QUALIFICATIONS AND REGULATIONS
¶600. Let the following questions be asked:
1. Do you know God as a pardoning God? Do you have the love of God abiding in you? Do you desire nothing but God? Are you holy in all manner of conversations?
2. Have you gifts (as well as grace) for the work? Have you (in some tolerable degree) a clear, sound understanding; a right judgment in things of God; and a just conception of salvation by faith? Do you speak justly, readily, and clearly?
3. Have you fruit? Are any truly convinced of sin and converted to God by your preaching? As long as these three marks concur in anyone, we believe he is called to preach. These we receive as sufficient proof that he is moved by the Holy Ghost.
¶601. The General Conference Board of Ministerial Examiners shall require all applicants for admission on trial to agree to abstain from the use of tobacco and all alcoholic beverages and from using drugs for other than proper medical purposes.
¶602. No applicant will be accepted into the clergy of The Southern Methodist Church as a lay minister, licensed minister, male or female missionary, if either spouse is divorced, or has been divorced, except in the case of innocent parties who have been divorced for scriptural cause. The General Conference Board of Ministerial Examiners shall investigate to determine if the applicant meets the aforesaid exception. After investigating and recommendation by the General Conference Board of Ministerial Examiners and concurrence by the Annual Conference, the applicant may be received, provided the applicant meets all other requirements.
¶603. In the case of a member of the clergy of The Southern Methodist Church, as described in ¶602, who hereafter becomes divorced or marries a divorcee, the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations shall investigate to determine if he meets the aforesaid exception. If he fails to meet the exception, he may be discontinued by the Annual Conference.
¶604. If any minister now serving in The Southern Methodist Church has deliberately concealed the fact that he or his wife are divorced or have been divorced, this shall be reason for discharge from The Southern Methodist Church.
¶605. The Southern Methodist Church does not recognize women as preachers with authority to occupy the pulpit or to preach as ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor does it authorize a preacher in charge to invite a woman claiming to be a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ to occupy its pulpits to expound the scriptures as a preacher. Such invitations and services are against the authority and order of the church. Such invitations do not apply to a woman missionary or missionary candidate.
¶606. The Southern Methodist Church does not recognize or approve the practice of its ministers setting up independent congregations who do not subscribe to the doctrine, faith, practices, teachings, and government of The Southern Methodist Church. Southern Methodist ministers who are retired, unassigned, or on leave of absence may serve on Special Assignment as supply pastors for churches which are not affiliated with The Southern Methodist Church, if they receive prior approval of the Annual Conference or its Board of Ministerial Relations. The request for approval must be made to the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations and renewed annually. A minister who does not request approval or continues to serve an unaffiliated church after approval is denied by the Annual Conference will be discontinued by the Conference. The following conditions are required to maintain the minister’s good standing:
1. That he answer his annual ministerial questionnaire so as to indicate that he has not changed doctrinally or in his commitment to Christ or in his commitment to support the Southern Methodist Church.
2. That he and, if possible, his family attend Annual Conference each year (expenses paid by church).
3. That he and, if possible, his family attend Pastor’s School/General Conference in their respective years (expenses paid by church).
4. That his church contributes to the Southern Methodist retirement program in accordance with the program’s requirements.
5. That he request renewal of his status annually.
6. That he not join any other church or denomination. The minister is a member of an Annual Conference of the Southern Methodist Church; any other membership would nullify that membership. This is the reason for the use of the terms “supply pastor” above. The minister can fully serve and support all the ministries of the church he serves. If the church is a member of another denomination, the minister may also participate in as many organizations and ministries as that denomination will permit without membership or ordination. The members of the minister’s family may join the church being served without jeopardizing the minister’s status.
SECTION A: LAY MINISTER
¶615. A lay minister is a lay member of The Southern Methodist Church whom the local church conference has recommended to the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations and it in turn has recommended him to the Annual Conference which has licensed him as a lay minister, authorized him to preach and serve under the pastor’s direction and as opportunity affords, thus providing for the employment and development of his gifts and usefulness (¶235.2b, c).
¶616. To qualify for license as a lay minister, the applicant must have a high school diploma or have obtained a general equivalency diploma. He must be recommended initially and annually thereafter by his local church conference. He must complete a course of preliminary studies which includes reading through the Bible, a study of the Discipline, and the preparation and delivery of sermons. The Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations is to examine the applicant concerning these studies (¶358). If satisfied, it may recommend to the Annual Conference that he be licensed as a lay minister. After being licensed, he must also complete the Conference course of study prescribed by the General Conference Board of Administration which will be known as the “Conference Course of Study For Lay Ministers”. Before such a lay minister can be assigned by the President as a supply pastor, he must be in the class of the second year.
¶617. A college ministerial student may be licensed as a lay minister provided he has met the minimum requirements of ¶616.
¶618. If a lay minister is so approved by the General Conference Board of Ministerial Examiners, the President may assign him to service as a supply pastor.
¶619. A lay minister is a layman and cannot be a member of the Annual Conference or serve on Conference committees except when elected as a layman.
¶620. Whenever a lay minister moves from one charge to another, his pastor shall, with his certificate of transfer, indicate his official standing. If a lay minister fails to present his certificate of official standing to the new charge into which he moves within a period of six months, his credentials will become null and void, unless he can show that his failure to do so was unavoidable.
SECTION B: PROBATIONER AS RELATING TO LICENTIATE
¶625. A licensed probationer is one to whom the Annual Conference has granted a license to preach and whom it has received as a ministerial member on trial for stationing as a pastor or special ministries.
¶626. To qualify for an annual conference license to preach, the applicant must have earned a college degree, either Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. He must be recommended for such license by his local church conference (¶235.2d), examined and recommended by the General Conference Board of Ministerial Examiners (¶477) relative to his graces and gifts and be approved by the Annual Conference (¶358). To qualify without a Bachelor’s degree, an applicant who is at least thirty year of age may be approved by the Annual Conference upon recommendation of the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations to enter the “Conference Course of Study for Licentiates” as prescribed by the General Conference Board of Administration. After completion of this course of study, he may be considered for license. (36 Continuing Education Units)
¶627. A licentiate shall be on trial for a minimum of two years, during which he must serve as an itinerant.
AS RELATING TO OTHER PROBATIONER
¶628. A minister from another church, whether he be a licentiate or ordained as a deacon or an elder or the equivalent thereof, wishing to transfer to The Southern Methodist Church, shall be received on trial for a minimum of two years. Such an applicant must be examined by the General Conference Board of Ministerial Examiners not only as to his beliefs but as to the requirements of his license or ordination to determine if he has met an equivalent standard (¶358), including the same educational standards that are required of every Southern Methodist minister.
SECTION C: FULL CONNECTION AS RELATING TO LICENTIATE
¶630. A licentiate who has successfully completed two years of itinerant service may be recommended by the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations and if approved by the Annual Conference may be received into full connection by complying with ¶631, provided that 36 Continuing Education Units in Biblical Studies have been obtained.
¶631. After solemn fasting and prayer, every person proposed for full connection shall be asked in the presence of the Annual Conference the following questions (with any others that may be thought necessary); namely, Have you faith in Christ? Are you going on to perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? Are you groaning after it? Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and His work? Are you willing to conform to the Discipline of the church? Will you diligently instruct the children in every place? Will you visit from house to house? Will you recommend fasting and abstinence, both by precept and example? Are you in debt so as to embarrass you? Will you especially observe the following directions?
1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be trifling employed. Never trifle away time, neither spend any more time at any place than is strictly necessary.
2. Be punctual. Do everything on time. And do not mend the rules, but keep them, not for wrath, but for conscience’s sake.
3. Act in all things not according to your own will, but as a son in the gospel. It is therefore your duty to employ your time in the manner which we direct in preaching, teaching, meeting the services, visiting from house to house, and especially visiting the sick, in reading, meditation, and prayer. Above all, if you labor with us in the Lord’s vineyard, it is needful that you should do that part of the work which we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for His glory. If he gives satisfactory answers to these questions, the Conference, by a vote of the majority, may admit him into full connection.
AS RELATING TO OTHERS SEEKING FULL CONNECTION
¶632. A minister of another church, accredited as minister, or elder, who desires to unite with us as a preacher, may be admitted as a deacon or elder into full connection by the Annual Conference after two years on trial, provided that the Conference is satisfied with his gifts, grace and usefulness, and with his agreement with us in doctrine and discipline, on condition that he take upon himself our ordination vows with or without the reimposition of hands (¶358.6).
¶633. No minister shall be received into full connection until he has attended an orientation session provided by the General Board of Administration and met the Continuing Education Unit requirements as outlined in the Discipline (Licentiates – 36 Continuing Education Units, Deacons – 60 Continuing Education Units, Elders – 72 Continuing Education Units).
SECTION D: DEACON
¶636. To become a deacon, a licentiate must have met the educational requirements (60 Continuing Education Units), be recommended by the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations, elected by the Annual Conference, take the vows of ordination and the laying on of hands of three elders (¶358.6).
¶637. The licentiate must be in full connection before he can be ordained deacon.
¶638. A licensed probationer must serve a minimum of two (2) years in a ministerial appointment after receiving his license to preach before being eligible to be ordained Deacon.
¶639. The duties of a deacon are to administer baptism and solemnize the rite of matrimony in the absence of an elder, to assist an elder in administering the Lord’s Supper and to perform all the duties of a preacher.
SECTION E: ELDER
¶642. An elder is constituted by the election of a majority of the Annual Conference and the laying on of the hands of three or more elders after approval by the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations (¶358.6).
¶643. To advance to elder, a deacon must have earned a Master of Divinity degree or completed graduate work in a course of study approved by the General Board of Administration, and must have served as a deacon for a minimum of two years. This course of study may include Continuing Education Units for attendance at seminars, workshops and Pastors’ School as approved by the Administrative Committee of the Conference Course of Study. For Elders, a minimum of 72 Continuing Education Units, according to the Southern Methodist Church Ministerial Advancement Program, are required.
¶644. Every deacon shall exercise that office for a minimum of two years before he is eligible for the office of elder, provided, however, that if a deacon failed his ordination because of events beyond his control, his time shall be counted from the time of his election to deacon’s orders.
¶645. The duties of an elder are to administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper, to solemnize the rite of matrimony only between a man and woman after prayerful consideration of the spiritual standing of the individuals, to perform all parts of divine worship, and to perform all duties of a preacher.
SECTION D: SUPPLY PASTOR
¶667. A supply pastor is one appointed under temporary or unusual circumstances when a person qualified for regular appointment is not available or suitable. The following persons may serve as a supply pastor:
1. An elder, deacon, or licentiate serving under some other appointment.
2. An elder or deacon on loan from one annual conference to another.
3. A pastor who belongs to another denomination.
4. A lay pastor who is in the class of the second year.
5. A retired pastor.
¶668. A person who has been approved by the General Conference Board of Ministerial Examiners for service as a supply is an approved supply. When such a person has been assigned a charge by the President, he is an assigned supply.
¶669. A supply pastor shall have the right to carry out all the duties and functions of a pastor on the charge to which he is assigned. He may not carry out the function of a preacher elsewhere, nor does he have a vote in the Annual Conference or General Conference unless these rights are his on some other basis.
SECTION E: SUSPENDED PREACHER
¶672. If a preacher, whether licentiate, deacon, or elder, in the annual examination of the preachers be found delinquent, unacceptable, inefficient, indifferent, or inactive in the work of his ministry, the Annual Conference may suspend him. For the licentiate, deacon or elder, this would mean that he would no longer be stationed or approved for ministerial assignment.
¶675. The Southern Methodist Church requires all candidates for the licensed ministry to present a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree; it strongly urges that this be theologically oriented and that such undergraduate work be taken at Southern Methodist College. Degrees earned at other colleges are generally acceptable but the General Board of Administration reserves the right of final approval. Specific educational requirements for the different classes of ministers are given elsewhere: Lay Minister ¶616; Licentiate ¶626; Deacon ¶638; Elder ¶643. Ministers satisfying their educational requirement through the Conference Course of Study must meet the following minimum standards: Licentiates, 36 Continuing Education Units; Deacons, 60 Continuing Education Units; Elders, 72 Continuing Education Units.
¶676. Failure to make education advancement for two years in succession shall be cause for discontinuance or suspension without injury to applicants’ or candidates’ character, unless the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations deemed otherwise. A recommendation by the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations to suspend a person for the above reason must be sustained by a three-fourths vote of the Annual Conference.
¶677. Each candidate for admission to any of the ministerial classifications of The Southern Methodist Church shall complete the application for admission and accompanying questionnaire and submit them along with transcripts of all academic work to the office of the President of The Southern Methodist Church.
¶678. A minister meeting the educational requirements of The Southern Methodist Church must be approved and recommended by the Annual Conference Board of Ministerial Relations to the annual conference for its approval before being received or advanced in any classification. Education or time of service does not mean an automatic advancement of classification.