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Decision No. 317

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October 30 1969
In Re: Petition from the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Legality of Denying an Application for Probationary Membership Because the Applicant Is Married to a Person Who Is in Full Connection in the Conference.

Digest of Case

A Board of the Ministry of an Annual Conference may not deny approval of a candidate for probationary membership on the basis of marital status or the ministerial occupation of the spouse.

Statement of Facts

The Board of the Ministry of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference requested the Conference to petition the Judicial Council for declaratory decision on the question whether: "on the basis of Paragraph 326 (1968Discipline), are there grounds for the Board of the Ministry to deny an application of a person for Probationary Membership because said person is married to a person in full connection in the conference?" The petition continues: "A candidate for Probationary Membership, . . . has met the same requirements that her husband ... has met by coming as an Approved Supply ... the Board of the Ministry feels that [she] cannot answer with complete satisfaction the questions in Paragraph 326.3 parts (b) and (d) (1968 Discipline). Her service in the conference, it seems to the Board of the Ministry, would be limited as to freedom of appointment." The Annual Conference approved the motion to petition the Judicial Council. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715 of the Discipline. ANALYSIS The United Methodist Church does not limit or impose a bar to eligibility for the ministry because of sex or marriage. Paragraph 308.2 of the Discipline provides: "Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Disciplinewhich refer to the ministry." A probationary member is on trial for membership in full connection with the Annual Conference, and is on probation as to character, preaching and effectiveness as a pastor. (Paragraph 325) Under Paragraph 326, a candidate is elected to probationary membership by vote of the ministerial members in full connection on recommendation of its Board of the Ministry after meeting six conditions. One of these conditions (Paragraph 326.3) is he must have been examined and approved by the Board of the Ministry with respect to seven questions, among them (b) and (d) being whether the candidate and his or her spouse are willing to face and to share in any of the sacrifices involved in the ministerial vocation. The function of the Board of the Ministry in this role is administrative, investigatory, and evaluative for report and recommendation to the Annual Conference ministerial members in full connection for vote on the candidate. If the questions are answered by the candidate affirmatively, the Board may corroborate the answer to question (d) by consultation with the spouse, but may not negate the good faith of the answer nor prejudge the ministerial effectiveness of the candidate because of marital status or the ministerial occupation of the spouse. The crucial question is, does the candidate answer these and also the other questions satisfactorily. Negative or evasive answering of these or other questions might well be a basis on which the Board of the Ministry might refuse to recommend either a man or a woman, married or unmarried, for probationary membership.

Decision

A Board of the Ministry of an Annual Conference may not deny admission to Probationary Membership on the basis of marital status or the ministerial occupation of the spouse.

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