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Decision No. 507

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October 22 1981
In Re: Responsibility and Authority for Determining Qualified Candidates for Certification for Diaconal Ministry.

Digest of Case

The Division of Diaconal Ministry has authority to develop and determine standards for certification, but the Discipline does not grant authority to the Division to refuse to issue a certificate to a candidate who is recommended by the Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry and certified by the Annual Conference. Par. 724.4(a) and (b) grants the Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry and the Annual Conference the power to determine whether applicants meet the standards of the church.

Statement of Facts

In March of 1980 the Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference approved a candidate for certification as a Director of Christian Education subject to completion of additional specified studies, that they determined had not been covered in a Master's Degree from an accredited graduate school. In January 1981, the Conference Board notified the Division of Diaconal Ministry that the studies had been satisfactorily completed. The Division requested the Master's Degree transcript and subsequently informed the Conference that it could not certify the candidate who they stated still had certain course deficiencies. The Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry made its recommendation only after a careful investigation to insure that all Disciplinary and Division standards had been met. In view of that fact, on June 2, 1981, the Southwest Texas Annual Conference petitioned the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on Pars. 724.4(b) and 1625.8, dealing with the lines of responsibility for certification between the Annual Conference and the Division. Oral presentations were made on October 22 by Kathleen Jones for the Southwest Texas Annual Conference and Mary E. Moore, representing the Division of Diaconal Ministry. ANALYSIS The issue here grows out of the apparent ambiguity of Pars. 1605.5, 1625.8 and 724.4 having to do with the responsibilities of the Division of Diaconal Ministry and the Annual Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry. Par. 1625.5 lists as one of the objectives of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry and its divisions, "To develop and maintain standards and procedures for certification in ministry careers, for consecration into the diaconal ministry and for ordination into the ordained ministry." Par. 1625 spells out the responsibilities of the Division of Diaconal Ministry. 1625.1 Develop and recommend to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and to the General Conference the requirements and standards that shall be minimal for consecration to the office of diaconal minister in The United Methodist Church. 1625.7 Work with conference Boards of Diaconal Ministry in their responsibility for administering the standards and requirements for the office of diaconal minister. 1625.8 Work with conference Boards of Diaconal Ministry in their responsibility for administering the standards and requirements for certification in professional ministry careers. Par. 724 details the organization, function and responsibilities of a Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry. Par. 724.4 spells out the duties of the conference Board of Diaconal Ministry for certification. 724.4(a) To determine whether applicants meet the standards of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry for certification in education, evangelism, music, and others that may be assigned. 724.4(b) To recommend to the Annual Conference for certification those who have met the standards for education, evangelism, music and others that may be assigned; and to report the action of the Annual Conference to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. In this appeal, there is little difference between the parties of interest concerning the distinctive responsibilities assigned by the Discipline to the Division and to the Conference Board. The conflict comes at the point of whose is the ultimate responsibility for academic certification of candidates. The instant case presents the question of the authority of an Annual Conference Board to determine whether candidates for certification meet the standards presented to them by the Division. In the case before us, the Annual Conference says the candidate has met the standards for certification, the Division says she has not. Who then has the final word? The ambiguity of language in Pars. 1605.5 and 724.4 has created the problem. The Division is charged with "developing and maintaining standards and procedures for certification." The Board is charged with "recommending to the Annual Conference for certification those who have met the standards-and to report to the General Board . . . " Establishing standards is clearly the function of the Division. Maintaining standards is a cooperative endeavor between Division and Annual Conference boards. The Annual Conference Board is called to "report" to the Division "the action of the Annual Conference". But prior to recommendation to the Annual Conference and reporting to the Division, it is the responsibility of the Board to determine whether the applicants meet the standards of the General Board.

Decision

The Division of Diaconal Ministry has authority to develop and determine standards for certification, but the Discipline does not grant authority to the Division to refuse to issue a certificate to a candidate who is recommended by the Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry and certified by the Annual Conference. Par. 724.4(a) and (b) grants the Conference Board of Diaconal Ministry and the Annual Conference the power to determine whether applicants meet the standards of the church.

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