Judicial Council Decisions

Decision No. 1199

In Re: Request from the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Meaning, Effect, and Application of ¶ 335.1

DIGEST OF CASE

A provisional member cannot be qualified for consideration for admission as a member in full connection and for ordination until he or she has completed the specified educational requirements and has thereafter served under episcopal appointment as provided in ¶ 335.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

During the 2011 regular session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, a motion was made by a clergy member that the conference adopt his petition for a declaratory decision. The crux of the petition is a request that the Judicial Council issue a declaratory decision “waiving” the qualification set forth by General Conference in ¶ 335 of the 2008 Discipline that the provisional member serve full-time under episcopal appointment for at least two full annual conference years following the completion of the education requirements set forth in ¶ 335.3(b). The petitioner anticipates receiving his Master of Divinity degree in May of 2012. However, petitioner will have reached the mandatory retirement age during the 2012 annual conference year. The petition concludes with the statement that “[a] favorable decision would allow the petitioner to be ordained and retired at the 2012 annual conference.” The minutes of the annual conference provide as follows:
[The petitioner] made a motion that the conference approve his petition for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council under ¶2610 of the 2008 Book of Discipline. [A clergy member] asked for clarification of the motion. [The petitioner] seeks a consideration of his five years of service in ministry as a substitution for the required two years of provisional service to allow for the possibility of his ordination and retirement at the 2012 Annual Conference. The motion was approved.


Jurisdiction


The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2008 Discipline.

Analysis and Rationale


Paragraph 335 of the Discipline delineates the power, authority, and discretion of the Board of Ordained Ministry in its consideration of whether a provisional member is qualified and has met the requirements necessary for the Board to recommend that he or she be admitted into membership in full connection and approved for elder’s ordination:
¶ 335. Requirements for Admission to Full Connection and Ordination as Elder — Provisional members who are candidates for full connection and ordination as elders and have been provisional members for at least two years may be admitted into membership in full connection in an annual conference and approved for elder’s ordination by two-thirds vote of the clergy member in full connection of the annual conference, upon recommendation by two-thirds vote of the Board of Ordained Ministry, after they have qualified as follows. They shall have:
(1) served full-time under episcopal appointment for at least two full annual conference years following the completion of the educational requirements specified in 3(b) below. ... ;
(3) met the following educational requirements: ...
(b): graduation with a Master of Divinity degree from a school of theology listed by the University Senate, or its equivalent as determined by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry; ...
(emphases added)


Paragraph 335 requires that the two years of service under episcopal appointment follow the completion of his or her educational requirements. In this case, petitioner will not receive his degree until May of 2012. Petitioner would need to thereafter serve under episcopal appointment for at least two full annual conference years in order to satisfy the service requirement of ¶ 335(1).

DECISION

A provisional member cannot be qualified for consideration for admission as a member in full connection and for ordination until he or she has completed the specified educational requirements and has thereafter served under episcopal appointment as provided in ¶ 335.

Friday, October 28, 2011.


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