Memorandum Number 550


October 24, 1985

Relationship of Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations to Administrative Board.


During the 1985 session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, Bishop James Lloyd Knox received the following written request for an episcopal ruling:

We respectfully request a definition and delineation of the accountability and relationship of the Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations to the Administrative Board as described by the 1984 Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

The bishop ruled:

Since there is already a precedent (sic) in the matter of whether the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee is amenable to the Administrative Board in Judicial Council Memorandum No. 509, and since the paragraphs in the 1984 Book of Discipline which refer to this matter are substantially unchanged from the 1980 Book of Discipline it is my decision that the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee is not amenable to the Administrative Board of a local church. The Pastor-Parish Relations Committee of a local congregation is basically advisory with regard to ministerial appointments, which are the responsibility of the cabinet. The PPRC is advisory to the congregation, the pastor(s), the district superintendent, and the bishop.

At an Oral Hearing on October 24, 1985 Theo Brannon, Russel Peters and L. W. Brown from the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference appeared.

The episcopal ruling came to the Judicial Council for review under Par. 2612 of the 1984 Discipline.

Judicial Council Memorandum No. 509 was addressed to specific questions concerning the relationship of the Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations to the Administrative Board in the one narrow issue of decisions about pastoral changes.

In 1982, Bishop Marjorie S. Matthews ruled, in response to written questions in the Wisconsin Annual Conference session, that the Discipline does not require that the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee be "amenable to the Administrative Board concerning its recommendations to the Cabinet about moving or keeping of the pastor," nor does it require that the Administrative Board be "brought into consultation immediately after the meeting of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee where a change of pastor has been considered."

Neither Bishop Matthews's ruling nor Memorandum No. 509, which affirmed if, dealt with the entire spectrum of relationships between Pastor-Parish Relations Committees and Administrative Boards. Bishop Matthews answered only the specific questions asked, and the Judicial Council affirmed only that her answers were in keeping with the Discipline.

Bishop Knox's 1985 ruling also deals with the role of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee in ministerial appointments. Though the question asked of him was not restricted to this area, the context indicated that this was the major point of concern.

The Discipline places decisions concerning appointments within the framework of consultation. Consultation is an ongoing process, and includes setting criteria, evaluation, and exchange of ideas among pastor, Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, district superintendent, and bishop. It assumes flexibility and the possibility of growth, change, and development during the process. Nowhere in the Discipline is it required that the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee shall be the voice through which the pre-determined will of the Administrative Board is expressed. Rather, the committee is to be one participant in the consultative process through which the bishop and cabinet arrive at their decision.

It should be further noted that the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee is representative of the entire charge (Par. 267.2). Many United Methodist charges are composed of two or more local churches, each with its Administrative Board. In such cases, amenability to an Administrative Board is not a reasonable possibility.

There are areas in which the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee must be bound by decisions made by the Administrative Board(s): budgets, certain staff positions, ministerial housing arrangements, etc. However, in the consultation process surrounding the making of ministerial appointments, which is the area on which Bishop Knox's ruling is focused, there is no requirement in the Discipline that the Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations shall be amenable to the Administrative Board.

The bishop's ruling is affirmed.

October 25, 1985

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