THE STATUS OF A RETIRED LOCAL PASTOR IS LAY PERSON – JUDICIAL COUNCIL DECISION

Decision No. 1101 RETIRED LOCAL PASTOR

In Re: Request for a Declaratory Decision from the 2008 General Conference with Respect to the Meaning, Application, and Effect of ¶ 602 of the 2004 Discipline as it Relates to the New ¶ 320.6 Adopted by the 2008 General Conference Regarding Status of Retired Local Pastors

DIGEST OF CASE
Retired local pastors are not clergy and may not vote as clergy during an annual conference session. The clergy membership of an annual conference consists of deacons and elders in full connection, probationary members, associate members, and local pastors under appointment. When a local pastor is no longer under appointment, he or she resumes lay status and may not vote as a clergy member. The new ¶ 320.6 conflicts with ¶ 32 of the Constitution and ¶ 320.5 of the 2004 Discipline. Paragraph 320.6 is thus null and void; therefore, we do not reach the question of its effect on ¶ 602.

STATEMENT OF FACTS
The 2008 General Conference adopted Consent Calendar A04, Daily Christian Advocate page 2237, Calendar Item 866, which reads as follows: 6. Status of Retired Local Pastors — A local pastor who retires or is no longer approved for appointment by the annual conference as required in ¶ 318 prior to completing the Course of Study and is not appointed in accordance with ¶ 320.5 shall be considered a layperson for all purposes of this Discipline. A local pastor who retires after having completed the Course of Study or is no longer approved for appointment by the annual conference as required in ¶ 318 and is not appointed in accordance with ¶ 320.5 may elect, by notification to the Bishop and the board of ordained ministry, to be recognized either as a layperson, or as a “Retired Local Pastor.” A Retired Local Pastor shall have the right to attend Annual Conference with voice and such voting privileges as are accorded active local pastors. Retired Local Pastors shall be counted as clergy for equalization purposes. Nothing in this section shall be construed to change in any way a local pastor’s pension status or rights.
On May 1, 2008, the General Conference voted in support of a request for a declaratory decision, by a vote of more than twenty percent of the delegates present and voting, which request was as follows: I rise to request a declaratory decision with respect to the meaning, application, and effect of ¶ 602 of the 2004 Book of Discipline as it relates to the new ¶ 320.6 Consent Calendar A04, Item Number 866: clarify the status of retired local pastors, page 2237 DCA [Daily Christian Advocate]. [Petition 80004-MH-¶320, page 1426 Advance Daily Christian Advocate.]
On May 2, 2008, the Judicial Council determined that it did not have sufficient time to research the question and deliver a decision prior to the adjournment of the General Conference. The matter was deferred for consideration to the Judicial Council’s Fall 2008 docket. See Memorandum 1098.

JURISDICTION
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.1 of the 2004 Discipline.

ANALYSIS AND RATIONALE
The 2004 Discipline provides:
¶ 320. Exiting, Reinstatement, and Retirement of Local Pastors Who Are Not Probationary Members
…5. Retirement of Local Pastor-A local pastor who has made satisfactory progress in the Course of Study as specified in ¶ 323.1 or .2 may be recognized as a retired local pastor. Retirement provisions for local pastors shall be the same as those for clergy members in ¶ 359.1, .2, .4, with pensions payable in accordance with ¶ 1506.5a. Retired local pastors may attend annual conference sessions with voice but not vote. A retired local pastor may be appointed by the bishop to a charge and licensed upon recommendation by the district committee on ordained ministry without creating additional claim upon the conference minimum compensation nor further pension credit.
The new legislation, ¶ 320.6, purports to extend clergy voting rights to a retired local pastor. Local pastors only hold the status of clergy while they are under appointment. Whenever a local pastor ceases to serve under appointment then he or she resumes the status of a lay person.
Paragraph 32 of the Constitution provides in pertinent part: The annual conference shall be composed of clergy and lay members. The clergy membership shall consist of deacons and elders in full connection, probationary members, associate members, and local pastors under appointment [emphasis added]. (2004 Discipline, ¶ 32 as amended)
The Constitution mandates definition of clergy status as specified in ¶ 32 as amended. There are no categories of clergy other than those enumerated in ¶ 32. Voting rights of clergy members are unchanged to the extent that the eligible category remains. Individual clergy whose category is not listed in ¶ 32 must be assigned to a constitutional category by the annual conference if they are to have clergy status. See Decision 1034. Because ¶ 320.6 is null and void we need not reach its effect on ¶ 602.

DECISION

Retired local pastors are not clergy and may not vote as clergy during an annual conference. The clergy membership of an annual conference consists of deacons and elders in full connection, probationary members, associate members, and local pastors under appointment. When a local pastor is no longer under appointment, he or she resumes lay status and may not vote as a clergy member. The new ¶ 320.6 conflicts with ¶ 32 of the Constitution and ¶ 320.5 of the 2004 Discipline. Paragraph 320.6 is thus null and void; therefore, we do not reach the question of its effect on ¶ 602.
Saturday, October 25, 2008.

 

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