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Decision No. 877

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October 28 1999
In Re: Request from The South Carolina Annual Conference For A Declaratory Decision On Whether The Language of Par. 323 of the 1996 Discipline Conflicts With The Language of Par. 335.1 (d) And Whether These Paragraphs Are Applicable To The New Deacons in Full Connection As Well As To Elders in Full Connection.

Digest of Case

Pars. 323 and 335.1 (d) of the 1996 Discipline are not in conflict. An annual conference may make appointments of elders under Par. 335.1 (d) to extension ministries which include AService@ as well as AWord, Sacrament and Order.@ Pars. 323 and 335.1 (d) are not unconstitutional because they do not include deacons in full connection.

Statement of Facts

After its 1999 session, the South Carolina Annual Conference requested a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council as to whether Pars. 323 and 335.1 (d) of the 1996 Discipline were in conflict and whether Par. 335.1 applied to deacons in full connection as well as elders in full connection. Specifically, the annual conference asked:

Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale Par. 323, in pertinent part, states that AElders are ordained to a lifetime ministry of Service, Word, Sacrament and Order.... The servant leadership of the elder is expressed ...by leading the Church in obedience to mission in the world.@ Par. 335.1 (d) states that: Both Pars. 323 and 335.1 (d) are within the Ordained Ministry section of the 1996 Discipline, and other paragraphs of that section are instructive in determining the meaning and validity of the paragraphs at issue. Par. 302, entitled Aordination and apostolic ministry,@ states that AThe apostles... established leadership for the ministry of service... In the New Testament (Acts 6), we see the apostles identifying and authorizing persons to a ministry of service.@ [Emphasis added]. Par. 303, entitled Apurpose of ordination,@ includes this language: AThe Church=s ministry of service is a primary representation of God=s love.@ [Emphasis added]. Within this context it would be difficult to say that elders are not ordained to a ministry of AService,@ as well as to AWord, Sacrament, and Order.@ Extension ministries are a valid expression of ministries of service, and, by their very nature, oftentimes do not include primary responsibilities of AWord, Sacrament, and Order.@ These ministries are, nevertheless, representative of God=s love for the world and the Church=s expression of its mission to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Par. 323 of the 1996 Discipline pertains to the ordination of an elder in full connection. It describes the ministries to which the elder in full connection is ordained and sets forth the authority of the elder in full connection. It also indicates some of the responsibilities of the elder in full connection. Par. 335.1(d) grants permission for an elder in The United Methodist Church to be appointed under certain conditions, to pastoral ministry in another Christian denomination. As this paragraph specifically addresses pastoral appointments it describes the fulfillment of the vows related to pastoral ministryCWord, Sacrament and Order. The two above mentioned paragraphs address different issues, authorities and responsibilities related to the elder in full connection and, thereby, are not in conflict with each other. Deacons are addressed in Pars. 320 and 322. Deacons in full connection and elders in full connection are different Orders and are addressed separately in the Discipline. Therefore, Pars. 323 and 335.1 (d) are not unconstitutional because they do not include deacons in full connection.

Decision

Paragraphs 323 and 335.1(d) of the 1996 Discipline are not in conflict. An annual conference may make appointments of elders under Par. 335.1(d) to extension ministries which include AService@ as well as AWord, Sacrament and Order.@ Paragraph 323 and 335.1(d) are not unconstitutional because they do not included deacons in full connection.

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