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Decision No. 660

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October 24 1991
In Re: Par. 533.1 as it Relates to the Appointive Process in the Tennessee Conference.

Digest of Case

The use of preference inquiries in regard to the appointive process is consistent with ¶ 533.1 of the Discipline.

Statement of Facts

At issue here is the language of ¶ 533.1 of the Discipline which states: 1. A change in appointment may be initiated by a pastor, a Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations, a district superintendent, or a bishop. The question is whether the guidelines for the appointment process used in the Tennessee Annual Conference which are referred to as "preference inquiries" are consistent with that paragraph of the Discipline. To that end, a proposal was submitted to the Tennessee Annual Conference as follows: 1. Define the meaning of "initiate" as used in paragraph 533, section 1. 2. Rule on the compatibility of the following possible standing rule with disciplinary guidelines of the appointive process. In the appointive process the term "initiate", as used in Paragraph 533, Section 1 of the Discipline will be understood in its most literal sense and consequently will be observed in the appointive process. The request for a change in pastorate or pastor, therefore, shall not be invited nor solicited by any of the parties of this process, and the point of origin will rest solely with the person or persons making that request. This request for a change in pastor or pastorate shall be placed in the hands of the Bishop and Cabinet no later than sixty days before the date for the next Annual Conference at which time the appointments are usually fixed and read. 3. Does the use of preference inquiries have a detrimental effect upon the response made by the parties of this process in ways not present when initiatives for the change are started on their own? 4. Does the use of preference inquiries each year regarding the pastor effect his relationship to the Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations and to the employed lay personnel of the local church whose employment is not reviewed each year? The above questions indicate recurring concerns among both lay and clergy. We believe that the place and use of these preference inquiries should be reviewed and be discontinued if found to be inconsistent with appointive process guidelines included in the Discipline of our church. In addition, two standing rules in reference to the appointive process were proposed, as follows: We affirm the disciplinary provision that states that the pastor, the Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations, and the Bishop and District Superintendents are responsible to the appointive process as outlined in the Discipline. In this appointive process the term "initiate", as used in Paragraph 533, Section 1, will be understood in its most literal sense and consequently will be observed in the appointive process. The request for a change in pastorate or pastor, therefore, shall not be invited nor solicited by any of the parties of this process, and the point of origin will rest solely with the person or persons making that request. This request for a change in pastor or pastorate shall be placed in the hands of the Bishop and Cabinet no later than sixty days before the date for the next Annual Conference at which time the appointments are usually fixed and read. The profiles of the Pastor and local church that are jointly to be formed by District Superintendent, Pastors, and local churches shall be compiled and updated within three months after the appointment is made. The presiding bishop ruled the resolutions out of order and the author of the resolutions requested a Judicial Council decision which was granted. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2615 of the 1988 Discipline. ANALYSIS We have ruled a number of times on the question of the process of appointment under ¶ 533. See Decision No. 556. Since the adoption of this provision in the Discipline, the Annual Conferences have attempted to devise guidelines for the purpose of carrying out the intent of the General Conference, particularly in regard to the consultative process. In the Tennessee Conference, a preference sheet is mailed to each pastor and each Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations. Many of the conferences use such a system. This does not mean that the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee must initiate a request either that the minister stay or that the minister be moved. It does not mean that the members of a congregation may direct the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee to ask for a new pastor. The congregation has no such authority. Nor does it remove the final authority for making appointments from the office of the bishop under the strictures of the Discipline. The consultative process is just that-it is consultation and not permission. It is certainly not the intent of ¶ 533 to allow a negative sentiment of a congregation to govern the church. It is just the opposite. It is designed to protect the minister in all circumstances.

Decision

The use of preference inquiries in regard to the appointive process is consistent with ¶ 533.1 of the Discipline.

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