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.