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Decision No. 779

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April 21 1996
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Tennessee Conference Concerning Legality of Appointment of a Clergy Member as a Staff Physician at a Hospital

Digest of Case

The ruling of Bishop Kenneth Carder that the appointment of the Rev. Amy Douglas-McVay as a staff physician at Charity Hospital at the Conway Medical Center in Louisiana was not in compliance with Par. 443.1(d) of the Discipline is affirmed. Tom Matheny, President Wayne Coffin, Secretary

Statement of Facts

At the 1995 session of the Tennessee Annual Conference Bishop Kenneth Carder was asked to rule on the following matter: Pursuant to Paragraph 2613 of the 1992 Book of Discipline, I request that you render an episcopal decision of law as to whether the appointment of the Rev. Amy Douglas McVey(sic) as a staff physician at Charity Hospital at the Conway Medical Center in Louisiana is in compliance with the provisions in Paragraph 443.1(D)(sic) of the Discipline, given the description of the duties as outlined in a letter submitted to the Conference Board of Ministry. Bishop Carder made the following ruling: The appointment of The Reverend Amy Douglas-McVay as a staff physician at the E. A. Conway Medical Center and as a member of faculty of Louisiana State University School of Medicine is not in compliance with Paragraph 443.ID(sic) of The Book of Discipline, The Book of Discipline states: "Conference members may receive appointmentsbeyond the ministry usually extended through the local church and other institutions listed above in (a) and (b) when considered by the bishop and the Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to be true extensions of the Christian ministry of the Church. These ministries shall be initiated in missional response to the needs of persons in special circumstances and unique situations and shall reflect the commitment of the clergy to intentional fulfillment of their ordination vows to Word, Sacrament and Order." The letter dated March 31, 1995 and submitted to the Board of Ordained Ministry by The Reverend Douglas-McVay does not reflect the commitment to intentional fulfillment of her ordination vows to Word, Sacrament and-order. Although Reverend Douglas-McVay serves Communion regularly in a local church and occasionally preaches in local congregations, there is no indication in the letter to the Cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry that the position to which she requested appointment includes opportunity to fulfill her ordination vows to Word, Sacrament and, order. In my opinion, it is possible that the position as a staff physician in a hospital which ministers predominantly to impoverished persons can comply with the provisions of Paragraph 443.1d, provided the request for such appointment specifically describes the clergy person's intent and commitment to fulfill his/her ordination vows in and through the position as a physician. Bishop Carder's ruling is affirmed. As constituted and described in a letter from Douglas-McVay requesting the appointment, the position did not require ordination for effective performance. Par. 443.1 states at the beginning "In order to establish clear distinction between the work to which all Christians are called and the tasks for which ordained ministers are appropriately prepared and authorized . . ." This wording clearly indicates that for a position to be considered an "appointment beyond the local church" in compliance with the 1992 Discipline the position itself must require tasks for which ordained ministers are appropriately prepared and authorized . . ." Douglas-McVay's position at E. A. Conway Medical Center as a staff radiologist did not comply with this requirement. Subsequent to the 1995 Tennessee Annual Conference Session, the Board of Ordained Ministry received additional information and a rewritten job description for Douglas-McVay, The Board of Ordained Ministry approved the position as an appointment beyond the local church, and the bishop appointed Douglas-McVay to the position. John G. Corry recused himself and did not participate in any of the preceedings related to this decision.

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