Mandatory Continuing Education Nixed
A proposal before the General Council to require new ministers to obtain ongoing continuing education went down to defeat in a business session Thursday afternoon.
The Ohio Ministry Network proposed that starting in 2017 six hours of continuing education be required every two years under qualified supervision of a district representative, a sponsored AG institution, or its sponsoring agent. The proposal would have applied only to newly licensed and ordained ministers until six years after ordination.
OMN Superintendent John Wootton said church members want ministers who are informed in light of cultural changes, and that the new requirements could be fulfilled through a variety of means ranging from district seminars to university online classes.
Robert W. Fiscus of Garland, Texas, was among those who spoke in opposition of the resolution. He said until recently he pastored a small church, devoting 20 hours a week to ministry, but he had to work an additional 60 hours weekly in secular employment to feed his family of seven. Fiscus said the requirement would cause on undue burden on bivocational pastors.
OMN Assistant Superintendent Jim A. Palmer said the expectation of six hours of instruction every two years wouldn't be unreasonable, and that many free educational resources are available. He noted the proposal applied only to new ministers.
Jac Perrin of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, suggested an amendment that the new education requirements pertain to existing ministers as well. He said it's essential that pastors keep up with ongoing new discoveries of biblical texts.
Ultimately, delegates voted against both the amendment and the motion itself. Currently, the AG encourages ministers to obtain continuing education, but it's not mandatory.
In other business, the General Council amended its constitution to remove the word "conduct" when referring to matters of church discipline.
The General Council has been sued repeatedly as a result of actions of AG ministers and laypeople in claims in which the Fellowship is accused of being liable because of its authority to "disapprove" of unscriptural conduct.
Although the word "conduct" isn't defined in the AG bylaws or constitution, lawsuits over the years have broadly interpreted the word in the legal sense rather than ethical sense.
An approval addendum to the resolution suggested by the Northern California-Nevada District Presbytery and General Presbytery struck the word "conduct" and replaced it with "polity."