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Decision No. 450

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April 26 1979
In Re: Application of Par. 433 (Leave of Absence) to Probationary Members of the Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

Provisions for leave of absence in Par. 433 The Discipline, apply to all ministerial members of an Annual Conference, including the probationary members.

Statement of Facts

The North Arkansas Annual Conference on June 8, 1978, voted to petition the Judicial Council as follows: "The Board of Ordained Ministry moves that the North Arkansas Annual Conference request a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council as to whether the provision of Discipline Par. 433 (leave of absence) may be applied to Probationary members of the Annual Conference." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2515.2 of the 1976 Discipline. ANALYSIS Par. 433 of the Discipline deals with Leave of Absence provisions for the ordained ministry. It states: "This relationship is granted because of impaired health or for other equally sufficient reason when a minister is temporarily unwilling or unable to perform the full work of his/her appointment." After describing the procedures by which such relationship may be granted, Par. 433 says: "This relation shall be approved annually and shall not be granted for more than five years in succession except by a two-thirds vote of the ministerial members in full connection." The Discipline, Par. 412.1 defines ministerial membership: "The ministerial membership of an Annual Conference shall consist of members in full connection (Par. 419), probationary members (Par. 413) and associate members (Par. 427)." The definition of probationary members in Par. 413 states: "Probationary members are on trial in preparation for membership in full connection with the Annual Conference. They are on probation as to character, preaching, and effectiveness as pastors. The Annual Conference has jurisdiction over probationary members." Rights and limitations of probationary members in Par. 413 provide that: "...they shall have the right to vote in the Annual Conference on all matters except the following: (a) constitutional amendments; (b) election of delegates to the General and Jurisdictional or Central Conferences; (e) all matters of ordination, character and conference relations of ministers." They may serve on any board, commission or committee of the Annual Conference except the Board of Ordained Ministry. However, they are not eligible for election as delegates to the General or Jurisdictional Conferences. Par. 431.1 includes all three categories of ministerial membership of the Annual Conference: "When ministers who are associate members, probationary members or members in full connection in an Annual Conference. . . , they may be granted annual disability leave without losing their relationship to the Annual Conference." In Par. 431, sub-paragraphs 2,3,4,5, the reference is only to "ministers" implying in each instance all three categories of ministers mentioned in 431. 1, and granting all three categories the privileges of disability leave. In Par. 432, maternity leave is limited to members in full connection, specifically excluding probationary members. Then follows Par. 433, the issue in question. The term used is, "when a minister. . ." The wording of this paragraph applies to a ministerial member of the Annual Conference who is under appointment. The ministerial members include probationary members (Par. 412.1) and they are required to be under appointment: "All ministerial members who are in good standing in an Annual Conference shall receive annually appointment by the bishop unless they are granted a sabbatical leave, a disability leave, or are on leave of absence or retired." (Par. 451) The absence of the spelling out of the three categories of ministers in Par. 431.2-5, and in Par. 430, "Ministers seeking a change in conference relationship . . .", validates the conclusion that Par. 433 refers to associate members, probationary members and members in full connection in making provisions for the granting of a Leave of Absence. Certain explicit limitations apply to probationary members and are not applicable to members in full connection. Relationship to the Annual Conference is different, as noted above in reference to Par. 413.2. The time limitation may be different since there is a maximum time limit of 8 years on probationary membership, and a 5 year limit on leave of absence. Other than these explicit limitations, probationary members may be granted leaves of absence as provided in Par. 433.

Decision

The provisions for leave of absence in Par. 433, The Discipline, apply to Probationary Members of an Annual Conference.

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