Secretary of the General Conference Rev. L. Fitzgerald Reist II has informed the Council of Bishops that The Book of Discipline 2012 does not eliminate security of appointment for elders in The United Methodist Church.
In an email dated June 11, Reist says the amendments to paragraph ¶334 that would have mirrored the changes in ¶337 were not supported by the committee during the 2012 General Conference.
“They were not voted on in the plenary. The language of 334.1, 'Every effective elder in full connection who is in good standing shall be continued under appointment by the bishop provided that if the elder is appointed to serve in an affiliated relationship in a missionary conference (¶586) and that appointment is terminated by the bishop who presides in the missionary conference, then the responsibility for meeting this obligation rests with the bishop of the conference of which the elder is a member.' remains in effect," he wrote.
The 2012 General Conference on May 1 voted to change ¶337 in the Book of Discipline, which deals with the itinerant system. The proposal passed without comment on the floor as it was contained on a consent calendar, following overwhelming approval in the committee.
Two days later, the Judicial Council was asked to declare if the vote was constitutional.
Delegates on Friday morning, May 4, approved a motion to refer the case to the denomination's highest judicial body to make a declaratory decision on the constitutionality of voting on the issue through a consent calendar.
Part of the new language now reads: “The bishop may appoint an ordained elder, provisional member elder, or an associate member to less than full-time service. The clergyperson shall be notified at least 90 days prior to the Annual Conference at which the appointment shall be made."
The Judicial Council has yet to rule on that issue, but the message from Reist seems to alleviate a major fear on the part of elders.
A Study of Ministry revealed that guaranteed appointments are a major contributor to clergy mediocrity and ineffectiveness. It also indicated that guaranteeing all elders appointment restricts the flexibility of bishops to appoint the most effective person to each congregation.
General Conference, the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church, met from April 23 to May 4 in Tampa, Fla. The Upper New York Annual Conference was represented by 16 seated delegates and four first reserves.
*Maidstone Mulenga is the director of communications for the Upper New York Annual Conference.