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Decision No. 329

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April 18 1970
In Re: A Petition from the South Carolina Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning, Application, and Effect of Paragraphs 352.1 and 391.6 as They Relate to Special Appointments to Non-United Methodist Agencies.

Digest of Case

In the appointment to specialized ministerial positions in non-United Methodist agencies, Paragraphs 352.1 and 391.6 must be construed, interpreted and applied together, and the appointing bishop must strictly apply these provisions for protection of the ministry in relation to the appointive system.

Statement of Facts

The Judicial Council has received from the secretary of the South Carolina Annual Conference the conference action on the report of the Study Committee on Special Appointments. The report proposed certain steps to be taken "in an attempt to clarify the question of special appointments to non-church related agencies or institutions." The conference adopted the first section of the report as follows: "That the South Carolina Annual Conference, acting under Discipline Paragraph 1715, Section 2(i), petition the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church for a Declaratory Decision on the meaning, application, and effect of Discipline Paragraph 352(l) on Special Appointments and 391(6) on 'limitations observed by the bishop when fixing appointments.' 1. Does consultation with the bishop and the securing of his permission to employ a conference member under provisions of 352(l) fulfill the requirement for a 'request by an appropriate official, agency, or institution' as indicated in Paragraph 391 (6) ? 2. Does the provision of 391(6) regarding a 'request by an appropriate official, agency, or institution' raise questions of the relationship between church and state, should the official agency or institution be in the public sector? 3. Does the 'request' indicated in Paragraph 391(6) have to be in writing? 4. Does a conference member have an avenue of appeal should there be disagreement concerning 'consultation and approval' (Par. 352 (1) ) and 'request' (Par. 391 (6) ) ?" JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715 of the 1968 Discipline. ANALYSIS The question raised by the instant petition is the meaning, application, and effect of Discipline Paragraph 352.1 and 391.6 in respect to special appointments of Annual Conference ministerial members to non-United Methodist agencies. The four subsidiary questions formulated by the South Carolina Annual Conference Study Committee on Special Appointments are hypothetical in nature, not grounded in any factual situation presented to the Judicial Council insofar as the petition and briefs indicate, and therefore are not specifically herein answered. However, we believe this opinion should be dispositive of the principal, as well as collateral, issues raised. The General Conference has recognized the widening range of ministerial service in institutions and agencies, both church and non-church related, in furthering the social mission of the church. This recognition is provided for in Paragraph 352 which authorizes a bishop to make appointments to specialized ministry positions in institutions and agencies under clearly stated conditions. Paragraph 391 establishes the provisions and limitations to be observed by the bishop when fixing appointments. It is clear that Paragraph 391 imposes the principal responsibility for such appointments upon the bishop, and he must observe the limitations established. For appointments of ministerial members to non-United Methodist agencies by a bishop, Paragraphs 352.1 and 391.6 must be construed and applied together. By so doing a series of sequential steps must be followed as conditions precedent to a "special appointment" within the meaning and intent of the legislation. The conditions precedent to a special appointment to a non-United Methodist agency are: 1. The institution or agency desiring to employ a conference member shall first consult or request the member's bishop and secure his approval before completing any agreement to employ. (Par. 352.1) We believe it is clear that "approval" as used means bilateral approval; that the bishop recognizes and approves the position or employment as a specialized ministry, and the institution or agency approves and would employ under conditions of an episcopal appointment. 2. Where approval is tentatively reached, the bishop must consult with and obtain the recommendation of the district superintendents for the proposed non-United Methodist appointment. (Pars. 352 and 391.6) 3. The proposed appointment and recommendation of the district superintendents must be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the Annual Conference. (Par. 391.6) 4. Thereupon, the bishop may make the proposed special appointment to the position in a non-United Methodist agency. It is clear by these limitations pertaining to non-United Methodist agencies that the General Conference intended to protect the integrity of the itinerant ministry. Hence, we believe the bishop is required to adhere strictly to the conditions and limitations of Paragraphs 352.1 and 391.6. Failure to adhere to these requirements and acceptance of employment by a ministerial member before they are met may be tantamount to a request for voluntary location of the member.

Decision

In the appointment to specialized ministerial positions in non-United Methodist agencies, Paragraphs 352.1 and 391.6 must be construed, interpreted and applied together, and the appointing bishop must strictly apply these provisions for protection of the ministry in relation to the appointive system.

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