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Decision No. 719

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October 28 1994
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the North Texas Conference Concerning Requirements for Full Clergy Membership and Elder's Orders.

Digest of Case

The decision of the bishop is affirmed. The North Texas Conference Board of Ordained Ministry has the right to decline to recommend a Probationary member for ordination as an Elder and reception into full conference membership. Further, the North Texas Conference has the right to establish requirements for full conference membership in excess of the requirements established in the Discipline as long as such requirements are not in conflict with the Discipline. Zan Holmes recused himself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this issue.

Statement of Facts

At the 1994 session of the North Texas Annual Conference Bishop Bruce P. Blake was asked to rule on the following series of questions: Subsequent to the decision of the Division of Preparations and Qualifications not to present to the Board of Ordained Minister(sic) any recommendation on the application for Elder's Orders and full membership, at the 1994 Annual Conference, of Vonceil Jones Hill, and pursuant of Article VII of Division Three of 'The Constitution' of the 1992 Book of Discipline, as presiding Bishop and Conference President of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, the following clergy members in full connection request that you make an episcopal decision on the following questions of law concerning Vonceil Jones Hill: 1. Whether either the Discipline [Paragraph 424] or North Texas Conference Policy [1993 Conference Journal p. 221] excluded persons appointed under Paragraph 437.2 from ordination as Elder and reception into full membership? 2. Whether a person who has requested admission into the Residency Program, and been refused, because of appointment under Paragraph 437.2 may then be refused ordination as Elder and reception into full membership for not having completed the residency requirement? 3. Whether a person appointed under Paragraph 437.2 may be excluded from the Pastoral Residency Program [1993 Conference Journal, p. 224-26] on the basis that the person's service is part-time, rather than full-time? 4. Whether one year's full-time service in the British Methodist Church counts under the two full years requirement for ordination as Elder and reception into full membership? [Discipline Paragraphs 424 and 426] 5. Whether two years part-time service [20 hours per week] are the equivalent of one year's full-time service, for purposes of ordination as Elder and reception into full membership? [Discipline Paragraph 424] 6. Whether a Municipal Judgeship may be considered as an appointment beyond the local church, as a specialized ministry? [Discipline Paragraph 443.1.d] [1993 Conference Journal, p. 227-228] Bishop Blake ruled that the Board of Ordained Ministry had acted properly when it did not recommend Vonceil Jones Hill for Elder's Orders and Full Membership based on the established procedures of the Discipline and the North Texas Annual Conference. In Decision 440 the Judicial Council ruled that an Annual Conference may "establish requirements for reception into full membership in the Conference in excess of the requirements in the Discipline" so long as these requirements do not conflict with the Discipline. The procedures established by the North Texas Conference are not in conflict with the Discipline. Further, although Par. 424 of the 1992 Discipline states that "an Annual Conference may equate less than full-time service to the requirement of full-time service," it requires that written guidelines for this process be developed and "adopted by the clergy members in full connection." Such guidelines have not been developed and adopted by the North Texas Conference. Until guidelines have been developed and adopted for the purpose of providing a standard for equating less than full-time service to full-time service, the North Texas Conference has no way to do this. The requirement of written guidelines seems to assure that all persons requesting that less than full-time service be equated to full-time service will be treated equally. The decision of the bishop is affirmed.

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