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Decision No. 1026

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October 28 2005
In Re: Request from the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning, Application, and Effect of ¶¶ 326.1 and 354.1 of the 2004 Discipline with Respect to a Leave of Absence of a Newly Commissioned Person Preparing for Ordination as a Deacon.

Digest of Case

When provisions of the Discipline are in conflict, the later enacted provision takes precedence. Paragraph 326.1 of the 2004 Discipline is in conflict with ¶ 354.1. The language of ¶ 326.1 precludes the granting of a leave of absence during the probationary period for commissioned members because such members must be in ministries of Word and Service the entire probationary period.

Statement of Facts

On June 5, 2005, the clergy session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference approved a recommendation from the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry that a person be commissioned as a probationary deacon. The clergy session then approved a second recommendation from the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry granting a Leave of Absence for the 2005-2006 conference year to the same person under ¶ 354.1 of the 2004 Discipline. The clergy session then adopted a motion “asking the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the meaning, application, and effect of Paragraphs 326.1 and 354.1 of The Book of Discipline (2004) with respect to a Leave of Absence for a new or continuing commissioned person preparing for ordination as a deacon in full connection.”

Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2004 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 354.1 of the 2004 Discipline, which addresses leaves of absence for clergy, provides in relevant part:
This relationship is granted to clergy who are probationary, associate, or full members, who because of sufficient reasons are unable to or choose temporarily to cease to perform their ministerial duties. . . . This leave shall be counted as a part of the six-year limit for probationary members (¶ 327), unless the six-year limit is extended by the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference upon the recommendation of the board of ordained ministry.
Paragraph 326.1, which addresses probationary service of commissioned members, provides in relevant part:
The commissioned members planning to give their lives as deacons in full connection shall be in ministries of Word and Service the entire probationary period.
Paragraph 326.1 precludes a commissioned member from being granted a leave of absence during the six-year limit for probationary members because it requires that such a person be in ministries of Word and Service the entire probationary period. During a leave of absence, the person would not be in ministries of Word and Service. Paragraph 354.1 permits a probationary member to be granted a leave of absence. The two provisions are in conflict. When two provisions of the Discipline conflict, the later enacted provision takes precedence. Paragraph 326.1 was first added to the Discipline in 1996 as ¶ 317.1. Paragraph 354.1 existed in its current form (except the limitation was an eight-year period) prior to the 1996 Discipline. The language of ¶ 326.1 precludes the granting of a leave of absence during the probationary period for commissioned members because such members must be in ministries of Word and Service the entire probationary period.
Decision
When provisions of the Discipline are in conflict, the later enacted provision takes precedence. Paragraph 326.1 of the 2004 Discipline is in conflict with ¶ 354.1. The language of ¶ 326.1 precludes the granting of a leave of absence during the probationary period for commissioned members because such members must be in ministries of Word and Service the entire probationary period. October 29, 2005 Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent.
Dissenting Opinion
Had the clergy session requested a Bishop’s decision of law on this matter, the Judicial Council would have reviewed the ruling of the Bishop decision under ¶ 2609.6. The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction to make a decision under ¶ 2610 of the Discipline when the request comes from the clergy session only. Paragraph 605.6 does not give the clergy session the authority to act on behalf of the annual conference except, on “questions relating to matters of ordination, character and conference relations of clergy . . . .” A request for a declaratory decision must be acted on by the entire annual conference in open session. Susan T. Henry-Crowe

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