A CLERGYPERSON’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE EOC AND THE UMC
Clarification of The Book of Discipline Regarding a Clergyperson’s Relationship to the Annual Conference and to The United Methodist Church
NOTE: includes information from the June 1, 2023, message to clergy and a subsequent addendum.
Clergy members of the East Ohio Annual Conference are bound together in a covenant relationship for accountability and support. As a part of this covenant, United Methodist clergy only serve in a ministerial capacity outside of The United Methodist Church with the expressed and written permission of the resident bishop. Per ¶54 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016, “The bishops shall appoint, after consultation with the district superintendents, ministers to the charges; and they shall have such responsibilities and authorities as the General Conference shall prescribe.”
Pastoral capacity is understood as a clergyperson doing such things as preaching, teaching, presiding at Holy Communion and baptism, officiating at weddings/funerals, and pastoral care – whether paid or unpaid. If a clergy member serves in a pastoral capacity outside of The United Methodist Church without the expressed and written permission of the bishop, such conduct is a disavowal of the United Methodist bishop’s authority to make and fix all pastoral appointments and of the clergy member’s continued amenability to the bishop, the Discipline, and the annual conference.
Therefore, when a United Methodist clergyperson, whether active or retired, serves as pastor of a non-United Methodist local church, without the expressed and written permission of the bishop, they have committed the chargeable offense of disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church (BOD ¶2702.1.(d)) and in doing so, under the reasoning applied in Judicial Council Decision 696, their action will be understood as having terminated their membership in the denomination (BOD ¶360.1). Likewise, joining another denomination is considered an immediate voluntary withdrawal, and terminates clergy membership, whether the person is in active or retired status.
Regarding Retired United Methodist clergy serving in a pastoral capacity in other Christian traditions:
Regarding Retired United Methodist clergy serving disaffiliated churches:
Regarding Retired Clergy attending/volunteering at a disaffiliated church:
If a clergyperson is serving or intends to serve in a ministerial capacity outside of The United Methodist Church without permission of the bishop, they have three options:
If the clergyperson chooses none of the above, it will be considered a violation of the covenant and will be understood as their termination of membership in the denomination per ¶360.1 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016.
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH,
near Akron-Canton Airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW
North Canton, OH 44720
Local: (330) 499-3972
Toll Free: (800) 831-3972
Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
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