Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 331
October 28 1970
In Re: Request of Virginia Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Application of Paragraphs 501-508 of the 1968 Discipline to Prior Certification and Consecration of Directors of Christian Education and Directors of Music.
Digest of Case
Directors of Christian education and music who have heretofore been consecrated to their chosen field of service by a bishop shall be deemed to have met the requirement of consecration for lay worker.
Statement of Facts
The Virginia Annual Conference in session June 9, 1970, adopted a motion, to request a declaratory decision of the Judicial Council on the question: "May aconference accept prior consecration by a bishop of directors of Christian education and directors of music as meeting the requirement of consecration as one condition of the certified lay worker relationship?" Prior to this action the conference voted eligibility for consecration as lay workers for those persons recommended by the Conference Committee on the Lay Worker (Pars. 501-502, 1968 Discipline). The request for declaratory decision was transmitted to the Judicial Council by the resident bishop and issues were presented in briefs by the chairman of the Conference Committee on the Lay Worker and the president of the Virginia Conference Board of Education. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715 of the 1968 Discipline. ANALYSIS The question, may a conference accept prior consecration of directors of Christian education and directors of music as meeting one of the requirements prescribed for a lay worker, involves the application and interpretation of Paragraphs 501-508 of the 1968 Discipline in relation to Paragraph 1115. Certain basic rules of statutory interpretation guide our reasoning of the question posed to arrive at the intention of the General Conference. The guideline rules we follow in this matter are: a) Acts in relation to the same subject or object should be construed together. b) Construction or interpretation should be avoided which would render part of a law inoperative, or purposeless, unless manifestly required. c) Judicial construction or interpretation of a law should be prospective for application, but not retroactive. Paragraphs 501-508, establishing the lay worker as a cognate category within the organization and administration of the church is relatively new legislation having been enacted at the 1968 General Conference of The United Methodist Church. It gives status and provides for enlarged use and employment of laymen and laywomen in leadership and service in the various agencies of the church. Thus Paragraph 501 provides: "A lay worker in the Church is a person other thanthe clergy whose decision to make a career of work (either full-time or term) in the employed status in the Church and church-related agencies is accompanied by the meeting of standards of excellence in the chosen field of service and who has been consecrated by a bishop." Paragraph 1115 is the statutory continuation of the recognition and responsibility of the General Board and Conference Boards of Education for developing standards in education and music. The policy and antecedents were established in The Methodist Church (see 1964 Discipline of The Methodist Church, Par. 1401.2-3; Par. 1451.3; Par. 247). Paragraph 1115 also was adopted by The United Methodist Church as part of the Plan of Union in 1968 which provided: "Certified directors and associates ofChristian education and music may be consecrated and commissioned at a conference session . . ." Thus it is clear and we hold that the General Conference by enacting the general and broader policy and procedure in Paragraphs 501-508 for lay workers did not intend to repeal, abrogate or render inoperative the certification and consecration of the special class of director of Christian education and music authorized in Paragraph 1115. The 1970 General Conference amended Paragraph 1115.3 as follows: "Certified directors of Christian education and music, and associates in Christian education and music, who are approved for lay relationship may be consecrated as lay workers and commissioned at a conference session (amendatory words underlined) At the same time, other amendments in Paragraph 1115.1 and 2 renewed and extended the responsibility of the conference Board of Education for maintaining standards, and certification of ministers, directors and associates of Christian education and music. We perceive the legislative intent to have been to preserve the established and traditional standards and status of certified directors of Christian education and music, and prospectively to bring this category of church service within the general class of lay worker and its attendant status and privileges, i.e., to be seated in the Annual Conference (Par. 505) and to be included in the retirement plan (Par. 507). But we do not find any language in this amendment suggesting the intent that it be retroactive or that it abrogated or in any manner affected prior consecration or required an additional consecration as a condition precedent to the relationship of lay worker. By construing Paragraph 501 and Paragraph 1115.3 together we hold that certified directors of Christian education and music who have prior consecration by a bishop may be deemed to have met the requirement of consecration for lay worker. It has been urged that "consecration" as used in Paragraph 501 is consecration to a relationship in the Annual Conference and is different and to be distinguished from consecration to an area of work, as used in Paragraph 1115. We neither base our decision on, nor believe tenable, such distinction. The standard meaning of "consecrate" is to devote or dedicate to some specific purpose. The purpose to which a lay worker is dedicated by consecration is the chosen field of service and standards of excellence for the same established by the Conference Committee on lay workers as provided in Paragraph 667.3. Relationship to the Annual Conference is an incident to the lay worker meeting the conditions of Paragraph 502 and his consecration in the chosen field of service.
We conclude, therefore, that directors of Christian education and music who have heretofore been consecrated to their chosen field of service by a bishop shall be deemed to have met the requirement of consecration for lay worker as set forth in Paragraphs 501-508 of the 1968 Discipline.