Chapter 4 - Discipline of a Local Church, District or Other Unit
A. Those Subject to Districts
5300. Districts ordinarily exercise jurisdiction in matters of church discipline over those pastoral charges which consist of established churches or circuits (for exceptions, see 5315). Districts have full authority in all matters over developing churches (510) and missions (Disc. 537).
2. Discipline Without a Hearing
5305. The procedure for the discipline of an established church shall begin as follows:
- (1) An alleged offense against a local church by a lay member, minister, another local church or the district board of administration shall be submitted in writing to the district superintendent (Disc. 1310:31), who together with the district board of administration (Disc. 1233:36) shall endeavor to make an amicable resolution.
- (2) If the allegations lead to charges against a local church for an offense as set forth in 5010, the district superintendent and the district board of administration shall continue to make every effort to bring about an amicable settlement. The district board of administration shall have the authority to cite the offending church, in the person of its pastor and local officials or local board of administration, to appear before it to settle the matter or to show cause why it shall not be placed under discipline. Such a citation shall contain a clear and definite statement of the charges and any supporting evidence so that the accused church may be properly informed of the grounds of the accusation. The order shall be served upon the pastor and the local church secretary.
3. Discipline Involving a Hearing
5310. Whenever a settlement cannot be effected, a district judicial committee shall be appointed in keeping with 5209. An accusation and specifications against the local church shall be submitted to the district judicial committee which shall hear and determine the matter. Whenever the district judicial committee finds the local church guilty as charged, the district board of administration (Disc. 1233:36) shall suspend the local church from all its rights and privileges as set forth in the Constitution (Disc. 315) and The Discipline. The suspension shall end when the local church, through its officials, shall make a written apology acknowledging its guilt and pledging loyalty to the district and the denomination, and when, in the opinion of the district board of administration, the offense has ceased. Whenever a local church does not offer such a written apology and assurance, and if it continues to offend, it shall be reorganized (5320). An appeal (5062–5068) may be taken by the local church concerning the verdict and/or discipline to the district board of review (5221).
4. Exceptions in Jurisdiction
5315. If a local church is alleged to have committed offense(s) which affect The Wesleyan Church beyond the district of which it is a part, and/or the district is unable or unwilling to deal appropriately with the matter, the General Superintendent may authorize assumption of jurisdiction in the matter by the General Church (cf. Disc. 4770, last sentence).
5320. Whenever a local church, through its pastor and/or local officials or board of administration, shall refuse to answer the citations of the district board of administration to appear for a settlement (5305:2), or the citation of the district judicial committee to appear for the hearing of the matter, or whenever a local church that has been placed under discipline refuses to offer a written apology and assurance as set forth in 5310 and does not exercise the right of appeal, the district board of administration shall authorize the district superintendent and any two of its other board members to reorganize the local church. The district superintendent and the appointed representatives shall ask the covenant members of the local church for an affirmation of loyalty to The Wesleyan Church, consistent with paragraph 553:2 of The Discipline. Those covenant members who affirm such loyalty shall be the members of that local church, and those covenant members who refuse to affirm such loyalty shall be declared as having withdrawn from The Wesleyan Church and from that local church and all offices held by such persons shall thereby be vacated. The loyal covenant members shall be entitled to hold and use the property as provided for by The Discipline and to carry on the functions of the local church. 5325. Any former member who has been declared as withdrawn from The Wesleyan Church during the reorganization of a local church may be reinstated when the person gives evidence of a change of attitude and is deemed to meet the requirements for membership.
B. Those Subject to the General Church
5350. The General Church exercises jurisdiction in matters of church discipline over established districts. The General Church has full authority in all matters over developing and provisional districts (Disc. 1003–1034). The General Church may also assume jurisdiction over a local church under some circumstances (5315).
2. Discipline Without a Hearing
5355. Any charge or complaint against an established district (or against a local church over which the General Church has assumed jurisdiction) alleging an offense set forth in 5006 shall be submitted in writing to the General Superintendent. The General Superintendent, together with the General Board or its Executive Board, shall make every effort to clear up such accusations or charges so as to effect an amicable resolution (5004–5018) before any unit, through its officials or board of administration, shall be brought to a hearing, unless a hearing is requested by the accused. 5360. The General Board, or, in the interim of its sessions, the Executive Board, shall have the authority to cite a district (or local church over which jurisdiction has been assumed), through its officials or its board of administration, to appear before it to show cause, why it should not be brought to a hearing or declared to be in a state of disobedience or insubordination for an offense as set forth in 5010. Such a citation shall set forth a clear and definite statement of the charges and any supporting facts or evidence and shall be signed by the General Superintendent and secretary of the General Board, so that the accused may be properly informed of the grounds of the accusation. The order shall be served upon both the chief officer and the secretary of the accused. Should the hearing before the General Board or its Executive Board result in a satisfactory resolution of the matter, with the accused pledging its loyalty to the denomination, no further steps shall be taken.
3. Discipline Involving a Hearing
5365. When the above procedure does not bring about an amicable settlement in the opinion of the General Board, or should the cited officials fail or refuse to appear, an accusation and specifications for offenses as listed in 5010 shall be prepared and submitted in writing (5022) to the General Superintendent and must be sustained by at least three members of The Wesleyan Church. The General Board may appoint or authorize its Executive Board to appoint a general judicial committee, with the chair appointed by the General Superintendent. The findings of the general judicial committee shall be reported to the General Board. A two-thirds majority vote of all members of the general judicial committee shall be required for a verdict of guilty. If the accused district is found guilty of an offense(s), the General Board, by a two-thirds vote of all its members, may place a district found guilty under discipline and suspend all its rights and privileges as a district under the Constitution, or other provisions of The Discipline, and may thereupon appoint the General Superintendent or other person to have charge of the district (Disc. 360:3c, e; cf. 1655:42). If it is a local church which is found guilty, the General Board by a majority vote may place the church under suspension and appoint a designated authority to have charge. Such suspension shall continue until the unit under discipline shall, through its officials, offer a written apology acknowledging its guilt and giving assurance of its loyalty to the denomination and shall also give evidence that the offense has ceased, whereupon the General Board shall end the suspension and reinstate the unit (cf. Disc. 1655:44). A district under discipline shall also be suspended from all rights to acquire, purchase, mortgage, sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of any real property, unless approved by the designated authority appointed to have charge of the district. 5370. An appeal (5062-5068) may be taken by the accused district or local church concerning the verdict and/or the discipline to the General Board of Review. All appeals must be filed with the Executive Director of Communication and Administration within sixty days after the date of the official decision on the matter.
5375. Whenever a district under discipline refuses to offer a written apology and assurance of loyalty as set forth in 5365, or whenever the district officials refuse to answer a citation to appear (5360), the General Board or its Executive Board may authorize the General Superintendent to reorganize the district (Disc. 1655:44). The General Superintendent shall ask for an affirmation of loyalty. Those members and ministers of the district who affirm their loyalty to The Wesleyan Church shall be and constitute the district. Those covenant members and ministers of the district who refuse to affirm such loyalty to The Wesleyan Church shall be declared by the General Superintendent as having withdrawn from The Wesleyan Church, and all offices held by such persons shall thereupon be vacated. Those who are thus declared to be the covenant members and ministers of the district shall be entitled to hold and to use all the district property in the manner as set forth in The Discipline and shall be organized to carry on the work of the district. Should the number of loyal ministers and covenant members be fewer than that required for an established district, the district shall be reclassified by the General Board as a provisional district or developing district as the case may be (cf. Disc. 1034; 1042-1045). 5380. If a minister who has been declared withdrawn from the district because of refusal to affirm loyalty to The Wesleyan Church shall desire to be restored, this person may be restored as provided for in 5230-5245. 5385. If a local church whose matter has been assumed by the General Church and has been placed under discipline does not respond appropriately in a reasonable time, the General Superintendent may authorize the district superintendent responsible to reorganize the local church in keeping with 5320.