Chapter 3 - Discipline and Restoration of Ministers, Officers and Special Cases

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A. Those Subject to Districts

1. Identification

5200. Those ordinarily subject to district jurisdiction include the following persons:

(1) An ordained, commissioned or licensed minister.
(2) A ministerial student.
(3) A commissioned or licensed special worker.
(4) A supply pastor.
(5) An interim pastor.
(6) A district officer.
(7) A lay member whose matter has been assumed by the district (5020:2:3).

2. Discipline Without a Hearing

5203. District officials and official bodies dealing with one of the above persons accused of an offense as set forth in 5010 are bound to follow as much as is appropriate the provisions of The General Board Policy for Church Discipline and Ministerial Restoration (5004) before conducting a hearing.

3. Discipline Involving a Hearing

5206. Jurisdiction. Original jurisdiction over the persons listed in 5200 ordinarily belongs to the district in which their ministerial membership, or for laypersons, their membership, is held. The exceptions are for those who serve as general officers or members of the General Board or who are otherwise employed by the General Board, and district superintendents. These are subject to the jurisdiction of the General Church (Disc. 323:1; 1180:12; GBP-5270).

(1) Jurisdiction shall be exercised on behalf of the district by the district board of administration for any and all charges brought against such persons.
(2) Accusations alleging an offense (5010) against one of the persons in 5200 shall be submitted to the district superintendent (Disc. 1310:31; GBP-5022). The accusation shall then be presented to the district board of administration. The district board of administration shall have authority to order the investigation (5012; 5024) and hearing if necessary. Any charge must be sustained by two or more members or ministers of The Wesleyan Church.
(3) If an accusation alleges an offense committed by a person under the jurisdiction of the district in a district other than that in which the accused holds membership, the district superintendent and the district board of administration of the district in which the offense was allegedly committed shall have jurisdiction over the official investigation (5012). If an accusation is to be drawn up, it shall be submitted through the General Superintendent to the district in which the accused holds membership.

5209. District Judicial Committee. Charges against a person under district jurisdiction shall be heard and determined by a district judicial committee, appointed by the district board of administration for that particular matter. District judicial committees also are appointed for matters involving a local church or other unit (see 5310).

(1) A district judicial committee shall consist of four ordained ministers and three lay covenant members, appointed by the district board of administration (Disc. 1233:40), as the occasion may arise, from among its own members or the members of the district, and the district board of administration may request the General Superintendent to appoint a general official as one member. In any case, the General Superintendent shall be notified of the hearing. Members of the district board of review may not serve as members of the district judicial committee. The committee shall serve from the time of its appointment until it shall hear and resolve the accusation.
(2) The district board of administration shall appoint the chair or may request the General Superintendent to do so. The chair of the district judicial committee shall preside over the hearing and shall conduct it according to this General Board Policy for Church Discipline and Ministerial Restoration (5020–5068) and The Discipline.
(3) It shall be the duty of the district judicial committee to hear and determine the charges, to render a verdict declaring the accused, either guilty or not guilty and to recommend the discipline (cf. 5023; 5212; 5215), if any, to be imposed by the district board of administration. A two-thirds majority vote of all members of the district judicial committee shall be required for a verdict of guilty. The discipline may take the form of admonition, rebuke, suspension, removal or dismissal, and said board may also require apology or restitution.
(4) The accused may appeal the verdict and/or discipline to the district board of review within thirty days (5062–5068; 5221).

4. Special Regulations

5212. The administration of discipline to credentialed persons under the jurisdiction of the district (5200:1-3) shall be in accord with the following regulations:

(1) Indiscreet Conduct. Whenever a minister, ministerial student, or special worker has been charged with an offense alleging sexual immorality and is not found guilty of such actions but rather of imprudence or indiscreet conduct, the offender shall be subject to admonition, rebuke, suspension or removal, according to the seriousness of the offense. (See 1 Tim. 5:19–20.)
(2) Suspension. Whenever a minister shall be suspended from the ministry, or a ministerial student or special worker shall be suspended from such office, all credentials shall be surrendered to the custody of the district superintendent (cf. Disc. 1310:32). Whenever such a person shall furnish the district superintendent a written apology acknowledging guilt and pledging to correct the matter, and gives evidence that the offense has ceased and that the person is repentant, the district board of administration may end the suspension, reinstate the person, and authorize the return of all credentials. If the written apology and assurance are not forthcoming, and the accused does not exercise the right of appeal, the district board of administration shall declare that the said person has withdrawn from the district, and said person’s credentials shall be forwarded to the Executive Director of Communication and Administration (cf. Disc. 1233:40; 1310:32; GBP-5230).
(3) Sexual immorality. Whenever a minister, ministerial student or special worker shall have been convicted by a judicatory of such immoral acts as fornication, adultery or homosexual behavior, or has confessed to such acts to the official body having jurisdiction, the individual shall be removed from the ministry or from the office of a ministerial student or special worker, as the case may be (see 1 Cor. 5:1–13; 6:9–11). This shall not prohibit membership in a Wesleyan church when the guilty person repents and demonstrates a Christian life according to the standards of The Wesleyan Church. Anyone who has been removed for such an offense may be considered for restoration as provided for in 5230–5245.
(4) Removal (5023:4). A minister who has been removed from the ministry, or a ministerial student or special worker who has been removed from such office, shall immediately surrender all credentials to the district superintendent (cf. Disc. 1310:31; 3085:4; GBP-5230), shall cease to exercise any of the functions of the ministry, or of a commission or license, as the case may be, and shall not occupy any pulpit in The Wesleyan Church. Such a person’s compensation and benefits, or a comparable family living allowance, shall be determined by a plan mutually agreed upon by the local board of administration and the district superintendent. Whenever anyone who has been expelled from the ministry or a commission or license shall appeal, the discipline may be deferred with the exception that such a person shall be suspended from the exercise of any office or of any particular service while the appeal is pending (cf. 5066).
(5) Dismissal (5023:5). In matters where the actions or the attitude of the removed person is especially grievous, the district board of administration has full power to dismiss the person from membership in The Wesleyan Church, and the involved local church, when officially informed of this action, shall so indicate in its membership records. If the district board of administration removes the person but does not choose to dismiss from membership, the district secretary shall notify the local board of administration of the accusations, findings, and discipline and leave the matter of membership to the local church.

5215. The administration of discipline to other persons under the jurisdiction of the district (5200:4–6) shall be in accord with the following regulations:

(1) A supply pastor or interim pastor who is a minister or a member of another denomination or who is a minister in process of transfer from another denomination is not subject to a hearing or appeal by The Wesleyan Church. Such a person may simply be removed from appointment by the district board of administration (Disc. 3104:4; 3260:5).
(2) A lay district officer or a lay member whose matter has been assumed by the district shall be subject to the judicial jurisdiction of the district.

5. District Board of Review

5218. The district board of review shall organize itself, elect its own officers, and keep complete records of all proceedings (cf. 5056). The board shall also be authorized to cite any member(s), minister(s) or local church(es) to appear and to testify (5036–5038). The records of the district board of review shall be placed in the custody of the district superintendent. 5219. Members must recuse themselves in the case of conflict of interest, 5221. The duties and powers of the district board of review are to hear and determine the appeal of a lay member, of a local board of administration, of a minister, of any other person under the jurisdiction of the district (5200), or of the district board of administration concerning the results of a local church hearing or concerning the results of a hearing before a district judicial committee; to sustain, modify or revoke, in whole or in part, the verdict and/or the discipline as set forth in 5062–5068, by a majority of all members of the district board of review (Disc. 302:4), provided that if the accused has been previously found innocent, it shall require a two-thirds majority of all members of the district board of review to find the accused guilty.

6. Surrender of Ministerial Credentials

5230. If an ordained minister or commissioned minister, because of guilt in an offense which disqualifies the minister from being an ordained minister or commissioned minister, has either voluntarily surrendered ministerial credentials (Disc. 3059:3d; 3085:4) or been required to surrender them, the credentials shall be forwarded to the Executive Director of Communication and Administration, to be filed and preserved. 5233. The district in which the disqualified person is a member shall take initiative to express its desire for and commitment to the restoration of that person, with God’s help, to a holy life and relationship. If the disqualified person expresses a repentant spirit and a desire to reestablish ministerial calling, practice and credentials with The Wesleyan Church, the district may initiate a process in accord with The General Board Policy for Church Discipline and Ministerial Restoration that potentially could lead to ministerial restoration. 5236. An ordained, commissioned or licensed minister, or ministerial student, who has been removed from the ministry of The Wesleyan Church, either through voluntary surrender of credentials because of guilt (Disc. 3059d; 3085:4) or through judicial process and disciplinary action, other than that considered in The Discipline 3124, may be restored to the previous level of credentialing in The Wesleyan Church, provided that the disqualified person shall have shown evidence of repentance and amendment of life, and provided that such is approved by the district board of administration of the district from which withdrawn or removed. In the matter of sexual immorality, to which the minister has confessed guilt or for which guilt was declared by judicial process, such restoration may be accomplished only with the additional approval of the General Board (5245). 5239. The district and the disqualified person, subject to the approval of the General Superintendent, shall develop a specific plan and process of restoration, in harmony with The General Board Policy for Church Discipline and Ministerial Restoration. 5242. If adequate progress is observed and restoration criteria are met, and if a mutual desire of ministerial restoration is expressed by the person, the district superintendent and the General Superintendent, then steps may be taken for restoration of credentials and, subsequently, opportunity for ministerial assignment. Based on such an approved program of spiritual restoration, the restoration of ministerial credentials could be effected after a minimum of three years from the time the plan of restoration was agreed upon, signed and implemented. The General Superintendent has authority to shorten the minimum time period when deemed appropriate. 5245. When a request for restoration of a minister in a matter such as that described in 5236 has received the approval of the appropriate local and district bodies, it shall be processed as follows:

(1) The request shall be directed to the General Superintendent who shall ascertain if indeed all required district actions have been taken.
(2) The General Superintendent shall review the entire matter with the Executive Board.
(3) The General Superintendent shall then either recommend for or against restoration in presenting the matter to the General Board.

5248. In no case shall a minister who has been restored and then falls again be considered for restoration.

B. Those Subject to the General Church

1. Identification

5270. Those subject to General Church jurisdiction include the following persons:

(1) A general official (Disc. 1800; cf. 360:2; 1655:37).
(2) An area representative of the General Board (cf. Disc. 1655:37).
(3) A district superintendent (cf. Disc. 323:1; 360:2; 1655:37).
(4) A member or minister of The Wesleyan Church who is serving under the jurisdiction of the General Board, including any who are elected or employed by the General Board for full-time service for the General Church (cf. Disc. 323:1; 1655:27), missionaries or workers under the Global Partners Division or the Church Multiplication and Discipleship Division (cf. Disc. 323:1; 1655:27), members of boards elected by the General Board (cf. Disc. 1655:19), and any others amenable to the General Board.
(5) A district officer or a minister or other credentialed person, the assumption of whose matter by the General Board has been authorized by the Executive Board (5020:2).

2. Discipline Without a Hearing

5273. General officials and official bodies dealing with one of the above persons accused of an offense are to follow the provisions of 5004–5018 before taking the matter to a hearing.

3. Discipline Involving a Hearing

5276. Jurisdiction over the persons listed in 5270 belongs to the General Board and its Executive Board. Ordinarily members of boards elected by the General Board would first be subject to the jurisdiction of the board to which they are elected. But if such matters are not dealt with appropriately, the General Superintendent may recommend and the Executive Board by a two-thirds vote may authorize assumption of immediate jurisdiction in the matter by the General Board. 5279. If the accused is a general official, an area representative of the General Board, or a district superintendent, any accusation alleging an offense set forth in 5010 shall be submitted in writing (5022) to the General Superintendent and must be sustained by at least three lay covenant members or ministers of The Wesleyan Church. The General Superintendent shall make inquiry as required in 5012. If a hearing is necessary, the General Board may appoint or authorize its Executive Board to appoint a general judicial committee, with the chair appointed by the General Superintendent. A two-thirds majority vote of all members of the general judicial committee shall be required for a verdict of guilty. The General Board shall determine the discipline (5023; 5212), which may take the form of admonition, rebuke, suspension, removal or dismissal, and said board may also require apology or restitution. Whenever it is deemed necessary, the General Board may remove a general official elected by the General Conference, an area representative of the General Board or a district superintendent from office by a two-thirds majority vote of all its members (Disc. 1655:40a), and by a similar two-thirds majority vote of all its members may remove such a person from the ministry and/or dismiss such a person from covenant membership. In the matter of a general official elected by the General Board, a majority of all the members of the General Board is required to remove such a person from office (Disc. 1830), but a two-thirds majority vote of all members of the General Board would be required to remove such a person from the ministry and/or dismiss such a person from covenant membership. An appeal on the removal from the ministry or dismissal from covenant membership can be taken to the General Board of Review (5445:5). 5282. If the accused is a member or minister under the jurisdiction of the General Board (5270:4), an accusation or complaint shall be submitted to the general official to which the accused is amenable or to the General Superintendent. The General Board or its Executive Board shall decide on the disposition of such accusations or charges (5004) in a manner parallel to that of 5279. If it is deemed necessary, the General Board may remove such a person from office by a majority of all members of the General Board (1655:40b), and by a two-thirds majority vote of those present and voting may remove such a person from the ministry and/or dismiss such a person from covenant membership. An appeal (5062–5068) on the removal from the ministry and/or dismissal from covenant membership can be taken to the General Board of Review (5445:5). 5285. If the accused is one described in 5270:5, removal from office would be by majority vote of General Board members, present and voting, removal from the ministry or dismissal from covenant membership would require a two-thirds majority vote of those present and voting. An appeal (5062–5068) on the removal from the ministry and/or dismissal from covenant membership would be taken to the General Board of Review (5445:5).

4. Power of Removal

5288. The General Board, the Board of Pensions, the Board of Directors of the Wesleyan Investment Foundation, the board of trustees of an educational or benevolent institution, and other such governing boards shall have full power and authority to discharge at their discretion any officer or employee thereof (with the exception of those in 5270:1–4 which shall be limited to the General Board) who shall be guilty of any immoral conduct or breach of trust, or who for any reason is unable, or who fails to perform the duties of their office, or for other misconduct which any of said boards may deem sufficient to warrant discharge. The action of such board in removing such officer or employee in the circumstances above set forth shall be final. Any governing board of a subsidiary corporation, or of any educational or benevolent institution, shall have the right to recommend the removal of any of its members to the General Board, which shall have power to sustain or reject such a recommendation (cf. Disc. 1655:18, 40b). There is no appeal for removal from office.