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Decision No. 466

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October 26 1979
In Re: The Membership Status of a Missionary Who is a Ministerial Member of a Provisional Annual Conference Serving Under Assignment by the Board of Global Ministries.

Digest of Case

A missionary who is a ministerial member of a Provisional Annual Conference remains a member of that Conference after the discontinuance of service under the Board of Global Ministries, and may not be given involuntary location in lieu of retirement.

Statement of Facts

On June 13, 1978, the Reverend Robert M. Hanson, a missionary in the Austrian Provisional Annual Conference under assignment by the General Board of Global Ministries, and a full ministerial member of that conference, addressed a letter to the Secretary of the Conference. In doing so, he presented an appeal through the Secretary to the Judicial Council under Par. 2551.10 and 11 of the 1976 Discipline, and set forth challenges to two "rulings" made by Bishop Franz W. Schaefer and an action of the conference based upon the "rulings" in its 1978 session in regard to his continuing relationship to the Conference, namely: thatupon the discontinuation of his services under the Board of Global Ministries as of December 31, 1978 he must apply for membership in the conference (a "ruling" based upon six elaborated points); that Par. 434.4 of the Discipline does not apply in the Conference; and the according of Honorable Location under Par. 435 of the 1976 Discipline instead of the requested "Retirement" under Par. 434.4 The Conference Secretary, the Reverend Helmut Nausner, forwarded an appeal, to which he added his own explanations which include an excerpt from the Minutes of a Conference session, and a copy of Mr. Hanson's letter, under date of June 28, 1978. Upon the basis of these two documents, the appeal forwarded by Mr. Nausner and Mr. Hanson's letter, the matter was placed on the docket of the October 1978 Session of the Judicial Council as Number VII. However, a letter from Mr. Nausner dated September 19, 1978, stating that the matter was being referred to the Judicial Court of the Central Conference and withdrawing the appeal to the Judicial Council, was received by the Council. Consequently action was postponed by the Judicial Council. Under date of October 23, 1978, Mr. Hanson in a letter to the Judicial Council challenged the action reported in Mr. Nausner's letter of September 19, 1978. Subsequently, under date of November 10, 1978, correspondence was received from Bishop Schaefer in which he requested that the matter remain with the Council. And under the same date additional comments upon Mr. Hanson's appeal were sent to the Council by Mr. Nausner in which he quoted from the Minutes of the 1977 and 1978 Conference sessions, and from the Central Conference Discipline. Further, in his additional comments Mr. Nausner declared that the Bishop had not made a "ruling". The matter was placed on the April, 1979 docket of the Judicial Council. Consideration of it issued in Memorandum No. 449 which postponed further action pending receipt of more information from the Austrian Provisional Annual Conference and the General Board of Global Ministries. Additional information was received, as follows: a letter from Dr. IsaacBivens of the Board of Global Ministries, dated April 19, 1979 and responding to the six points quoted in Mr. Nausner's original communication; copy of a letter from Bishop Schaefer to Dr. Bivens dated June 18, 1979, announcing termination of Mr. Hanson's membership in the Conference per Mr. Hanson's request; a letter dated August 15, 1979 from Bishop Schaefer to the Secretary of the Judicial Council, explaining the action of the Conference as having been based upon the adapted Discipline of the Central Conference, and quoting from the same; and the minutes of the 1978 session of the Austrian Provisional Conference. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Pars. 2511 and 2512 of the 1976 Discipline. ANALYSIS The "appeal" of Mr. Hanson to the Judicial Council, through the Secretary of the Provisional Annual Conference, followed upon an apparent understanding among the other ministerial members of the Conference, Bishop Schaefer, and Mr. Hanson. This understanding was "Robert Hanson would prefer the status of a retired minister (instead of the honorable location) and will try to clear this question with the appropriate bodies of the General Conference." (Excerpt of Minutes, June 2, 1978 session of ministerial members.) It is submitted under the provisions of Par. 2551.10 and 11 of the 1976 Discipline which is under Section II of Judicial Administration, and has to do with Investigations, Trials, and Appeals. It is clear, however, that no trial of Mr. Hanson was ever held. Obviously his character had been passed (see Mr. Hanson's letter to Mr. Nausner dated June 13, 1978); and, in fact, a trial had been intentionally avoided (see Mr. Nausner's comments under date of November 10, 1978, second page, item 3) ". . . Bishop Schaefer informed the members that in his opinion the decisions of the Closed Session of the Ministerial Members of the Annual Conference are not impeachable. This could only happen if a trial (emphasis added) had taken place." Further, there is no evidence that there was an appeal from a decision of law rendered by the bishop which was voted upon by one-fifth of the members present and voting; nor is there evidence that the Bishop "ruled" on a question of law in the proper sense as defined in the pertinent sections of the Discipline (Pars. 61. Article 11. 2,3; 2512). (cf. Decision No. 153.) Nevertheless, the Judicial Council is of the opinion that Bishop Schaefer, in the 1978 session in effect made a ruling as the Minutes of the Closed Session of the pastors indicate. After citing six points, a ruling was made to the effect that membership in the Annual Conference does not automatically continue beyond the date of termination fixed by the Board of Global Ministries, and that Mr. Hanson, when terminated by the Board of Global Ministries as of December 31, 1978, "must apply for an appointment in the Annual Conference" after that date. A second ruling was made when the Bishop declared Par. 434.4 to be of no effect in the Conference and suggested instead Par. 435 of the 1976 Discipline as being appropriate to the case, resulting in Mr. Hanson's being denied retirement and being given the status of Honorable Location (see Conference Minutes, 1978, as excerpted by Mr. Nausner). Of the six points used to explain that Mr. Hanson's status in the conference is "dependent upon his relationship to the Board of Global Ministries as a missionary," and that membership in the Conference does not automatically continue beyond the date of termination fixed by the Board of Global Ministries, five are questioned in whole and one in part by Dr. Bivens in his letter to the Judicial Council. In view of the fact that Mr. Hanson was a member in good standing, whose membership had not been terminated by a trial or any other legal process, and who was appointed to a Charge through December 31, 1978, we hold that he continued to be entitled to an appointment without having to apply for one. (Par. 420, Rights of Members, 1976 Discipline.) Furthermore, the Discipline is clear in its statements having to do with amenability of conference members who are appointed beyond the local church. Par. 454 states that those in such appointments remain within the itineracy, and twice asserts that clergy persons in such appointments shall be accountable to the Annual Conference. Par. 454.1 (b) includes missionaries among those who may be so appointed: . . . "Missionaries related to the National and World Divisionsof the Board of Global Ministries; . . . " The second ruling, that Par. 434.4 was of no effect in the Conference, is unconstitutional and in disagreement with Decision No. 313 of the Judicial Council. The Council holds that the analysis and decision of No. 313 apply to the instant case, making allowance for differences in the time and circumstances. At the time and under the circumstances of Decision 313 the Council declared: The power to establish standards, conditions and qualifications for admission to the ministry is a matter of distinct connectional importance and is initially placed by the Constitution in the General Conference. The General Conference has acted to establish the basic obligations and qualifications of candidates for license to preach and for admission to probationary membership in an Annual Conference (Pars. 318 and 326), and has thereby preempted this authority until expressly delegated by it. The general power conferred by the General Conference on a Central Conference to make changes and adaptations regarding the ministry and other subjects (Par. 631.9) does not authorize a Central Conference or its Annual Conferences to add to or subtract from the basic ministerial obligations established and pre-empted by act of the General Conference. Of pertinence also is Decision No. 325 which prohibits an Annual Conference from making changes in the provisions of the Discipline concerning the ministry; as is also Decision No. 351 which goes into detail concerning the trial of a minister and constitutional substitutes for a trial-neither of which procedures was followed in terminating Mr. Hanson's membership.

Decision

A missionary who is a ministerial member of a Provisional Annual Conference remains a member of that Conference after the discontinuance of service under the Board of Global Ministries, and may not be given involuntary location in lieu of retirement.

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