council to make a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the second sentence of Par. 425.1 of the 1984 Discipline, which reads:
While they are not associate members, the Board of Ordained Ministry may recommend that these persons [ministers from other Annual Conferences and other Methodist Denominations] [inserted for clarity] be accorded all the rights and privileges of associate membership in the Annual Conference, except security of appointment.
The Council of Bishops further requested a ruling as to whether those appointments as contemplated under Par. 425.1 require the consent of the ordained ministers from other Annual Conferences or other Methodist Denominations receiving such appointments.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615 of the 1984 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Par. 425.1 reads as follows:
1. Ministers from Other Annual Conferences and Other Methodist Denominations.-With approval and consent of the bishops or other judicatory authorities involved, ordained ministers of other Annual Conferences or other Methodist churches may receive appointments in the Annual Conference while retaining their home conference membership or denominational affiliation. While they are not associate members, the Board of Ordained Ministry may recommend that these persons be accorded all the rights and privileges of associate membership in the Annual Conference, except security of appointment.
The rights and privileges of associate members are contained in Par. 418, especially Sections 2, 3, and 5. While the office of associate member (Pars. 418 through 420) is different from that of those persons appointed under the provisions of Par. 425.1, the rights and privileges of persons appointed under Par. 425.1 may be the same as those appointed under Par. 418, with the sole exception that those under Par. 425.1 do not have "security of appointment." The rights and privileges, with one exception, are identical; the offices are different. They are not in conflict.
Par. 443.4 provides a method by which persons appointed by the Annual Conference of which they are a member may apply for and obtain certain rights and privileges as an affiliate member in the Annual Conference in which their appointment is located. Persons who become affiliate members are not subject to appointment by the bishop of the Annual Conference of which they are affiliate members. On the other hand, persons under Par. 425.1 are subject to appointment in an Annual Conference other than their home conference. The offices under Par. 425.1 and Par. 443.4 are not in conflict.
Par. 425.1 contemplates a voluntary act on the part of those persons who wish to come under its provisions. Certainly, persons from "other Methodist denominations" could not be appointed under Par. 425.1 without their consent. Since ministers from other Annual Conferences as well as other Methodist denominations are included in the language of Par. 425.1, it is reasonable that the intent of the General Conference was to require the consent of any persons entering into the relationship contemplated by Par. 425.1. Furthermore, ordained ministers may not be transferred from one Annual conference to another without their concurrence. (Par. 516.5)
The provisions of Par. 425.1 are constitutional and do not conflict with Pars. 418 through 420 or Par. 443.4. Persons may not be appointed under Par. 425.1 without their consent.
Though we concur with our colleagues that Par. 425.1 meets the tests of constitutionality, we must express serious reservations concerning its establishment of a new and preferred class of clergy.
Par. 443.4 provides for Affiliate Members who are members of an Annual Conference appointed outside the bounds of their home Annual Conference. A two-thirds vote of the executive session of the ministerial membership of the Conference in which they are serving is required to be received and serve on boards, committees, etc. within that Annual Conference with voice, but without vote. The restriction is imposed, however, that they may serve on such boards in only one Conference at a time.
Par. 425.1 imposes no restrictions on board memberships in only one Annual Conference, nor is a two-thirds vote by the ministerial members mandated for Conference affiliation. These paragraphs allow them all rights and privileges of associate members, except security of appointment, though they are neither associate nor affiliate members. This legislation seems to add a new category of Conference clergy, without certain safeguards provided for in other disciplinary provisions, and such category is not cited as such in Par. 412 which sets forth the general provisions of the ministry of the church.
Gene E. Sease Elizabeth B. Gundlach