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¶ 925 DISCIPLINE AND RESTORATION OF MINISTERS

¶ 925 Discipline and Restoration of Ministers
1. Grounds for Correction and Discipline
The reasons a minister may receive discipline are as follows:

  • Teaching contrary to the Articles of Religion or the membership covenant of The Free Methodist Church in Canada;
  • Behaving in a manner that is immoral, criminal or unbecoming a minister;
  • Exhibiting a contentious or un-cooperative spirit resulting in insubordination and a willful refusal to recognize the church’s authority.
  • Disobeying the provisions of The Manual of The Free Methodist Church in Canada or enabling such disobedience;
  • Mismanaging personal or church finances resulting in reproach.

Accusations must be made in writing, dated, signed by the accuser(s) and given to the bishop before any official action can be taken. If the bishop is the accuser, he/she will give the written accusations to the minister’s regional Ministerial Education Guidance and Placement (MEGaP) Committee.

2. Levels of Correction and Discipline

2.1 Private Counsel

When a minister voluntarily confesses to a non-criminal offence, the first step is private counsel by the bishop. In all cases, if the alleged offence is criminal or involving the abuse of children, the matter is to be reported to the police or, in the case of child abuse, to the appropriate child welfare authorities as outlined in the denomination’s child abuse policy.

When a minister is accused of an offence and the minister is found not to be guilty of the accusation after a review and investigation by the bishop, the bishop, the minister and the immediate supervisor of the minister will decide together how to best respond to the testimony, rumor or impressions that led to the accusation.

When a minister is accused of an offence that is supported by verifiable testimony, the first response will be private counsel by the bishop. When the minister is repentant and the offence has not and will not become the cause of public reproach to Christ and the church, confession will be heard, remedial counsel planned and ongoing accountability established.

When the minister is not repentant, the bishop will take immediate counsel with the minister’s immediate supervisor and advise the minister of this action. The bishop and immediate supervisor will investigate the matter further and they will urge the minister to comply with the counsel they are offering. If the minister remains uncooperative, the bishop may suspend the minister, take possession of any ministerial credentials and inform the minister’s regional Ministerial Education, Guidance and Placement (MEGaP) committee of the suspension. No ministerial functions or duties may be
performed until the case is decided.

The bishop may also suspend a minister who confesses in a signed statement that an offence has been committed that will bring reproach to Christ and His church or if such an offence is confirmed by verifiable written testimony. The bishop will inform the minister’s regional MEGaP committee of the suspension.

In any of the above cases, the bishop may cite the minister to appear before the minister’s regional MEGaP committee. A minister so cited will be furnished with a statement describing the offence and the time and place where he/she is to appear. If the accused pleads guilty or is found guilty, the MEGaP committee will proceed by offering private counsel, public reproof or corporate discipline as it deems appropriate.

2.2 Public Reproof and Forgiveness
When a confessed offence is of a public nature, but not serious enough to require suspension,
arrangements may be made by the bishop for the offender to meet with the pastor’s cabinet of the church where the minister is appointed and/or the regional MEGaP committee as the case may be. The spirit of Christian restoration will characterize the process. The offender will read his/her signed confession, request forgiveness, receive reproof and forgiveness and agree to submit to the counsel that is given. The written statement of the offender will be
submitted to the bishop for prior approval. The bishop will counsel with the offender’s immediate supervisor, the pastor’s cabinet and/or the regional MEGaP as the case may require.

2.3 Corporate Discipline
If a minister under investigation is not suspended by the bishop, but is cited to appear before the regional MEGaP committee, the regional MEGaP committee is empowered to institute interim remedial disciplinary action until the matter is fully investigated and decided. Refusal to comply with the interim remedial disciplinary action of the regional MEGaP committee will be considered insubordination and could result in suspension by the regional MEGaP committee and the loss of credentials by the offender.

When the bishop suspends a minister, within seven days the regional MEGaP committee, or a
regional MEGaP sub-committee of not fewer than six members, equally divided between laypersons and ordained ministers, will be convened to review the evidence presented by the bishop and the minister’s immediate supervisor. It will have the authority to take one of the following actions, which must be reported to the Board of Administration and the subsequent meeting of the Canadian General Conference:

  • Exonerate, return credentials and restore to ministry;
  • Confirm the suspension and establish a program of counseling and restoration;
  • Allow the accused to surrender credentials permanently (under charges or complaints) and approve the person for lay status;
  • Allow the accused to surrender credentials (under charges or complaints) and withdraw from the general conference and the denomination;
  • Expel from the general conference and the denomination.

If a minister wishes to appeal the regional MEGaP committee’s decision and meet with the regional MEGaP committee for a hearing to show cause why the regional MEGaP committee should reconsider its decision, the request must be delivered or sent by registered mail to the Director of Leadership Development and Church Health within 30 days of the decision passed by the regional MEGaP committee. The regional MEGaP committee shall meet with the minister under discipline within 30 days of receiving the request for a hearing, to hear and consider the minister’s reasons for requesting reconsideration of the regional MEGaP committee’s decision. If the MEGaP committee maintains its decision, the member may request a trial according to the provisions of ¶930.

3. Special Cases
When a minister is charged with a criminal offence, the bishop shall immediately report the situation to the regional MEGaP committee and seek its advice. If the minister is convicted of a criminal offence, the bishop shall immediately suspend the minister.

When immoral or criminal misconduct of a spouse or dependent child may adversely affect ministry, ministers will report the situation to their immediate supervisor who will consult with the bishop.  The bishop will ensure that the criminal conduct has been reported to the police and any abuse of children to child welfare authorities in accordance with the denomination’s child abuse policy. Notwithstanding the above, disclosures of any criminal conduct must be consistent with the current criminal law.

4. Credentials
When a minister is required to relinquish ordination credentials due to suspension, expulsion or otherwise, the credentials are to be sent to the Personnel office of The Free Methodist Church in Canada. When the bishop is satisfied that the restoration process is successfully completed, the bishop may, upon the recommendation of the regional MEGaP committee and approval of the Board of Administration, restore credentials.

If an ordained minister refuses to surrender ordination credentials when legitimately requested to do so, the regional MEGaP committee will recommend to the Board of Administration that the credentials be declared null and void.

5. Restoration
The restoration process begins when the suspended minister applies for a Covenant of Restoration. The bishop, assisted by the Director Church Health and the regional MEGaP committee, will work with the suspended minister to develop a covenant of restoration that defines the expectations and responsibilities of all parties involved in the restoration process.

Restoration to ministry requires the following:

  • Repentance and a request for forgiveness;
  • Indication of contrition;
  • Public confession where advised;
  • Restitution where applicable;
  • Counseling where advised;
  • The assignment of a mutually acceptable accountability partner;
  • Healing of broken relationships where possible;
  • Reestablishment of credibility.

While the candidate for restoration is following the prescribed course, a designated supervisor will assign and oversee such ministerial duties as may prepare the candidate for resumption of ministerial leadership.

Restoration of credentials and reappointment will proceed according to the following conditions:

  • The regional MEGaP committee will assess the candidate’s progress in spiritual maturity, trustworthiness, moral integrity and ministerial effectiveness. The candidate will be called for a personal interview. References will also be obtained from the designated supervisor, the candidate’s counselor(s) and other persons familiar with the case. The official board of the church where the candidate attends may be asked if it is prepared to submit a restoration of credentials form. (See ¶ 383A, Local Church Forms, page 2).
  • The Board of Administration of the general conference will make the final decision, based on the recommendation of the regional MEGaP committee. Credentials will not be restored sooner than two years, except in exceptional circumstances and only after the process of restoration is complete. Restoration of credentials does not guarantee reappointment to ministry.
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