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Decision No. 501

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October 22 1981
In Re: Interpretation and Meaning of the Disciplinary Requirements of "the Consultation Process" in Pars. 528-31.

Digest of Case

The Bishop is empowered to make appointments within a prescribed consultation process set forth in Pars. 528-31. While the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee is advisory, consultation is mandated. The consultation is to take place prior to the appointment decision and parties involved are to be informed prior to any public announcement. Neither a time sequence for consulting the pastor or the committee, nor the length of time needed for the consultation process is specified.

Statement of Facts

The Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference on May 26, 1981 adopted a resolution petitioning the Judicial Council for a ruling on the interpretation and meaning of Pars. 528-31 of the 1980 Discipline with regard to the consultation process. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615 of the 1980 Discipline. ANALYSIS The resolution adopted by the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference specified that differences of opinion and interpretation exist regarding timing, persons involved, and sources of information regarding appointments as a part of the consultation process with Pastor-Parish Committees. It requests a clarification of these points as found in Pars. 528-31 of the 1980 Discipline. Par. 528.1 states that the consultation process shall be mandatory in every Annual Conference. Such consultation is advisory to the Bishop in making appointments. In Decision No. 101, the Judicial Council confirmed this principle as set forth in the 1952 Discipline of the Methodist Church, by ruling that "while the authority in appointing preachers to their charges rests upon the Presiding Bishop, it does not relieve the District Superintendent of the responsibility of consulting with the preacher . . . " "Consultation" in that Decision was defined as the exchange of ideas between the District Superintendent and the Pastor, not necessarily agreement. The consultation process is to occur before the appointment decision is made and its length or brevity may be determined by different situations. It is important that all parties to the consultation process be notified of the decision before any public announcement is made. Under the present Discipline, the consultation process includes the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. This is not to be construed to limit nor diminish the final authority of the Bishop in the appointment process. The Pastor-Parish Relations Committee is advisory only (Par. 266.7), and the District Superintendent is specifically instructed "to meet with Pastor-Parish Relations Committees when conditions require, in accordance with Par. 529." (Par. 518.3) This committee does not exercise any veto power over the Bishop's appointment. Par. 258 defines consultation and makes the process mandatory in every Annual Conference. It is seen as an ongoing process and exchange of ideas. The Council of Bishops is enjoined to inquire annually of their colleagues about the implementation of this process in appointment-making. (Par. 528.2) While Pars. 529.1-6 clearly define the process, no specific time frame for these consultations is set forth.

Decision

The Bishop is empowered to make appointments within a prescribed consultation process set forth in Pars. 528-31. While the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee is advisory, consultation is mandated. "Consultation means that there is an exchange of ideas even though they might not be in agreement." (Judicial Council Decision 101) The consultation is to take place prior to the appointment decision and parties involved are to be informed prior to any public announcement. Neither a time sequence for consulting the pastor or the committee, nor the length of time needed for the consultation process is specified. Bishops are required to inquire annually of their colleagues about the implementation of the consultation process.

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