Decision Number 122
The Request of the Virginia Annual Con- ference for a Declaratory Decision Concerning the Required Appointment of a Preacher on Trial in Paragraph 341 of the 1952 Discipline
The phrase, "who has been appointed in the regular itinerant work on circuits or stations" in Paragraph 341 of the 1952 Discipline must be interpreted as applying only to pastoral appointments to Circuits or Stations.
Statement of Facts
The Secretary of the Judicial Council received the following communication:
"This is to certify that the following Resolution was adopted by the Virginia Annual Conference in regular session at Norfolk, Virginia, June 14, 1955:
"The Virginia Conference of The Methodist Church, in annual session at Norfolk, Virginia, June 14, 1955, requests a Declaratory Decision from the Judicial Council (as defined in Paragraph 914, Section 8, of the 1952 Discipline) regarding Admission into Full Connection, Paragraph 341, which reads in part as follows: "A preacher On Trial who has been appointed in the regular itinerant work on Circuits or Stations for two successive years from the time he was Received on Trial, and who has been elected to Deacon's Orders, etc."
"The question at issue regards the words, 'who has been appointed in the regular itinerant work on Circuits or Stations.' May this be construed as applying to preachers On Trial who have been appointed for two full years after their Admission to some institutional or connectional work of the Conference, such as Superintendent of the Children's Home, Conference Secretary of Youth Work under the Board of Education, or Director of a Wesley Foundation, and who meeting all other qualifications for Admission Into Full Connection may be received into the Conference without actually serving in a pastoral relationship?" (s) Paul N. Garber, President. (s) R. M. White, Secretary
Under Paragraph 914 of the 1952 Discipline which grants an Annual Conference the right to request a Declaratory Decision on matters relating to Annual Conferences or the work therein, this request is properly before the Judicial Council for Decision.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 341 of the 1952 Discipline reads as follows:
"A preacher On Trial who has been appointed in the regular itinerant work on Circuits or Stations, or as instructor in one of our institutions of learning, for two successive years from the time he was received On Trial, and who has been elected to Deacon's Orders, may be admitted into Full Connection in the Annual Conference after he has given satisfactory evidence of his knowledge of the subjects covered in the first two years of the Conference Course of Study, and after the examination before the Conference prescribed in Paragraph 343 of this Chapter; provided that this shall not be so construed as to prevent the Admission Into Full Connection of one who, while a student in any college or theological seminary of The Methodist Church approved by the authorized standardizing agency, or other evangelical theological seminary of equal rank, has been for the proper length of time regularly serving under the appointment or supervision of a District Superintendent."
The question of the Virginia Annual Conference concerns how broad or narrow is to be the interpretation of "the regular itinerant work on Circuits or Stations."
It is true that the pastoral appointment to churches is the basic ministry of the Church. Here are the grass roots of faith and religious living. Here in the Quarterly Conference the organizational structure of The Methodist Church begins. Such Appointments have been the traditional interpretation of "the regular itinerant work on Circuits or Stations." The Methodist Church has discovered, however, that in order to carry on its work effectively it must broaden its conception of the itinerant ministry. The General Conference, exercising its rights under the Constitution, has been gradually broadening the appointive power of the Episcopacy in the matter of "Special Appointments." Growing areas of inter-Church co-operation, the need of various kinds of institutions for resident Chaplains, the development of special fields of ministry within the Church, are some of the factors that call for this broadening of appointive power.
So far, however, the General Conference has not broadened its legislation regarding the Admission of Preachers On Trial Into Full Connection. Paragraph 341 of the 1952 Discipline has not been changed. It still provides that to be Admitted Into Full Connection a Preacher On Trial must be serving in the regular itinerant work on Circuits or Stations, or as an instructor in one of our institutions of learning. To interpret this provision otherwise would constitute legislation on the part of the Judicial Council.
It is the Decision of the Judicial Council that the phrase "regular itinerant work on Circuits or Stations" in Paragraph 341 of the 1952 Discipline may not be interpreted to include appointment to any institutional or connectional work of the Conference, but must be interpreted to apply only to pastoral appointments to Circuits or Stations.