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Marital Separation and Divorce

Joint Committee on Marital Separation and Divorce
This Committee, formed by the Cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry, has the task of making a recommendation to the Board of Ordained Ministry and Cabinet regarding the appointability of a member of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference when marital separation or divorce has occurred. Therefore, the primary responsibility of this committee is to make a judgment affecting the ministry of a conference member. Such a difficult task is always painful to those being interviewed and to those on the committee.  Items no. 1 through no. 3 below indicate the supportive, counseling resources provided by the Annual Conference to help families deal with stress. Items no. 4 through no. 9 describe the more specific work of the Joint Committee on Marital Separation and Divorce.
1.    The establishment and nurture of Christian marriage and Christian family life is a primary task of the church. “No other vows are more sacred, no other ties more tender” than those which are made in marriage. Opportunities for growth in parenting skills and for family enrichment are offered through Family Life which provides resources for counseling, conflict resolution, and for building stronger families.
2.    If a couple finds that serious problems are developing in their marriage, they are expected to seek help. Family relationships, though built on truth and love, are frequently under stress. As members of a united community of Christ’s ministers, we have the full resources of His care and His church to rely upon when marital stress leads to conflict.
3.    The Pastoral Care Program of the conference provides professional counseling which is confidential and immediately available. Each member of the conference is encouraged to learn of these resources and to use
them.
4.    If, despite counseling and pastoral help, a couple finds their course taking the direction of a participant separation and/ or divorce, their serious marital problems must be considered within the larger context of the church and the
effectiveness of our ordained ministry. At such a time it is imperative that they meet with a small group of fellow conference members who are the “Joint Committee on Marital Separation and Divorce.”
a.    The Joint Committee on Marital Separation and Divorce is comprised of a minimum of five members of the Board of Ordained Ministry.
b.    The first responsibility of this group is to recommend to the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Cabinet the most appropriate arrangement regarding appointment and appointability. Complete confidentiality is
guaranteed.
c.    The second responsibility is to assist the couple. Additional counseling
by a professional may be a possibility; other types of budgetary assistance in limited amounts might help with some immediate need; prayerful support will undergird.
d.    d. At a time of marital separation or divorce, any minister under appointment in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference must meet with this committee. This includes any probationer, associate member, member in full connection, or local pastor. It includes those appointed to charges, to appointments beyond the local church, and to attend school.
e.    Any person who has been divorced within five years before seeking membership in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference must meet with this committee before he/she is eligible for appointment. An additional need may be those persons separated or divorced for more than five (5) years who according to the judgment of the Bishop and/or Cabinet should be seen by the Joint Committee before being eligible for appointment.
f.    The District Superintendent shall initiate the first contact between the
clergy person and the committee.
5.    The Annual Conference accepts the principle that divorce, in itself, does not necessarily preclude continued service in the ordained ministry. However, under certain circumstances, factors implicit in the divorce situation may require surrender of ministerial orders, permanently or temporarily. Equally important is the principle that conference action must be both responsible and compassionate, and addressed to the particular circumstances of each divorce situation. In every instance persons must be considered first of all as unique individuals made in the image of God.
6.    The recommendations of the Committee will be referred to both the Cabinet and the Board of Ordained Ministry, with the latter responsible for final decision. An appeal may be made to the entire Board of Ordained Ministry.
7.    If, in the judgment of the committee, a minister under appointment should be continued, and if this judgment is confirmed by the entire Board, the Cabinet will weigh the desirability of leaving the person in his or her present
appointment or making a change.
8.    Where, in the judgment of the committee and with the acceptance by the entire Board, cause warrants the surrender of credentials, the Disciplinary options shall be clarified.
9.    If an extended leave of absence for reassessment or rehabilitation is required or recommended, assurance shall be given that the possibility of recovering one’s ministry and resuming effective Conference relationship will not be foreclosed.

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