Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 321
October 31 1969
In Re: Petition from the Oklahoma Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision Defining the Meaning of the Introductory Section of Paragraph 352 of the Discipline Relating to Special Appointments
Digest of Case
The only limitations which can be imposed on the fixing of special appointments to non-United Methodist agencies are those which can be exercised according to the judgment of the bishop, the district superintendents and the Annual Conference under Paragraph 391.6 of the Discipline. The language of Paragraph 352 does not permit an interpretation which would impose such limitations.
Statement of Facts
The Judicial Council received a communication from Luman T. Cockerill, Secretary of the Oklahoma Annual Conference which reads in part as follows: "In accordance with Paragraph 1715.1 of the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 1968, the Oklahoma Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in session in Tulsa, Oklahoma, May 21, 1969, hereby petitions the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church to render a declaratory decision which will clearly define the meaning of the first section of Paragraph 352. . . . "That paragraph is: 'A conference member may be appointed by his bishop, after consultations with the district superintendents, to a position in a school, college, university, seminary, hospital, home, or agency or to the military or institutional chaplaincy or similar specialized ministry under the following conditions': "Specific elements in the paragraph quoted above upon which we desire a declaratory decision are: 1. The paragraph does not state, and it is not stated in any subsection of the paragraph, that the special appointments to which a Bishop may assign a conference member shall be a church institution or an institution related to The United Church or any other Church. Does the absence of such words as 'church institution' or church related institution or agency' mean that a conference member can be appointed to be a public school teacher or to teach in a State or independent college or university? 2. The words 'or similar specialized ministry' are non-definitive. What is a 'similar specialized ministry'? Can a ministerial member of an Annual Conference be appointed by his Bishop to work for a civic, private, or governmental organization in which ordination and ministerial office are not basic requirements of the work which the appointed minister is employed to do? . . ." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1715 of the Discipline. ANALYSIS The question about the proper definition of valid special appointments has long been with us. As one follows the disciplinary description of such special appointments in the Disciplines of both the former The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church one finds that, beginning with comparatively strict limitations, the listing of permitted special appointments has grown and broadened through the quadrenniums. At the time of union both Disciplines permitted under certain conditions special appointments or assignments to both church connected and non-church connected agencies. In the 1964 Discipline of the former The Methodist Church the list of such special appointments was omitted but such appointments were broadly permitted under two sections of a paragraph on "The Duties, Powers and Limitations of Bishops," one section authorizing bishops, under certain procedures, to make appointments "in or through Methodist and Methodist-related agencies," the other section authorizing the bishop under certain procedures, to make appointments to "non-Methodist agencies." In the 1968 Discipline of The United Methodist Church both of these sections have become a part of the law of the new church under Paragraph 391 of the Discipline. While in the 1968 Discipline a broad description of special appointments is found in the introductory section to Paragraph 352, the only present control over such appointments is in these two sections of Paragraph 391 which defines the provisions and limitations which shall be observed by the bishop when fixing the appointments: Paragraph 391.5 "On the request in each case of an appropriate United Methodist official, agency, or institution, and after consultation with the district superintendents, he may make appointments annually to positions in or through United Methodist and United Methodist-related agencies." Paragraph 391.6 "On the request in each case of an appropriate official, agency, or institution, and on the recommendation of the district superintendents, confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the Annual Conference, he may make appointments annually to positions in non-United Methodist agencies; provided that in no such case shall The United Methodist Church incur any financial responsibility. These two sections certainly provide for special appointments which may be made to both United Methodist and non-United Methodist-related agencies. There are no stipulations about any other relationships or non-relationships. Basically, these are not new provisions. There are many emerging forms of ministry which create occupations which traditionally have not been regarded as ministry, but which a minister can well perform. The uniting churches, while recognizing the compelling nature of the growing demands upon the ministry and while broadening the scope of the appointive power, have been sensitive to the danger that ordination may be compromised by appointments to secular agencies. It has therefore sought through many quadrenniums to provide a way for limiting such appointive power through the requirement of approval by the district superintendents and a two-thirds affirmative vote by the Annual Conference for non-Methodist related special appointments. The Annual Conference has control here if it chooses to exercise it. It can fix its own limitations to such special appointments. If it be argued that this procedure is too cumbersome, that it puts no realistic controls on special appointments to non-United Methodist agencies, and that the bishop needs the backing of specific provisions in the Discipline which would more strictly limit his power to fix such special appointments, then the relief sought must come through General Conference legislation. The Judicial Council is asked in this petition to define clearly the meaning of "special appointments" as set forth in the introductory section of Paragraph 352 of the Discipline which reads: "A conference member may be appointed by his bishop, after consultations with the district superintendents, to a Position in a school, college, university, seminary, hospital, home, or agency or to the military or institutional chaplaincy or similar specialized ministry under the following conditions. . . ." The language of this introduction to Paragraph 352 is not nearly as specific as other lists of special appointments have been in former Disciplines in the two uniting churches. It seems intended as an introduction to the conditions which follow in the paragraph. The list of permissible special appointments which precedes the phrase, "or similar specialized ministry" provides no basis for giving the phrase a strict interpretation. The conclusion must be that there are no limitations to the non-United Methodist agencies to which special appointments may be made other than those noted in Paragraph 391.6. For the Judicial Council to interpret the meaning of this introductory section to Paragraph 352 by attempting definitions of special appointments which would impose limitations which are not to be found in the paragraph would be to write legislation. Only the General Conference has such legislative power.
The language of the introductory section of Paragraph 352 of the Discipline does not permit any interpretation of its meaning which would put limitations on the nature of non-United Methodist agencies to which special appointments may be made. The only procedures by which such limitations may be imposed are provided in Paragraph 391.6 of the Discipline which requires the recommendation of the district superintendents and a two-thirds vote of the Annual Conference to effect such special appointments