Decision Number 326
Request of Iowa Annual Conference for decision on Question of Voluntary and Involuntary Location.
A ministerial member of an Annual Conference may be placed in involuntary location by his Annual Conference even though he has requested voluntary location.
Statement of Facts
In a communication dated June 23, 1969, the Iowa Annual Conference petitioned the Judicial Council to make a declaratory decision as to whether or not an Annual Conference, in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 368 of the Discipline, may place one of its ministerial members in involuntary location when such member requests voluntary location. The request for a decision grew out of action taken in the case of Stephen Cree. The petition from the Conference and supplementary briefs provided a full account of the procedures followed in the instant case.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this matter under the provisions of Paragraph 1715 of the 1968 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The only question before the Council in this case is whether or not an Annual Conference, upon recommendation of its Board of the Ministry, may take an action which places a member in involuntary location when the member is requesting voluntary location.
The Iowa Annual Conference took such an action in relation to Stephen Cree on June 9, 1969 and based its action on Paragraph 368 of the Discipline. Paragraph 368 reads:
"Whenever it is determined by the Board of the Ministry that in their judgment a member of the Annual Conference is unacceptable, inefficient, or indifferent in the work of the ministry or that his conduct is such as to impair seriously his usefulness as a minister or that his engagement in secular business, except as required by the ill health of himself or his family, disqualifies him for pastoral work, they shall notify him in writing and ask him to request location at the next session of the Annual Conference. If he refuses or neglects to locate as requested, the conference may by count vote, on recommendation of the Board of the Ministry, locate him without his consent. In the case of involuntary location the authority to exercise the ministerial office shall be suspended, and the district superintendent shall require from him his credentials to be deposited with the secretary of the conference." Voluntary location is a voluntary means of exit from the effective ministry which is available to a member who on his own initiative and for whatever reason, has decided that he no longer desires to continue in the active pastoral ministry. Involuntary location, however, is a means by which an Annual Conference may request a member to discontinue his services as an effective minister of The United Methodist Church. The basis and procedure for such action by an Annual Conference are defined in Paragraph 368.
Involuntary location is exercised on the initiative of an Annual Conference Board of the Ministry and to be effective must be voted by the Annual Conference. It is a procedure which is based upon a determination by the Board of the Ministry that a member is "unacceptable, inefficient, or indifferent in the work of the ministry or that his conduct is such as to impair seriously his usefulness as a minister or that his engagement in secular business, except as required by the ill health of himself or his family, disqualifies him for pastoral work."
To say that a minister could circumvent such regulatory responsibility of an Annual Conference simply by requesting voluntary location before an action for involuntary location could be taken by his conference would be to nullify the procedure by which an Annual Conference can have any effective control over the quality of service rendered by its members. It is to provide an Annual Conference with such effective control that Paragraph 368 was placed in the Discipline.
The authority of an Annual Conference to require a surrender of ministerial credentials and to terminate ministerial service in the manner set forth in Paragraph 368 is not subject to the consent or concurrence of the member involved. Whatever action he may take under Paragraph 366 is irrelevant to procedures provided in Paragraph 368.
An Annual Conference may place in involuntary location a ministerial member even though the member may have requested voluntary location.