CONDUCT FROM THE PULPIT

THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF

THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

IN THE MATTER OF

THE EX PARTE PETITION 

DECISION No. 2002-012

This matter came before members of the Judicial Council of the A.M.E. Zion Church Ex Parte, at a meeting held at the Hilton Hotel and Towers.  Said Judicial Council of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church held that the conduct complained of by the applicant was procedurally improper.

 

RELIEF SOUGHT

 

            An application for judicial review in the form of a declaratory Judgment that the conduct of the Pastor during the act of worship on two consecutive Sunday mornings violated a number of rules relating to a preacher's conduct as laid down under chapter 1 page 73 of The Book of Discipline) of the A.M.E. Zion  Church (2000.

 

GROUNDS ON WHICH RELIEF IS SOUGHT

 

            It is alleged that Pastor from his position in the pulpit; referred to a female parishioner as a "Political Slut."  It is said that he then proceeded from the pulpit and came to the pew were she normally sat and stated to a gentleman, "Mister, move over, the seat is contaminated by the woman who usually sits here.”

 

It is claimed that the matter continued the following Sunday, during the 11:00 am morning worship, at what time it is reported that the Pastor clarified that what he should have said is that she is a “Political Whore."

 

            Although the parishioner was not present on either 0ccasion the statements were made, the statements are contained on recorded tapes of the worship service.

 

            The parishioner asserts that those statements violated the rules on preachers conduct cited in The Book of Discipline, Pages 73 - 74; Rules 190 - 199.

 

            The Judicial Council accepted Jurisdiction under Article II (a), III (b).

 

            The justices have given themselves over to the deliberation on the matter before them and took time to review the relevant provisions of The Book of Discipline, which are designed to regulate the conduct of preachers in the exercise of official authority in the name of God and the Church.

 

            The provisions are to be found on Pages 73 -75, Paragraph 201, which offer guidance on preaching.  It states that every sermon should consist of elements first to convince; second to offer Christ; third to invite and forth, to build up.  Paragraph 201 goes further and directs that “(t)he most effectual way is, to preach Christ in all his/her offices, and to declare His law as well as His gospel…” .  The purpose of these measures is to guide the preacher along the line of good practice especially on occasions where one might well be tempted to engage in erroneous practices or to wonder off on a frolic of one's own.  Indeed The Discipline expects that those called to preach are to have a right judgment in the things of God (Paragraph 188.1 (4).  It will require at this stage, some stretch of the imagination to see how those matters complained of meet with the requirements of the sections.

 

            The parishioner has asked us to consider a number of sections of the law.  We now turn our attention to them.  She contends that the pastor has violated Paragraph 190, Rule 2; Paragraph 191, Rule 3; Paragraph 192, Rule 4; Paragraph 193, Rule 5; other rules were cited, but for expediency we constrain to those stated here.

 

            This section on rules for preacher’s conduct is designed to set the standard of care and skill which worshipers might expect from persons on the church pulpit holding themselves out to be professional ministers of religion; experts in their field through study and practice.  Here the ethical standard is "Holiness to the Lord," (Rule 2).  It is abundantly clear that this standard seeks to govern the words of the mouth and meditation of the heart.  Holiness then denotes the separation of a person from the common or profane to a divine use.  Indeed we are instructed through Scripture, "Let your speech be always with grace" and this represents the steadfast love, which we are to apply in relating to other human beings.  This is all the more poignant were relationships between male incumbents and female members become strained over time. Here Rule 3 sets a standard of, courteousness, discreet, prudent in the practicabilities when addressing the elder women.  They are entreated as mothers.  This is a high standard of care to be applied by male ordained specifically.  It is our view that the specific purpose of Rules 4 and 5 is to enhance the flow of the rules of natural justice from the top down.  Here, proper and adequate enquiries should be made as to avoid making perverse decisions.  It is a further requirement that the best construction we put on everything and the test of reasonableness should be applied.  It is also a requirement of natural justice and that the accused should know the charges against them and a right of reply offered.  The accused should also be availed of the opportunity to face their accuser.  (Rule 5).

 

            Throughout the examination it has been held that Chapters I and (II) rules for a preacher’s conduct represents a standard of care but importantly, in construction, they also represent a day of care.  Each rule opens with a nondiscretionary phrase and this cannot be overlooked.

 

            The authority sanctioning the act or making the decision must understand correctly the law that regulates his act or decision-making power and must give effect to it.  Here an act is outside jurisdiction where of the authority purports to exercise a power, which he does not possess, or else use a power for a purpose other than the purpose for which the power was not granted?  The question for us then is did the Pastor on the morning in question and again the following Sunday use his use power as the Pastor for a purpose other than the purpose for which the power was granted?  The evidence before us leads this Council to concur that he has done so.

 

The female parishioner should have been given notice of the allegations, which she was to meet.  She should have been afforded adequate opportunity to meet those making representation.  All of these matters should have been conducted according to the law of the church and in an appropriate form. 

 

            The pastor in conducting himself in the manner described and  presenting to the church congregation those things complained of has acted in a way wholly inconsistent with the rules of A.M.E. Zion Church as outlined above.

 

BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL THIS 31st DAY OF JULY, 2002

ALL CONCURRING

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