Decision Number 650
Legality of Waiving Requirement of Service Under Appointment (¶ 424) Prior to Admission into Full Connection.
The requirements of Â¶ 424 of the Discipline may not be waived. In this case, an ordination, which was granted in violation of Â¶ 424 of the Discipline, is revoked; and the person involved reverts to probationary membership in the Louisville Annual Conference.
Statement of Facts
At the 1990 Louisville Annual Conference the Board of Ordained Ministry recommended to the elders of that conference in their executive session that Lawrence McNeill Dowdy was not eligible for ordination. The reason given by the Board was that Mr. Dowdy had not fulfilled the provision of Â¶ 424 of the Discipline which requires the candidate to have "served full time under episcopal appointment for at least two full Annual Conference years following the completion of the educational requirements." The matter came before the executive session where it was moved the disciplinary requirement of Â¶ 424 be waived. This motion was approved.
An episcopal ruling was requested. The presiding bishop ruled 424 could not be waived but allowed the action of the elders in executive session to remain in force. The Board of Ordained Ministry then recommended Mr. Dowdy for ordination. The recommendation was approved. Following appropriate procedures, the matter was appealed.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2611 of the 1988 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
There is no provision in the Discipline for the requirements for admission contained in 424 of the Discipline to be waived, and they may not be waived. The Bishop was correct in his ruling.
Another issue is the status of Mr. Dowdy. We have been advised Mr. Dowdy has been ordained and is currently serving as a member in full connection of the Louisville Annual Conference. The vote on ordination by the executive session violated the Discipline. After ruling, correctly, that the two-year appointment requirement could not be waived, the presiding bishop allowed the action of the executive session to stand. The action of the executive session was out of order and invalid. A ruling to this effect should have been made by the presiding bishop at that time.
In Decision No. 344 we stated: "While the Annual Conference is the basicunit of the church's connectional system on issues on which the General Conference has legislated, the legislation is the controlling factor and may not with impunity be sidestepped or denied in overriding the recommendations of the Board of Ministry." (Italics supplied.)
From all that appears in the record before us, Mr. Dowdy is an unwitting victim of the difficulties which now beset him. Nevertheless, we cannot ratify an action by an Annual Conference which leads to ordination if the basis of the action was a direct violation of the Discipline. Lawrence McNeill Dowdy must remain as a probationary member of the Louisville Annual Conference until he has completed the required two-year period after which he will be eligible to be admitted as a member in full connection in accordance with Â¶ 424 of the Discipline.
We strongly disapprove of the actions of the presiding bishop and the executive session of the Louisville Annual Conference in allowing this matter to come to a vote. The Discipline is the book of law of The United Methodist Church (see Decision No. 90) and as such, particularly when its provisions, as here, are clear and unambiguous, must be followed.
The ruling of the bishop of the Louisville Annual Conference that the provisions of 424 of the Discipline may not be waived is upheld. The ordination of Lawrence McNeill Dowdy is set aside, and he reverts to the status of a probationary member of the Louisville Annual Conference.