Decision Number 316


October 30, 1969

Petition from the Iowa Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision Concerning the Right of a Conference to Require a Probationary Year for Ministers Being Admitted on Credentials.


An Annual Conference may not adopt a rule concerning the admission on credentials to the Annual Conference which places final authority for admission in the Board of the Ministry.

Statement of Facts

On June 12,1969, the Iowa Annual Conference petitioned the Judicial Council to issue a declaratory decision whether or not the following action, adopted by the conference on that day, is contrary to Paragraph 375.3 of the Discipline. The conference action reads: "A minister being recommended for admission oncredentials shall be granted the probationary relationship for at least one year before full membership."

The paragraph which is referred to in the petition reads as follows:

"Par. 375.3. Ministers from other churches who can meet the educational standards required of United Methodist ministers may apply through the Board of the Ministry to the Annual Conference, which may recognize their credentials and receive them into probationary membership, associate membership, or membership in full connection in the conference."


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715 of the 1968 Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale

Paragraph 375.3 clearly establishes a minimal standard for admission of ministers on credentials: Only those "who can meet the educational standards . .. may apply. . . ." Beyond that point the responsibility is left with the Board of the Ministry of the Annual Conference and the Annual Conference itself. The Annual Conference ". . . may recognize their credentials and receive them" (emphasis supplied) into such membership status as that conference, on recommendation of its Board of the Ministry (Par. 375.2) deems appropriate.

The action of the Iowa Annual Conference which is before the Judicial Council for review would seem to reflect an intention on the part of the conference to have each acceptable ministerial applicant for admission by credentials to Annual Conference membership serve a minimum of one year in probationary status. In light of Paragraph 375.3 the Annual Conference does have the authority to adopt a rule covering this intent, and, if the conference voted to suspend this action in a particular case or to rescind it, that also would be within its power. However, the wording of the Iowa Annual Conference action is such that an illegal interpretation might be made. Taken literally, the action, as stated in the conference journal, might be interpreted to permit the admission of any recommended candidate without the necessity of a favorable vote by the Annual Conference, i.e., if "a minister (is) recommended for admission on credentials (he) shall be granted the probationary relationship." (Emphasis supplied.) This would clearly be illegal. The Annual Conference does have authority to make a rule which would require that all ministers admitted on credentials serve one year in probationary status. However, the rule as adopted by the Iowa Annual Conference for the reason cited is invalid and of no effect. This defect could be remedied through the addition of the words "if the Annual Conference so orders" after "shall be granted."


The rule concerning admission on credentials, as adopted by the Iowa Annual Conference, contravenes the Disciplinary authority of the Annual Conference and is, therefore, void and inoperative.

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