Bishop Willimon issues Episcopal Ruling requested during Annual Conference 2010

June 17, 2010

The following request for an Episcopal Ruling of law was received during the course of the regular business of the North Alabama Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church meeting in session June 3-5, 2010:

I hereby request an Episcopal ruling of law by Bishop Willimon: Is proper consultation, according to the 2008 Book of Discipline, being performed with pastors and churches by the Cabinet of the North Alabama Conference?

The grounds for this request for a rule of law is that our District Superintendent did not talk with Staff Parish Relations Committee of Cullman First United Methodist Church about a possible move for the senior pastor after only one year. The District Superintendent did not talk with me as senior pastor about a possible move after only one year. The worship attendance has been in slow decline for ten years, and we as a church family were shocked to learn that move was decided when I had only been appointed there eight months, an insufficient time to turn things around.

I make this request in the hope that other churches and ministers be spared the emotional pain that we experienced as a church family when consultation was not provided and recourse was denied. I am at peace and excited with my new appointment to Northport First UMC. However, it is difficult to leave new friends and new church family under such circumstances.

Sincerely Submitted,

Rev. Mark D. Parris
Senior Pastor, Cullman FUMC


Bishop Willimon’s Statement

Documented evidence reveals that in this specific case The Reverend Parris participated in a Consultation with the District Superintendent July 16, 2009 and received information indicating that Appointments in the United Methodist Church are made on an annual basis and that growth was the indicator for effectiveness in North Alabama. It was further stressed that SPRC teams function in an advisory capacity in the appointment making process.

Records I have reviewed indicate emails and documented phone calls between the District Superintendent and the SPRC Chairperson at Cullman First UMC, a meeting held February 28, 2010 between the District Superintendent and the SPRC team of Cullman First UMC, consultation with The Reverend Parris and four (4) members of the Appointive Cabinet including Bishop Willimon in session in Fort Payne Ala on March 3, 2010 and subsequently the District Superintendent notifying The Reverend Parris and the Cullman First SPRC Chairperson that a change of appointment was being considered by the Cabinet. When told of the change being considered and the compensation of the new appointment The Reverend Parris offered no objection.

I am convinced that the requirements of the 2008 Book of Discipline have been followed regarding Consultation in this case and in all appointments in the North Alabama Annual Conference.

Decision No. 101 of the Judicial Council states:

The word "Consult" means to seek the opinion of or to confer or discuss with another. In Paragraph 432 (1) it means that the District Superintendent shall inform the pastor of the proposed Appointment and discuss the matter with him with the view of ascertaining if there are any reasons why such Appointment should not be made. Consultation means that there is an exchange of ideas even though they may not be in agreement.

Bishop Willimon’s Ruling

Therefore, as Bishop of the North Alabama Annual Conference I hereby rule that the Cabinet of the North Alabama Annual Conference is performing proper consultation in accordance with the 2008 Book of Discipline.


Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.