Decision Number 16
Status of T. H. Osborne, North Texas Annual Conference
An Annual Conference Committee on Conference Relations and Ministerial Qualifications may, under the provisions of Paragraphs 463 and 466, recommend for admission a Minister claiming to come from another Evangelical Church (Paragraph 311), even though such minister had previously been a member of the same Conference from which he had withdrawn; but final action thereon rests with the Annual Conference which may accept or reject the recommendations for admission submitted by the Committee.
Statement of Facts
T. H. Osborne, a member of the North Texas Annual Conference for more than twenty years, in 1940 withdrew from the ministry and the membership of The Methodist Church, surrendered his credentials, joined the Baptist Church, and was ordained a Baptist minister. Subsequently he sought readmission in the North Texas Conference, under Paragraph 311 of the Discipline, coming as a minister from the Baptist Church. The Conference Committee on ministerial qualifications recommended his acceptance, but the Conference voted against the Committee's Report. Thereupon there was presented to the presiding Bishop, Ivan Lee Holt, at the session of the Conference on October 29, 1941, a request for a ruling, which appears on page 33 of the North Texas Annual Conference Journal.
REQUEST FOR RULING
H. D. Knickerbocker presented the following written question involving an interpretation which Bishop Holt made concerning application of T. H. Osborne: "Can a Methodist preacher who renders his credentials while under complaints, join the Baptist Church and come back presenting his Baptist credentials and be recognized as a Baptist preacher, ignoring his record as a Methodist preacher, and without clearing up the aforesaid complaints, made while he was a Methodist preacher?"
RULING OF THE BISHOP
The Rev. T. H. Osborne served as a member of the North Texas Conference for more than twenty years. In the autumn of 1940 he withdrew from the ministry and membership of The Methodist Church, surrendered his credentials, joined the Baptist Church, and was ordained a Baptist minister. For some months there was illness in the family, and Brother Osborne's own illness made it necessary for him to ask and be granted relief from his charge six weeks before the Conference session. The doctor's certificate stated that he was in great pain, and that he was not in physical or mental condition to carry on the work of the pastorate. At the Annual Conference Brother Osborne's District Superintendent made the announcement, presented his credentials to the Conference, and had for filing with the credentials a statement containing a report of rumor about financial difficulties and unpaid bills of Brother Osborne. No formal or signed complaint other than this was made.
In the fall of 1941 Brother Osborne sought reception into the North Texas Conference as a minister from the Baptist Church. The Committee on Ministerial Qualifications took the case under consideration, made due investigation, and recommended that Brother Osborne be admitted as coming from the ministry of the Baptist Church. The motion to accept and approve the Committee's recommendation was considered by the Conference for two hours. The Conference voted against the Committee's report and Brother Osborne was not admitted.
During the consideration of the case by the Conference I was asked by Dr. H. D. Knickerbocker, a member of the Conference, to answer the following question submitted in writing: "Can a Methodist preacher who surrenders his credentials while under complaints join the Baptist Church, and come back presenting his Baptist Credentials and be recognized as a Baptist preacher, and without clearing up the aforesaid complaints made while he was a Methodist preacher?" My answer was: "The case of T. H. Osborne is legally before this Conference on recommendation of the Committee on Ministerial Qualifications." I have talked with several Bishops about my position and all agree that I was right, but I am required by law to submit the question and answer to the Judicial Council. In support of my position I call attention to Paragraph 311, Article 3: "Ministers from other churches may apply directly to the Annual Conference, which may recognize their credentials and receive them into full membership in the Conference, provided that in all such cases the candidates for admission into full membership must answer satisfactorily the questions set forth in Paragraph 218.11. At the time of his application for admission Brother Osborne was a fully ordained in good standing in the Baptist Church. Paragraph 466, Article 2, Section 3, gives the Committee on Ministerial Qualifications authority to report those to be received from other Churches.
The law gives full protection to the Conference and the ministerial connection by investing it with power through its Committee on Ministerial Qualifications to get all the facts of the applicant, with the power to reject as well as accept the Committee's Report, and with the further power to try him later. The "clearing up of aforesaid complaints" or any new complaints cannot be considered so long as the applicant is a member and a minister of another Church. Brother Osborne as a Baptist preacher could not be tried by a Methodist Conference. If he had been admitted by a vote of the Conference then complaints could have been made, an investigation conducted, and a trial held if necessary.
If one wished to advance a moral as well as a legal argument he might plead the comity and fellowship among Christian denominations in recognition of the ministers of one, by another, and also our Methodist insistence on a man's right of confession and repentance in the hope of forgiveness. But the Judicial Council is concerned only with that legal arguments, and in my thinking the law is absolutely clear in sustaining me.
The Judicial Council having considered the foregoing ruling of Bishop Holt, and the Paragraph of the Discipline applicable to the facts so presented, the Council adopts the written statement of the Bishop as its formal opinion; and the ruling of the Bishop is hereby affirmed.