Disability in the Discipline

This is a list of the disability-related provisions in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (2016). Please note: while we have carefully proofread these excerpts, we cannot guarantee that they are error-free. Also, we have not followed the exact formatting of the printed Discipline. If you know of other statements that should be included, please contact us and we will gladly include them. A list of provisions relating specifically to ministry, and items from the Book of Resolutions, can be found at this page on the UM Association of Ministers with Disabilities website.

Episcopal Greetings

This book of covenant sets forth the theological grounding of The United Methodist Church in biblical faith and affirms that we go forward as “loyal heirs to all that [is] best in the Christian past.” It makes clear that The United Methodist Church is an inclusive society without regard to ethnic origin, economic condition, gender, age, or the disabilities of its constituents. It asserts that all who are baptized and confirmed are ministers of Jesus Christ. (p. v)

Part I THE CONSTITUTION

DIVISION ONE – GENERAL

4. Article IV. Inclusiveness of the Church— The United Methodist Church is part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ.  The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth.  All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members ins any local church in the connection. In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition. (p. 26)

DIVISION TWO –ORGANIZATION

16. Article IV.—The General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional, and in the exercise of this power shall have authority as follows:

1. To define and fix the conditions, privileges, and duties of Church membership, which shall in every case be without reference to race, gender, or status.

14. To secure the rights and privileges of membership in all agencies, programs, and institutions in The United Methodist Church regardless of race, gender, or status. (p. 31)

22. Article VI— The General Conference shall not appropriate the net income of the publishing houses, the book concerns, or the Chartered Fund to any purpose other than for the benefit of retired or disabled preachers, their spouses, widows or widowers, and children or other beneficiaries of the ministerial pension systems.(p. 31)

Part III DOCTRINAL STANDARDS AND OUR THEOLOGICAL TASK

¶ 102 General Rules and Social Principles

Our struggles for human dignity and social reform have been a response to God’s demand for love, mercy, and justice in the light of the Kingdom. (p. 55)

Part IV THE MINISTRY OF ALL CHRISTIANS

THE MISSION AND MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH

Section I. The Churches

¶ 124: Our Mission in the World . . . The visible church of Christ as a faithful community of persons affirms the worth of all humanity and the value of interrelationship in all of God’s creation…

We seek to reveal the love of God for men, women, and children of all ethnic, racial, cultural, and national backgrounds and to demonstrate the healing power of the gospel with those who suffer.

(p. 94)

¶ 125 We commit ourselves to crossing boundaries of language, culture, and social or economic status.  We commit ourselves to be in ministry with all people, as we, in faithfulness to the gospel, seek to grow in mutual love and trust. (p. 95)

¶ 129 Ministry as Gift and Task

Entrance into the church is acknowledged in baptism and may include persons of all ages… God’s gifts are richly diverse for a variety of services; yet all have dignity and worth. (p. 97)

Section VI. Called to Inclusiveness

¶ 140. We recognize that God made all creation and saw that it was good.  As a diverse people of God who bring special gifts and evidences of God’s grace to the unity of the Church and to society, we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to all persons. 

Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community, and the world.   Therefore inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination. The services of worship of every local church of The United Methodist Church shall be open to all persons.

The mark of an inclusive society is one in which all persons are open, welcoming, fully accepting, and supporting of all other persons, enabling them to participate fully in the life of the church, the community, and the world.  A further mark of inclusiveness is the setting of church activities in facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.

In the United Methodist Church inclusiveness means the freedom for the total involvement of all persons who meet the requirements of the United Methodist Book of Discipline in the membership and leadership of the Church at any level and in every place.  In the spirit of this declaration, United Methodist seminaries will begin or continue to improve access to facilities, to information and communication, and to appropriate support services and accommodations as delineated by the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for persons with Disabilities and applicable World Council of Churches guidelines.  (p. 101)

II. The Nurturing Community

¶  161. The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Primary for us it the gospel understanding that all persons are important-because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance. We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all person and their growth. We also encourage all individuals to be sensitive to others by using appropriate language when referring to all persons. Language of a derogatory nature (with regard to race, nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexuality, and physical differences) does not reflect value for one another and contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ.  (p. 110)

K. Abortion-…We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it is a means of gender selection or eugenics (see Resolution 3184).  (p. 114)

III. The Social Community

¶  162.

I) Rights of Persons with Disabilities- We recognize and affirm the full humanity and personhood of all individuals with mental, physical, developmental, neurological, and psychological conditions or disabilities as full members of the family of God.  We also affirm their rightful place in both the church and society.  We affirm the responsibility of the Church and society to be in ministry with children, youth, and adults with mental, physical, developmental, and/or psychological conditions or disabilities whose particular needs in the areas of mobility, communication, intellectual comprehension, or personal relationships might make more challenging their participation or that of their families in the life of the Church and the community.   We urge the Church and society to recognize and receive the gifts of persons with disabilities to enable them to be full participants in the community of faith.  We call the Church and society to be sensitive to, and advocate for, programs of rehabilitation, services, employment, education, appropriate housing, and transportation.  We call on the Church and society to protect the civil rights of persons with all types and kinds of disabilities.  (p.123)

O) Genetic Technology—Human gene therapies that produce changes that cannot be passed to offspring (somatic Therapy) should be limited to the alleviation of suffering caused by dsease. Genetic therapies for eugenic choices or that produce waste embryos are deplored. (p.125)

T) Information Communication Technology—Because effective personal communication is key to being a responsible and empowered member of society, and because of the power afforded by information communication technologies to shape society and enable individuals to participate more fully, we believe that access to these technologies is a basic right.

     …Denying access in today’s world to basic information communication technologies like the Internet due to their cost or availability, limits people’s participation in their government and society.  We support the goal of universal access to telephone and Internet services at an affordable price.  (p. 129)

 V) Right to Health Care-Health is a condition of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well being…The right to health care includes care for persons with brain diseases, neurological conditions, or physical disabilities, who must be afforded the same access to health care as all other persons in our communities.  It is unjust to construct or perpetuate barriers to physical or mental wholeness or full participation in the community. (p. 129)

X) Mental Health—Mental illness troubles our relationships because it can affect the way we process information, relate to others, and choose actions.  Consequently, mental illnesses often are feared in ways that other illnesses are not.  Nevertheless, we know that regardless of our illness we remain created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

     No person deserves to be stigmatized because of mental illness.  Those with mental illness are no more violent than other persons are.  Rather, they are much more likely to be victims of violence or preyed on by others.  When stigma happens within the church, mentally ill persons and their families are further victimized.  Persons with mental illness and their families have a right to be treated with respect on the basis of common humanity and accurate information.  They also have a right and responsibility to obtain care appropriate to their condition.  The United Methodist Church pledges to foster policies that promote compassion, advocate for access to care and eradicate

stigma within the church and in communities. (p.130)

IV. THE ECONOMIC COMMUNITY

¶163.

C) Work and Leisure—Every person has a right to a job at a living wage. (p.132)

M) Public Indebtedness—We ask that public officials, when making financial adjustments, remember first and foremost obligations that promote the well-being of society such as the funding of schools and other opportunities that foster the growth of the individual, as well as agencies that care for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the disenfranchised. (p. 137)

¶ 164. V. THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY

E) Education—We believe that every person has the right to education.  We also believe that he responsibility for education of the young rests with the family, faith communities, and the government.  In society, this function can best be fulfilled through public policies that ensure access for all persons to free public elementary and secondary schools and to post-secondary schools of their choice.  (p.137)

H) Criminal and Restorative Justice—We reject all careless, callous, or discriminatory enforcement of law that withholds justice from persons with disabilities and all those who do not speak the language of the country in which they are in contact with the law enforcement.  We further support measures designed to remove the social conditions that lead to crime, and we encourage continued positive interaction between law enforcement officials and members of the community at large. (p. 141)

¶ 166. VII. OUR SOCIAL CREED

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to the improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons. (p. 144)

Part VI ORGANIZATION AND ADMINISTRATION

Chapter One THE LOCAL CHURCH

Section V. Church Membership

¶ 214 Eligibility—All people may attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection (¶ 4).  In the case of persons whose disabilities prevent them from reciting the vows, their legal guardian[s], themselves members in full covenant relationship with God and the Church, the community of faith, may recite the appropriate vows on their behalf. (p. 155)

THE MEANING OF MEMBERSHIP

¶ 216

1. a) Baptized infants and children are to be instructed and nurtured in the meaning of the faith, the rights and responsibilities of their baptism, and spiritual and moral formation using materials approved by The United Methodist Church .

2. a) Formation in the baptismal covenant and in the call to ministry in daily life is a lifelong process and is carried on through all the activities that have educational value.

3. Preparation for the experience of profession of faith and confirmation shall be provided for all people, including adults. (p. 157)

¶ 219. Mutual responsibility—Faithful discipleship includes the obligation to participate in the corporate life of the congregation with fellow members of the body of Christ. A member is bound in sacred covenant to shoulder the burdens, share the risks, and celebrate the joys of fellow members. (p. 158)

¶ 220. The Call to Ministry of All the Baptized—All members of Christ’s universal church are called to share in the ministry which is committed to the whole church of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, each member of The United Methodist Church is to be a servant of Christ on mission in the local and worldwide community. This servanthood is performed in family life, daily work, recreation and social activities, responsible citizenship, the stewardship of property and accumulated resources, the issues of corporate life, and all attitudes toward other persons.  (p.158)

¶ 226 Care of Children and Youth

2.  e) The pastor shall, at the time of administering the sacrament of baptism and at other appropriate times, admonish members of the congregation of their responsibility for the Christian nurture of the child. (p. 161)

4. It shall be the duty of the pastor, the parent(s), guardian(s), sponsor(s), or godparent(s), the officers and teachers of the church school, the local church scouting coordinator, and all members of the congregation to provide training for the children of the Church throughout their childhood that will lead to a person commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to an understanding of the Christian faith and the meaning of baptism.  …

When youth so prepared shall give evidence of their own Christian faith, and understanding of the meaning and practice of membership, they may be received as professing members.  (p. 162)

Section VI. Organization and Administration

¶ 243. Primary Tasks—

In carrying out its primary task, it shall be organized so that adequate provision is made for these basic responsibilities: (1) planning and implementing a program of nurture, outreach, and witness for persons and families within and without the congregation;

(6) seeking inclusiveness in all aspects of its life. (p. 172)

¶ 244. Organization

3. Members of the church council or alternative structure shall be persons of genuine Christian character who love the church, are morally disciplined, are committed to the mandate of inclusiveness in the life of the church, are loyal to the ethical standards of The United Methodist Church set forth in the Social Principles, and are competent to administer its affairs. (p. 173)

THE CHARGE CONFERENCE

¶ 247. Powers and Duties

6. Each charge is encouraged to be inclusive in the make-up of the council so that all segments of the congregation are represented. (p.176)

Part VI Organization and Administration

Chapter One THE LOCAL CHURCH

¶253. Age-Level, Family, and Specialized-Ministries Coordinators-…..

Where needs for specialized areas of ministry arise (for example, single adults or persons with addictions, mental illness, or disabilities), coordinators of these areas of ministry may be elected.   (p. 164)

¶ 254. Other Ministry Group Coordinators-

In order to fulfill the mission of the local church, the charge conference may elect annually a coordinator or ministry group chairperson for any or all of these areas:…advocacy for persons with special needs…  (p. 185)

¶ 255. Church-School Superintendent and Small-Group Coordinator—

The charge conference may elect: (1) a superintendent of the church school or Sunday school, and/ or a coordinator of small-group ministries, who shall be responsible for helping to organize and supervise the total program for nurturing faith, building Christian community, and equipping people of all ages for ministry in daily life through small groups in the church; (2) a health and welfare ministries coordinator, who shall assist the local church and its people in being involved in direct service to persons in need;  (p. 185)

¶ 256. Program Ministries

1. The Church School and Small-Group Ministries–In each local church there shall be a variety of small-group ministries, including the church school, for supporting the formation of Christian disciples focused on the transformation of the world. . . In addition, small groups, including the church school, shall provide people with opportunities for practicing skills for faithful discipleship, including but not limited to worship, faith sharing, the creation of new faith communities, spiritual discernment, Bible study, theological reflection, prayer, community building, service with the poor and marginalized, and advocacy for peace and justice. Local churches or charges are encouraged to develop a policy to provide for the safety of the infants, children, and youth entrusted to their care. (p. 185)

1. cMission and Ministry Groups—Christian discipleship is patterned after the servanthood of Jesus, who cared for the sick, fed the hungry, and befriended the outcast. People may participate in small groups in order to serve the needs of the poor and marginalized, advocate for social justice, and demonstrate their faith in all their relationships and whatever setting they find themselves in. 
1. dSupport Groups—Where needed, the local church may organize small groups to support particular needs of congregation and community members, including but not limited to care and prayer groups, divorce recovery, grief recovery, parenting groups, and support for people who are suffering from chronic illness, including persons with mental illnesses and their families. (p. 187)

2. Children’s Ministries

a) The coordinator will vision, plan and advocate for children, particularly in the areas of faith development, safety, and discipleship.  The coordinator will work with other leaders in the congregation to assure that policies and procedures are in place to help keep all children and the adults who care for and work with them safe.  These policies and procedures include such things as background checks, having at least two adults per group, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first-aid training. (p.189)

ADMINISTRATIVE COMMITTEES

¶ 258.

2. There shall be elected annually by the charge conference in each local church a committee on pastor-parish relations who are professing members of the local church or charge…

g) The duties of the committee shall include the following:

(1) To encourage, strengthen, nurture, support, and respect the pastor(s) and staff and their family(s).

(3) To confer with and counsel the pastor(s) and staff on the matters pertaining to the effectiveness of ministry; relationships with the congregation; the pastor’s health and self-care, conditions that may impede the effectiveness of ministry; and to interpret the nature and function of the ministry. (p. 198)

(16) To consult on matters pertaining to … housing (which may be a church-owned parsonage or housing allowance in lieu of parsonage if in compliance with the policy of the annual conference), and other practical matters affecting the work and families of the pastor and staff, and to make annual recommendations regarding such matters to the church council…

(17) To encourage, monitor, and support clergy and staff pursuit of health and wholeness. (p. 201)

¶ 262. The special Sundays in the Unite Methodist Church intended to illustrate the nature and calling of the church are celebrated annually. The special Sundays are placed on the calendar to make clear the calling of the church as the people of God, and to give persons the opportunity to contribute offerings to special programs.

            …Five churchwide Sundays-Christian Education, Golden Cross, Disability Awareness, Rural Life, and Volunteers in Mission Awareness provide opportunities for annual conference offerings. (p.207)

¶  265. Approved Sundays for Annual Conference Observation-

4. Disability Awareness Sunday…shall be observed annually on a date to be determined by the annual conference.  Disability Awareness Sunday calls the church to celebrate the gifts and graces of persons with disabilities and calls the Church and society to full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the community.  If the annual conference so directs, an offering may be received and the funds used by the annual conference to promote the creation of architectural and attitudinal accessibility in local churches.  The observance of Disability Awareness Sunday shall be under the general supervision of the General Board of Global Ministries.  (p.214)

Chapter Two THE MINISTRY OF THE ORDAINED

¶  324. Qualifications for Election to Provisional Membership

8. Each candidate shall present a satisfactory certificate of good health by a physician on the prescribed form.  Disabilities are not to be construed as unfavorable health factors when a person with disability is capable of meeting the professional standards and is able to render effective service as a provisional member.  (p.247)

¶ 328. The Ministry of a Deacon

From the earliest days of the church, deacons were called and set apart for the ministry of love, justice, and service; of connecting the church with the most needy, neglected, and marginalized among the children of God.  This ministry grows out of the Wesleyan passion for social holiness and ministry among the poor. (p.253)

¶  330. Requirements for Ordination as Deacon and Admission to Full Connection

5. The following questions are guidelines for the preparation of the examination:

c) The Practice of Ministry

            (4) Are you willing to relate yourself in ministry to all persons without regard to race, color, ethnicity, national origin, social status, gender, sexual orientation, age, economic condition, or disabilities? (p.256)

¶  335. Requirements for Admission to Full Connection and Ordination as Elder

(7)…The following questions are guidelines for the preparation of the examination:

c) The Practice of Ministry

            (4) Provide evidence of your willingness to relate yourself in ministry with all persons without regard to race, color, ethnicity, national origin, social status, gender, sexual orientation, age, economic condition, or disability. (p. 269)

¶ 353. Provision for Change in Conference Relationship

Clergy appointed to a general agency of the United Methodist Church shall be covered by the policies of the agency in relation to family leave, maternity or paternity leave, and incapacity leave.

¶ 356. Medical Leave Due to Medical and Disabling Conditions that Prevent Performance of Ministerial Duties—1. When clergy who are members of an annual conference (¶ 370) are unable to perform their ministerial duties because of medical or disabling conditions…they may be granted annual medical leave without losing their relationship to the annual conference…

5. Any person eligible to receive an appointment from a bishop and able to perform ministerial duties may not be placed on involuntary medical leave solely because of a medical condition. All reasonable accommodations should be made to enable qualified clergy with disabilities to serve in ministry settings compatible with their gifts and graces. (See 2008 Book of Resolutions, 3002). (p.302)

Chapter Three THE SUPERINTENDENCY

¶ 410.

4. Medical Leave—Bishops who by reason of impaired health are temporarily unable to perform full work may be may be granted a leave of absence for a justifiable reason for not more than six months in consultation with the area committee on episcopacy and with the approval of the College of Bishops, the jurisdictional or central conference committee on episcopacy, and the executive committee of the Council of Bishops. … If after the six-month time period is over the bishop is still unable to perform full work due to impaired health, disability benefits through the benefit program provided to the bishop should be applied for.  (p.334)

¶ 417. Selection and Assignment

In the selection of superintendents, bishops shall give due consideration to the inclusiveness of The United Methodist Church with respect to sex, race, national origin, physical challenge, and age, except for the provisions of mandatory retirement.  (p.342)

¶ 419.

1. The Church expects, as part of the superintendent ministry, that the superintendent will be the chief missional strategist of the district and be committed to living out the values of the Church, including a mandate of inclusiveness, modeling, teaching, and promoting generous Christian giving, cooperating to develop Christian unity, and ecumenical, multicultural, multiracial, and cooperative ministries; and working with per across the Church to develop programs of ministry and mission that extend the witness of Christ into the world.

6. In the framework of their supervisory responsibilities, superintendents shall offer support, care, and counsel to clergy concerning matters affecting their effective ministry.  (p. 343)

¶ 425. Responsibility

1. Appointments are to be made with consideration of the gifts and evidence of God’s grace of those appointed, to the needs, characteristics, and opportunities of congregations and institutions, and with faithfulness to the commitment to an open itineracy.  Open itineracy means appointments are made without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age, except for the provision s of mandatory retirement.

     Annual conferences shall, in their training of staff-parish relations committees, emphasize the open nature of itineracy and prepare congregations to receive the gifts and graces of appointed clergy without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age.  The concept of itineracy is important, and sensitive attention should be given in appointed clergy with physical challenges to responsibilities and duties that meet their gifts and graces. (p.347)

 ¶ 427. Criteria

2. Pastors—The district superintendent annually shall develop with the pastor profiles reflecting the pastor’s gifts, evidence of God’s grace, professional experience and expectations, and also the needs and concerns of the pastor’s spouse and family.  These profiles shall be reviewed annually and updated when appropriate to include:

e) Family situation  (p. 349)

¶ 428. Process of Appointment-Making—The process used in appointment-making shall include:

2. The bishop and the cabinet shall consider all requests for change of appointment in light of the profile developed for each charge and the gifts and evidence of God’s grace, professional experience, and family needs of the pastor. 

5. The process used in making the new appointment shall include:

a) The district superintendent shall confer with the pastor about a specific possible appointment (charge) and its congruence with gifts, evidence of God’s grace, professional experience and expectations, and the family needs of the pastor, identified in consultation with the pastor (¶ 427.2). (p. 350)

¶ 431.4 The United Methodist representatives to ecumenical organizations in the following paragraphs shall be selected by the Council of Bishops.  Such representatives shall be inclusive in terms of gender, race and ethnicity, age, persons with disabilities, and region. (p.353)

Chapter Four THE CONFERENCES

Section I.  The General Conference

¶ 502. Composition—1. The voting membership of the General Conference shall consist of:

a) …Annual conferences are urged to seek inclusiveness (as defined in ¶ 140) in the election of delegates. (p. 363)

¶ 511. Commission on the General Conference

4. Responsibilities

d) The commission shall take necessary measures to assure full participation of all General Conference delegates including but not limited to providing accommodation for languages and physical challenges of the delegates… (p. 3670

¶ 529. Agencies—The jurisdictional conference shall have the authority to appoint or elect such agencies as the General Conference may direct or as it deems necessary for its work.  …Special attention shall be given to the inclusion of clergywomen, youth, young adults, older adults, single adults, persons with disabilities, persons from churches of small membership, and racial and ethnic persons. (See ¶ 710.9 a-c).  (p. 377)

Chapter Four THE CONFERENCES

¶  603. The Annual Conference- Organization

4. The annual conference sessions shall be held in places that are accessible to people with disabilities. (p.412)

¶ 605. Business of the Conference-

.3 Members of all standing committees, boards, and commissions of the annual conference shall be selected in such manner as the Bok of Disciplie may specifically require or as the annual conference mby determine. Attention shall be given to inclusiveness (¶¶124, 140)  (p.415)

¶  610. Conference Agencies

4. Whenever possible, meetings scheduled by the annual conference and its districts, boards, or committees should be held in places that are accessible to persons with disabilities even if this means scheduling meetings outside church-related facilities.

5. In the nomination and election of the membership on councils, boards, and agencies of the annual conference, special attention shall be given to the inclusion of clergywomen, youth, young adults, older adults, persons from churches with small memberships, people with disabilities, and racial and ethnic persons, in keeping with policies for general Church agencies. (p.423)

CONFERENCE COUNCIL ON FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION—

¶ 613. Responsibilities—

 7. To advise local churches in making their church buildings, facilities, and programs accessible.

(p. 428)

¶  630. Conference Board of Discipleship

1. General Responsibilities

c) To foster and promote camping experiences for persons with disabilities, including camps specifically designed for persons with disabilities, and the participation of persons with disabilities, when feasible, in camps sponsored by the district and conference.

d) To provide training for clergy and laity in ministries with persons with disabilities, including the areas of the Sunday school, camps and retreats, and faith development.  (p.447)

¶  633. Conference Board of Global Ministries

4. b) Responsibilities

(7) To identify with all who are alienated and dispossessed and to assist them in achieving their full human development-body, mind, and spirit-including encouraging and implementing affirmative action programs.  (p.456)

(19) To develop strategies in response to critical community issues, with special attention to the needs of ethic and language groups, people with disabilities, people in transitional relationships, the working poor, and those living under repressive systems.  (p.457)

(35) To promote an annual Golden Cross offering or other means of giving to be received in every local church on a day or days designated by the annual conference in support of the health and welfare ministries within the annual conference. This offering shall provide financial support to care for sick persons, older persons, children and youh, and people with disabilities.

(36) To make available program and other resources to local churches to help ensure physical accessibility of church buildings. (p. 459)

¶ 635. Conference Board of Ordained Ministry

2. The duties of the annual conference Board of Ordained Ministry shall be:

a) To assume the primary responsibility for the enlistment and recruitment of ministerial leadership for our churches and other ministry settings by working in consultation with the cabinet and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to study and interpret the ordained, liscensed, certified, and assigned ministerial leadership needs and resources of the annual conference, with due regard to the inclusive nature of the Church.  (p. 473)

l) to interview applicants and make recommendation concerning … (6) medical leave…  (p. 474)

¶ 637. Conference Committee on Episcopacy

1…Special attention shall be given to the inclusion of racial and ethnic persons, youth, young adults, older adults, and people with disabilities.  (p. 479)

3. The functions of the conference committee on episcopacy shall be:

f) To engage in annual consultation and appraisal of the balance of the bishop’s relationship and responsibilities to the area and annual conferences, the jurisdiction, general Church boards and agencies, and other areas of specialized ministry, including, at all levels, concern for the inclusiveness of the church and its ministry with respect to sex, race, and national origin, and understanding and implementation of the consultation process in appoint-making. (p. 480)

¶ 643. There shall be in each annual conference including those in central conferences a conference commission on religion and race or other structure to provide for these functions and maintain the connectional relationships.

2. …Selection of commission members shall ensure adequate representation of women, youth, young adults, older adults, and persons with disabilities.

3. d) Reviewing and making appropriate recommendations for total inclusiveness and equity within the conference staff and on all of the conference boards, agencies, commissions, and committees. Reports will be made yearly to the annual conference.  (p.489)

¶  651. Conference Council on older-adult ministries

2. Membership-

…Members should represent the diversity of older adults in the general population, including retired persons, working persons, persons with disabilities, persons with chronic illnesses, single persons, widowed persons, married persons, persons living in a variety of residential settings, and persons with a wide variety of family situations.

3. Responsibilities – a) To initiate and support ministries, plans, activities, and projects that are of particular interest to older adults, including retired persons, working persons, persons with disabling conditions, persons with chronic illnesses, single persons, widowed persons, married persons, persons living in a variety of residential settings, and persons with a wide variety of family situations. (p.501)

¶ 652. Each annual conference will establish a procedure by which it will manage clergy medical leave. …The joint committee shall be encouraged to include in its composition a person with a disability, preferably someone under appointment. (p.502)

     The duties of the annual conference, with respect to clergy medical leave, or the joint committee on clergy medical leave, or its equivalent, shall be:

a) To study issues related to clergy medical leave in the annual conference.

b) To provide for a continuing personal ministry to any clergy on medical leave of the conference and to aid them in maintaining fellowship with the members of the conference.

c) To provide advice and support to and, where appropriate advocacy for, clergy on medical leave in (i) applying for and securing disability benefits from the Comprehensive Protection Plan and government programs, (ii) exploring possible sources of interim financial assistance before disability benefits can be obtained, (iii) establishing rehabilitation and return-to-service programs, and (iv) assessing the need for and providing reasonable accommodations.

d) To make recommendations to the Board of Ordained Ministry, the conference board of pensions, and the cabinet on matters related to clergy medical leave, including steps for the prevention of the need for medical leave, the process of granting medical leave, benefits, grants or other assistance, and programs of rehabilitation.

e) To cooperate with and give assistance to the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits in its administration of the Clergy Retirement Security Program, the Comprehensive Protection Plan and other benefit plans for clergy on medical leave, and to the extent applicable assist with the disability benefits and other benefits provided under those plans. (p. 503)

¶  653. There shall be in each annual conference a committee on disability concerns or other structure to provide for the functions of this ministry and maintain the connectional relationships.

1.   The basic membership of the committee shall be nominated and elected by the established procedures of the respective annual conference… Membership shall include persons with physical disabilities and persons with mental disabilities.  (p.503)

  1. It shall be the responsibility of this committee:
  2. To be aware of, and advocate for, the role of persons with disabilities in ministry, including ordained and diaconal ministries and local church and annual conference leadership positions.
  3. To advocate for and help develop programs within the annual conference that meet the needs of persons with disabilities.
  4. To be informed about current ministries within the annual conference that are related to persons with disabilities.
  5. To develop ways to sensitize persons in leadership positions on issues that affect persons with disabilities and therefore the entire Church.
  6. To foster cooperation among ministries with the annual conference that focus on specific disabilities (deaf, deafened, hard of hearing, developmental disabilities, mental retardation, mental illness, visual impairment, physical disabilities, etc.)
  7. To be a resource for local churches who are attempting to develop ministries that are attitudinally and architecturally accessible.
  8. To promote the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the life of the local church and the annual conference.
  9. To participate in jurisdictional accessibility associations in the sharing of knowledge and resources.  (p,504)

Section X.  The District Conference

¶659.1 The district conference shall be composed of members as determined and specified by the annual conference, giving attention to inclusiveness (see ¶¶ 124, 140). (p. 507)

¶ 667. Each district of an annual conference may organize a district board of laity or alternative structure.

2. The membership of the board shall include…Special attention shall be given to the inclusion of women, men, youth, young adults and older adults, people with disabilities; and racial and ethnic group persons. (p. 513)

¶ 669. Committee on District Superintendency-

  1. Membership-This committee shall be composed of eleven members including the district lay leader, and two persons appointed by the district superintendent. It is recommended that the remaining members of the committee consist of two lay-women, two laymen, two clergy and two at-large members, all of whom should be selected with special attention to the representation of racial and ethnic persons, youth…, young adults, older adults, and people with disabilities.  (p. 513)

Chapter Five ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER

¶ 705General Agency and Connectional Table Membership—

  1. Nominations by Conferences—

b)   Each annual and missionary conference in the United States shall nominate the persons most recently elected as delegates to the General Conference to the jurisdictional pool.  In addition, it may nominate at least fifteen and not more than forty-five persons to the jurisdictional pool, including, where available, at least two racial and ethnic persons from each of the ethnic groups…; and where available at least one and not more than five persons in each of the following seven categories: (1) clergy (including at least one woman), (2) laywomen, (3) laymen, (4) youth, (5) young adults, (6) older adults, and (7) persons with disabilities.  Elected members of general and jurisdictional delegations, and others nominated by their annual conference shall list all of the categories for which they qualify, i.e. nationality, age, gender, ethnic origin, etc. and shall be eligible to be nominated by the jurisdictional nominating committee to a general church body in any one of the categories for which a delegate is qualified.

  • Additional Nominations—In addition to the foregoing provisions, the Division of Ministries with Young People of the General Board of Discipleship shall nominate ten youth and ten young adults to each jurisdictional pool, inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender, size of church, and persons with disabilities. (p.528)
  • Members of the general agencies and the Connectional Table shall be elected using the following provisions:
  • It is recommended that the membership of each of the general agencies seeks to be inclusive based on gender, racial and ethnic persons, age, persons with disabilities, and size of church. (p. 529)

4. General Program Board Membership

b) Jurisdictional Membership—Each jurisdiction shall elect the number of persons listed in the specific legislation for membership on each of the four general program boards. In the jurisdictional nominating process for membership on those boards, special attention shall be give to the inclusion of clergy women, youth, young adults, older adults, people with disabilities, and persons from small membership churches.

e) Additional membership—Additional members shall be elected by each general program board in order to bring into the board persons with special knowledge or background that will aid in the work of the agency, to consider differing theological perspectives, and to perfect the representation of racial and ethnic persons, youth, young adults, older adults, women and men, people with disabilities, and persons from small membership churches.  (p. 530)

¶  716. Nondiscrimination Policies-

  1. It shall be the policy of United Methodist Church that all agencies and institutions …shall: (a) recruit, employ, utilize, recompense, and promote their professional staff and other personnel in a manner consistent with the commitment of The United Methodist Church to women and men of all races and ethnic origins, including persons with disabilities; (b) fulfill their duties and responsibilities in a manner that does not involve segregation or discrimination on the basis of race, color, age, sex, or disability, including HIV status…
  2. All agencies and institutions shall, insofar as reasonably possible, schedule and hold all events, including designated places of lodging and meals for the events, in accessible settings that adequately accommodate persons with disabilities.  They are encouraged to include persons with disabilities in the planning and presentation of events.

If for any reason whatsoever any event is scheduled or held in a facility that does not so conform, all notices of the meeting will include plainly stated advice to that effect, or alternatively may bear a logo consisting of the international symbol for access placed inside a slashed circle.  The term event shall be given a broad interpretation and shall include, by way of example, scheduled conferences, seminars, and other meetings to which persons are invited or called to attend as representatives of the Church or its various institutions and agencies.  (p. 542)

Section IV. General Board of Discipleship

¶  1101. Purpose

2. The board, through all activities, shall lead and assist congregations in becoming inclusive communities of growing Christians, celebrating and communicating to persons of every age, racial and ethnic background, and social condition the redeeming and reconciling love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

¶ 1109. Education Responsibilities and Standards-The board shall…

  1. Formulate and interpret the philosophy of Christian education based on biblical, theological, and educational foundations…as they relate to the church school and related activities; individual or group study; fellowship, education and action groups for children, youth, and adults; related educational programs provided by civic youth-serving agencies; weekday preschool and kindergartens; daycare centers; choirs, dram groups, mission studies; education for leisure; outdoor education; camping; education of persons with developmental disabilities and other of special need; special bible study group; confirmation and church membership training.  (p.601)
  2. Develop educational approaches in a variety of settings that appeal to persons of different ages, lifestyles, learning needs, and theological perspectives. (p. 601) 
  3. Establish guidelines for the organization and administration of the church school, for recording and reporting membership and attendance of the church school, and for the equipment, arrangement, and design for church school buildings and rooms, with particular attention given to the needs of persons with disabilities.

10. Provide assistance and information for groups and organizations with direct toversight for United Methodist-related camping/retreat centers and ministries, to help them with their responsibility to establish standard, policies, and procedures related to physical facilities, program, ad leadership. To the extent possible, all camp/retreat centers shall be accessible to persons with disabilities.  (p. 602)

¶  1116.Ministry of the Laity—

The board shall…

9. Encourage ordained elders to select and train laity to distribute the consecrated Communion elements to sick or homebound persons following a service of Word and Table. (p. 610)

¶ 1120. General Provisions for the Committee on Older Adult Ministries-

  1. Membership- …and no more than three additional members to be selected by the committee for inclusiveness (racial/ethnic, disability, age, gender, laity, clergy, or geographic distribution). (p.616)

Section VII. General Board of Global Ministries

¶ 1314.

5.   Global Health

a) Engaging in, supporting, facilitating, advocating, and partnering with others (including UM organizations and ecumenical, interfaith, and secular organizations, as appropriate) to provide global and local health ministries that, in the spirit of Jesus Christ, foster abundant health for all, including holistic physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, regardless of religion, nationality, culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability.

d) Encouraging awareness of the gifts, graces, assets, and needs of persons with special physical, mental, and other developmental needs, fostering a culture of inclusivity within the United Methodist Church as a place where people with special needs will be embraced in all aspects of worship, leadership, and ministry. (p. 637)

¶  1405. General Board of Higher Education and Ministry: Objectives

            4. To ensure that the board’s programs and policies address the needs and concerns for ministry with racial and ethnic persons and people with disabilities. (p. 641)

            8. To promote and give direction to work among racial and ethnic groups, and people with disabilities for enlistment, training, and placement of persons in the professional Church-related ministries.  (p. 642)

            25. To provide professional ministerial courses of study for orderly entrance into ordained ministry.  In providing these courses of study, consideration shall be given to languages other than English and to persons with disabilities.

            27. To provide such services as will create a climate of acceptance and empowerment for women, racial and ethnic persons, and people with disabilities in higher education and professional Church-related ministries, and to be alert to the necessity of advocacy in behalf of these professional ministries in questions of equity and justice. (p. 643)

¶  1410.: 4. Principle objectives of the division are:  

f) To foster within educational institutions the highest educational standards, effective programs of Church relationships, the soundest business practices, the finest ethical and moral principles, and especially Christian ideals: to help people experience release from enslavement, fear, and violence; to help people live in love; and to raise awareness of and sensitivity to persons with special needs.  (p. 647)

¶  1412. 3. Division of Higher Education: The division shall, as it seeks to interpret higher education:

a) Promote the Church’s mission in higher education, including the special missions and education ministries to ethnic groups, people with disabilities, and other peoples disadvantaged by world conditions. (p. 651)

Division of Ordained Ministry

¶  1421. Duties and Responsibilities of the Division of Ordained Ministry

4. Support/Accountability

            g) Give attention to the specific needs of clergy with disabilities.  (p. 662)

Section IX. General Board of Pension and Health Benefits

¶ 1502. 1. Membership—…

b) The aforementioned electing bodies shall give consideration during the nominating process to equitable representation on the basis of race, color, age, gender, and people with disabilities.         (p. 668)

¶ 1504. Authorizations—…

Subject to the provisions of ¶ 2506 herein the general board shall perform its duties and responsibilities in the spirit of the Church’s mandate for inclusiveness and racial and social justice. (p. 672)

21. To support the health as wholeness of the clergy and lay workers of the denomination, and thereby mitigate the frequency and duration of disability and incapacity, by collecting, analyzing, and disseminating the group health care plan data and health and wellness program information…

(p. 676)

Section XII. General Commission on Archives and History

¶ 1703: Purpose—

4. The commission shall promote collection and dissemination of information and materials concerning the historic witness made individually and collectively by women, racial and ethnic people, and other constituencies not covered extensively in traditional historical documentation in the worldwide life of The United Methodist Church and its antecedents. (p. 697)

¶1704. Membership

2. …It is recommended that careful consideration be given to people with special interests and skill in the history of the United Methodism and that careful consideration be given to inclusiveness, … (p. 697)

Section XII. General Commission on Communication

¶ 1806. Responsibilities-

            15. It shall provide content for clergy and laity in local congregations a variety of accessible formats to promote understanding and appreciation of the global, connectional Church, to develop support for and encourage participation in initiatives, ministries, and mission of the general Church and its agencies, and to provide resources and information to assist local congregations and their leaders in carrying out their ministries.  (p. 708)

            17. It shall represent United Methodist interests in new technological developments in the field of communication, including research, the evaluation of new devices and methods, and the application of technological developments to the communication services of the Church. (p. 709)

¶ 1807. Membership

f) In order to ensure inclusiveness, composition of the commission shall reflect the major recognized categories of church members (see ¶ 705.3(c).  (p. 710)

Section XIII. United Methodist Women

¶ 1911. United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group-…

seven to ten directors from other agencies of the United Methodist Church including 3 members elected by the General Board of Global Missions and up to 5 members selected by the board of directors of United Methodist Women for diversity of age, experience, cultural background, race, physical ability, and employment status…  (p. 714)

Section XIV. General Commission on the Status and Role of Women

¶ 2104. Membership

b) …The election of additional members shall take into account the need to provide adequate representation of racial, ethnic, and national origin groups; persons with disabilities; persons from the various age categories, and to include persons of special competence, and striving for proportional representation among the jurisdictions.  (p. 724)

Chapter Six CHURCH PROPERTY

Section V. District Property

¶  2519. Authorization and Establishment of District Boards of Church Location and Building-There shall be in each district of an annual conference a district board of church location and building.  The board shall consist of the district superintendent and a minimum of six and maximum of nine additional persons. … It is recommended that the membership include one-third clergy, one-third laymen, and one-third laywomen, and where possible, should be inclusive of gender, race, age, and persons with disabilities.  (p. 747)

¶  2521. Standards for the Approval of Building Proposals

1. The District Board of Church Location and Bulding shall review the plans of any church in the district which proposes to construct or purchase a new church or educational building or parsonage, or remodeling of such a building if the cost will exceed 25 percent of the value of the building.  … Building plans shall provide for equal access to persons with disabilities as per ¶2544.4b(1), (2). (p. 748)

Section VI. Local Church Property

¶  2533. Board of Trustees’ Powers and Limitations-

6. The board of trustees shall conduct or cause to be conducted an annual accessibility audit of their buildings, grounds, and facilities to discover and identify what physical, architectural, and communication barriers exist that impede the full participation of persons with disabilities and shall make plans and determine priorities of the elimination of all such barriers. It is highly encouraged that members of the congregation or from the community who have disabilities, who are family members of persons with disabilities, and who are builders or architects or rehabilitation professionals be involved in conduction the audit.  The Accessibility Audit for churches shall be used in filling out the annual church and/or charge conference reports. (p.757)

¶  2544. Planning and Financing Requirements for Local Church Buildings- If any local church desires to

a) build a new church, a new educational building, or a new parsonage;

b) purchase a church, educational building, or parsonage; or

c) remodel an existing church, an existing educational building or an existing parsonage, where the cost of the remodeling will exceed 25% of the value of the existing structure or require mortgage financing, then the local church shall first establish a study committee to:

(1) analyze the needs of the church and community; …

(4) develop an accessibility plan including chancel areas.

4.b)…In the case of the purchase of a parsonage, the board of trustees shall either:

  • purchase a parsonage that has on the ground-floor level:
  • one room that can be used as a bedroom by a person with a disability;
  • one fully accessible bathroom; and
  • fully accessible laundry facilities; or
  • purchase a parsonage without the accessible features for persons with disabilities specified above and remodel it within one year’s time, so that it does have those features.

      5. The building committee shall:

c) develop preliminary architectural plans that:

  • comply with local building, fire, and accessibility codes;
  •  provide adequate facilities for parking, entrance, seating, rest rooms, and accessibility for persons with disabilities, but providing for such adequate facilities shall not apply in the case of a minor remodeling project;
  •       (d) provide on the ground-floor level of a newly constructed parsonage:

                  (1) one room that can be used as a bedroom by a persons with a disability;

      (2) a fully accessible bathroom; and

      (3) fully accessible laundry facilities.  (p. 766)

¶ 2550. Board of Trustees Report to the Charge Conference—The board of trustees shall annually make a written report to the charge conference, in which shall be included the following:

10. An evaluation of all church properties, including the chancel area, to ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities; and when applicable, a plan and timeline for the development of accessible church properties.  (p. 773)

Updated 11-10-2018. D. Hills