Memorandum Number 638
Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in 1989 Session of the Tennessee Annual Conference As To Authority of Pastor-Parish Relations Committee in Matters of Staff Employment.
At the June 12, 1989 session of the Tennessee Annual Conference, the Reverend Roy West requested of Bishop Ernest W. Newman a decision on the question.
In light of Paragraph 269.2(f)(9) of the 1988 Book of Discipline, can a Pastor-Parish Relations Committee make a recommendation concerning non-ordained employed church staff when the Pastor is not present at the meeting and has not been consulted about the decision?
On June 14, Bishop Newman made the following decision:
When there have been no policies and procedures which have been adopted by the Administrative Council or Administrative Board which precludes the pastor from participating in the hiring of non-appointed local church personnel, the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee must consult with the Pastor in hiring such personnel. Where there are no policies established by the Administrative Board or Administrative Council regarding the hiring of personnel, the pastor and Pastor-Parish Committee shall have the power to hire and fire.
While we find the decision of the bishop to be correct, we believe it is important to set forth the requirements contained in 269.2(f)(9). Unless the policy as described in 269.2(f)(9) has been implemented, the hiring, evaluation, promotion, retirement or dismissal of non appointed church staff is the joint authority of the pastor and the committee. The disciplinary scheme is as follows: (1) The Pastor-Parish Relations Committee must consult with the pastor before recommending to the Administrative Board or Council staff positions needed to carry out the work of the church; (2) the pastor and the committee shall recommend to the Administrative Board or Council, in writing, a policy and procedure for dealing with staff personnel; (3) when this policy has been adopted, it will control; (4) until then the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee and the pastor have the joint authority to hire, evaluate, promote, retire and dismiss non appointed staff personnel. Thus, although it is not required that the pastor attend the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee meeting where staff is discussed and recommendations made as to staff, (see 269.2(e)) until a policy has been adopted as required by 269.2(f)(9), the authority to make decisions dealing with staff must be exercised jointly by the pastor and the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee.
The decision of the bishop is affirmed.
We agree with our colleagues on the Council in affirming the ruling of the Bishop.
However, we believe that this is a case where the ruling calls attention to the loose language of Par. 269.2(f)(9) and 269.2(e).
That legislation ought to be re-examined by the General Conference to determine if it does not create an undue weakening of the authority of the local pastor. The tradition of the church has been that the pastor is entitled to be at all meetings of the Pastor-Relations Committee except meetings concerning the pastor.
Elizabeth B. Gundlach
Gene E. Sease