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Decision No. 100

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July 19 1954
In Re: Request of Louisiana Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision Interpreting the Pro- visions of the Discipline Relating to Licens- ing and Renewal of Licenses of Local Preachers

Digest of Case

Where there is no District Conference, the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications has sole and final authority to license Local Preachers, and to renew their licenses. Where there is a District Conference the final authority for licensing Local Preachers and for renewing their licenses is vested in the District Conference. In either case, for the securing of a license the applicant must comply with the provisions of Par. 304 of the Discipline. In the matter of renewal of a license, where there is a District Conference, it is the duty of the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications to examine the applicant and report to the District Conference whether in its opinion the "gifts, graces and usefulness" of the applicant warrant a renewal; but the final action for such renewal shall be taken by the District Conference.

Statement of Facts

The Judicial Council received from the Louisiana Annual Conference, South Central Jurisdiction, the following petition for a Declaratory Decision: "1. Your petitioner is the Louisiana Annual Conference, South Central Jurisdiction, of The Methodist Church. "2. That your petitioner, the Louisiana Annual Conference, South Central Jurisdiction, of The Methodist Church, in session at Monroe, Louisiana, June 1-4, 1954, in accordance with Paragraph 914, No. (8), of the 1952 Discipline of The Methodist Church respectfully petitions the Judicial Council to make a Declaratory Decision on Paragraph 675, No. 2 (a), with reference to the following question: 'Can a District Conference license a Local Preacher or renew the license of a Local Preacher when the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications does not recommend such action to said Conference?'" Wherefore the petitioner requests a ruling and Declaratory Decision construing the meaning, application and effect of said Paragraph. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 914 sub (8) to render the Declaratory Decision requested. ANALYSIS The following is a full statement of all the law contained in the Discipline relating to the licensing and renewal of the license of a Local Preacher: "Paragraph 304 - A person may be licensed to preach by the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications (Par. 675). Unless the license is renewed, it expires after one year. (See Pars. 319 and 329.) To qualify for a license to preach, the person must take the following steps: "1. Receive the approval of the Quarterly Conference of the church in which he holds his church membership (Par. 146 #1). "2. Appear before and secure the written approval of the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications. "3. Pass a satisfactory written examination in the studies prescribed for candidates for license to preach, and be examined in the subjects of Doctrine and Discipline (Par. 2043). "4. Agree to make a complete dedication of himself to the highest ideals of the Christian ministry and bear witness to the same by his abstinence from the use of tobacco and other indulgences which may injure his influence, consecrating himself to purity of life in body, in mind, and in spirit." Paragraph 362. The duties of the District Superintendent are: "4. To issue licenses for Local Preachers and to renew them in accordance with the action of the District Conference or District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications (Par. 675)." "Paragraph 675. 1. There shall be a District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications, of which the District Superintendent shall be Chairman. The Committee shall be composed of the District Superintendent and five traveling preachers of the District, nominated annually by him, and approved by the Annual Conference. Interim vacancies may be filled by the Chairman. "2. The duties of the Committee shall be: a) To examine each person who applies in writing for a license to preach, or for a renewal of such license. (See Par. 304.) Where there is evidence that his gifts, graces and usefulness warrant, it may, upon recommendation of the Quarterly Conference, of the church in which he is a member (Par. 146 No. 1), issue or renew his license to preach; provided, however, that where a District Conference exists, final action on such licensing shall be taken by the District Conference; and provided, further, that before the ballot for licensing a person to preach is taken he shall have agreed to the condition set forth in Par. 304 No. 4. The District Superintendent shall furnish a certified list of the persons licensed to the Secretary of the Annual Conference for insertion in the Journal. (See Par. 362 No. 10). b) To recommend to the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications suitable candidates for acceptance as Approved Supply pastors, for Admission on Trial, for Local Deacon's Orders, for Local Elder's Orders, and for restoration of credentials. "3. The vote of the Committee in all such matters shall be by individual written ballot, and a three-fourths majority vote of the Committee shall be required for license or approval. "4. The Committee shall report its work to the District Conference for approval where such Conference exists." It will be noted that there are conflicts and ambiguities in these Paragraphs. That can be easily explained by reason of the fact that in certain sections of the Church there are no District Conferences, and the law relating to the issuing and renewing of license to preach by the District Conference, where one exists, and by the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications where there is no District Conference has been grouped together in such a manner as to confuse the two and render ambiguous the provisions relating to each separately. When these provisions are unscrambled, it appears that the most reasonable construction - and it is the opinion of the Judicial Council - that Par. 675 2a in connection with the other provisions of the Discipline, quoted above, should be interpreted as follows: First: Where there is no District Conference the District Committee onMinisterial Qualifications has sole and final authority to license or refuse to license a Local Preacher and to renew or refuse to renew such license; but where there is a District Conference final authority for licensing a Local Preacher and for renewing his license is vested in the District Conference. Second: In either case, for the securing of an original license as LocalPreacher the applicant must comply with all the provisions of Paragraph 304 of the Discipline. Third: For a renewal of license it would not appear necessary that theapplicant be examined again in the "subjects of Doctrine and Discipline" and be re-examined in the studies prescribed for candidates for license to preach. However, the question of "gifts and graces and particularly the question of the "usefulness" of an applicant for renewal of license is one of importance. Paragraph 675 2(a) require the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications to make such an examination and determine whether or not to recommend renewal of such license. Fourth: Subdivision 4 of Paragraph 675 specifically provides that wherethere is a District Conference "the Committee shall report its work to the District Conference for approval"; and sub. 2(a) of said Paragraph 675 specifically provides that "final action on such licensing" (including renewals) "shall be taken by the District Conference."

Decision

It is therefore the Decision of the Judicial Council that the specific question propounded should be divided and answered as follows: 1st. Can a District Conference license a local preach when the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications does not recommend such action to the Conference? Answer: No. 2nd. Can a District Conference renew the license of local preacher when the District Committee on Minister Qualifications does not recommend such action? Answer: Yes. In this connection attention is called again to the provisions of Paragraph 675 which, where a District Conference exists, requires the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications to report its work (not just a part of its work) to the District Conference and which provides that final action on the issuing or renewing of a license to preach "shall be taken by the District Conference." We are aware that at this point, there may seem to be some contradiction in answering the first question in the negative and the second question in the affirmative. The Discipline makes it clear, however, that the "final action" reserved to the District Conference by Paragraph 675 is, in the matter of the issuance of a license to preach, limited by Paragraph 304 (2) which requires the written approval of the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications, but that, in the matter of the renewal of a license to preach, there is no such limitation, the District Committee on Ministerial Qualifications making recommendations but its approval not being made a specific requirement.

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