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Decision No. 701

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October 29 1993
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the South Carolina Conference Concerning Consultation in the Appointment Process.

Digest of Case

During the 1993 session of South Carolina Annual Conference, a written request for a decision of law was made of the presiding bishop stating: Request that the Bishop rule on his understanding and interpretation of Paragraph 531, specifically including the sentence ". . . consultation is not merely notification." The bishop ruled: My ruling is: The practice which we currently employ in the making of appointments is in keeping with Paragraph 531 of the 1992 BOOK OF DISCIPLINE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. We have been provided with a detailed description of the consultation process used in the South Carolina Annual Conference. We have reviewed that together with Judicial Council decisions pertaining to the consultation process, primarily 101, 501, and 509. In Decision 501, it is stated: 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. An examination of the Discipline and Judicial Council Decisions together with the consultation process used in the South Carolina Annual Conference would indicate that the process is proper. The minister asking for the episcopal ruling has given us no evidence that would indicate that this process was not followed. The bishop's ruling is affirmed. Susan Henry-Crowe and Theodore Walter recused themselves and did not participate in any of the preceedings related to this decision.

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