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Decision No. 436

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October 28 1977
In Re: Request of the Wyoming Conference for Declaratory Decision Concerning the "Eight-Year Rule" of Limitation on Service of a "Local Pastor" as Provided by Discipline. Paragraphs 408, 409

Digest of Case

Paragraph 409.5 applies only to persons ordained as deacons and elders prior to 1976 or enrolled in appropriate studies prior to January 1, 1977. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 2515 of the 1976 Discipline

Statement of Facts

The Wyoming Annual Conference on June 3, 1977 passed the following motion: "I move that in accordance with the Discipline, paragraph 2510, the Wyoming Annual Conference, through its Board of Ordained Ministry, appeal to the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church for a declaratory decision concerning the 'eight-year rule.' (Cf Discipline, paragraph 408, 409)" In their brief before the Judicial Council the Wyoming Annual Conference states, as follows: "During the past year, we like other Boards of the Ordained Ministry, have sought to understand, interpret, and implement the new, much needed, and deeply appreciated legislation concerning the Ordained Ministry (Cf Discipline, Chapter Four). One point of confusion and concern has been the relationship between two significant paragraphs, 408.2 and 409.5. The former provides that: 'Service of the local pastor shall be terminated at the end of eight years unless the candidate has been qualified or been received as associate or probationary member.' The latter states that: 'None of the provisions in this legislation shall be interpreted to change or limit authorizations to persons ordained as deacon and elder prior to 1976 or enrolled in the appropriate studies prior to January 1, 1977." "In an attempt to seek clarification as to who are affected by this legislation (i.e., 408.2), I corresponded with Dr. Robert Watts Thornburg, Associate General Secretary, Division of Ordained Ministry, Board of Higher Education and Ministry. I quote his response to my inquiry, dated January 7, 1977: 'Indeed we do mean that persons who are declared local pastors begin afresh in the eight-year quest as of next June. This is a new category in which they have new rights and responsibilities, and, therefore, is not covered under the grandparent clause, 409.5. Probably no bit of the legislation is tougher than the transition for these persons and I suspect that we will be challenged on this one and we don't consider that unfriendly in the slightest.' "This appeal, then is a friendly challenge to this interpretation." ANALYSIS The question that the Wyoming Annual Conference is interested in is whether or not all local pastors, regardless of prior status of authorization are now required to meet new qualifications, having met at least the minimum requirements for election as associate members, or does this legislation apply only to persons granted status as local pastors since, but not prior to, the implementation of this new legislation. The Division of Ordained Ministry, Board of Higher Education and Ministry, interprets the legislation as meaning that all "local pastors" are not covered under the grandparent clause 409.5. This interpretation is correct. It is clear that paragraph 409.5 applies only to persons ordained as deacons and elders prior to 1976 or enrolled in appropriate studies prior to January 1, 1977. The important clause is that in 408.2 which states: "Service of the local pastor shall be terminated at the end of eight years unless the candidate has been qualified or been received as an associate or probationary member." The General Conference has in this sentence adopted mandatory language without reference to so called "grandparent clause" protection. There is, of course, in other language in the Discipline some degree of flexibility concerning the interpretation of the eight-year rule. (See 409 et seq.) However, it is clear that the General Conference has considered this legislation to be a part of the general process of improving the educational standards of the ministry in The United Methodist Church which has been a time honored and historic intent of United Methodism and all of its predecessor bodies.

Decision

Paragraph. 409.5 applies only to persons ordained as deacons and elders prior to 1976 or enrolled in appropriate studies prior to January 1, 1977. Gene E. Sease was absent.

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