Decision Number 505
Right of Lay Members to Vote on Rules Mandating Continuing Education of Ministers in Light of Pars. 701.1 (a) and 701.4 of the 1980 Discipline.
There is no conflict between paragraphs 701.1 (a) and 701.4. Lay members may vote on matters affecting ministers if those matters do not fall within those specific items prohibited by the Constitution and other paragraphs of the Discipline. Lay members may vote on requirements for continuing education provided they are not requirements for continuation of conference membership.
Statement of Facts
The Board of Ordained Ministry of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference in its report to the Annual Conference proposed that twenty-five contact hours of continuing education study be the annual minimum requirement for the clergy of the Conference. The Rules Committee formulated the rule for the vote of the entire Annual Conference. The chair ruled that only fully ordained members of the Conference could vote on the rule and stated that in his opinion the action should have been handled in the Executive Session.
The Conference passed the following motions:
That the Annual Conference request from the Judicial Council a declaratory decision on whether rules voted on by only a segment of the Annual Conference are truly an action of the Conference.
That the Annual Conference request a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council as to whether or not lay members of the Annual Conference are entitled to vote on issues pertaining to continuing education requirements of ministerial members of the Annual Conference.
A statement was submitted on behalf of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference in which it was stated that the issues involved not only the two paragraphs of the Discipline quoted above, but also Par. 423.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615 of the 1980 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Key to any decision in this matter is a reading of Par. 37 of the Discipline for it is in the Constitution that the basic rights of the Annual Conference are stated.
The Annual Conference ... shall have reserved to it the right to vote on all constitutional amendments, on the election of ministerial and lay delegates to the General and Jurisdictional or Central Conferences, on all matters relating to the character and conference relations of its ministerial members and on the ordination of ministers and such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference under the Constitution with the exception that the lay members may not vote on matters of ordination, character and conference relations of ministers. (Emphasis added)
It cannot be interpreted that education falls into the exceptions noted in the Constitution. Had the Board of Ordained Ministry recommendation dealt with ordination, character and/or conference relations of ministers, then only the ministerial members in full connection would have the right to vote.
Par. 423 of the Discipline merely reinforces the constitutional provision that only Annual Conference members in full connection ". . . shall have sole responsibility for all matters of ordination, character and Conference relations of ordained ministers." While sub paragraph 423.1(c) gives the Board of Ordained Ministry the right to set minimal standards and specific guidelines for continuing education programs, this paragraph gives the Board the right only to initiate such recommendations and not the absolute authority to set these standards. It is to be noted that Par. 423.1(c) refers to the authority of the Board of Ordained Ministry as set forth in Par. 731.2(i). It appears that this reference should actually be Par. 723.2(j). In this paragraph the authority is given to provide support services for the ordained minister's career development, which would include personal and career counseling, continuing education, assistance in preparation for retirement and other matters pertaining to "ministerial morale." Nothing in this paragraph refers to character, ordination or conference relations.
There is no conflict between Par. 701.1(a) and Par. 701.4. Each lays out specific responsibilities: the first for Annual Conference members in full connection and the second, for lay members. Lay members may not participate in deliberation or voting on matters concerned with the granting or validation of license, ordination, reception into full conference membership or any question concerning the character and official conduct of ministers.
We find no conflict between Pars. 701.1(a) and 701.4. Lay members may vote on matters affecting ministers provided those matters do not fall within those specific items prohibited by the Constitution and other paragraphs of the Discipline. Lay members may vote on requiring continuing education provided that continuing education is not a requirement for continuation of conference membership.