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Decision No. 693

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October 29 1993
In Re: Constitutionality of Par. 282 of the 1992 Discipline Providing for the Licensing and Appointment of Lay Preachers.

Digest of Case

Par. 282, creating a new order of clergy to be called "lay preachers" and appointed by the district superintendent, is unconstitutional because it violates Pars. 17 and 57 of the Discipline.

Statement of Facts

The Council of Bishops requested the Judicial Council to issue a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, and effect of Par. 282 of the 1992 Discipline. This paragraph provides for the office of "lay preacher." It was adopted as a Consent Calendar Item (Calendar Item 900, p. 732, of the Daily Christian Advocate) on May 16, 1992. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1992 Discipline. ANALYSIS Par. 282 of the 1992 Discipline purports to create the office of "lay preacher." The opening words of the paragraph are: In order to enhance the quality of ministry to churches of very small membership and in deference to an expression of gifts and graces associated with the lay preacher of early Methodism, the office of lay preacher is to be recognized and utilized. Par. 282.2 says that the "lay preacher" is to be "appointed to a church or charge by a district superintendent in whose district the lay preacher's membership resides." This is in direct contradiction with Par. 57 of the 1992 Discipline (Constitution, Article X) which says, "The bishops shall appoint, after consultation with the district superintendents, ministers to the charges. . . ." Therefore, it is unconstitutional. Par. 17 further indicates the unconstitutionality of this paragraph where it says "[t]he General Conference shall not alter any part or rule of our ... itinerant general superintendency." That we have a "general superintendency" is the key phrase here. When the General Conference voted to allow a district superintendent to have appointive authority, it violated Par. 17.

Decision

Par. 282, creating a new order of clergy to be called "lay preachers" and appointed by the district superintendent, is unconstitutional because it violates Pars. 17 and 57 of the Discipline.

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