The United Methodist Association of Ministers With Disabilities

picture of United Methodist Book of DisciplineThe Discipline, the book of procedure and legislation of the United Methodist Church, has a number of statements about disability. The excerpts below are those that deal specifically with ordained ministry, including incapacity leave. Excerpts that deal with general operations of the church will be found at here at the website of the Committee on Disability Ministries of The United Methodist Church. If you know of other statements that should be included, please use the Contact Us form and we will gladly include them.

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.


¶ 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.

¶ 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) Provide evidence of your willingness 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 disability.

¶ 334. Ministry, Authority, and Responsibilities of an Elder in Full Connection
5. Clergy who are retired, on incapacity leave, or on sabbatical leave may at their own initiative apply to the conference Board of Ordained Ministry for affiliate membership in the annual conference where they reside.

¶ 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 to to race, color, ethnicity, national origin, social status, gender, sexual orientation, age, economic condition, or disabilities.

¶ 337. Appointments to Various Ministries. General Provisions
1. All elders in full connection who are in good standing in an annual conference shall be continued under appointment by the bishop unless they are granted a sabbatical leave, an incapacity leave (¶ 357), family, a leave of absence, retirement, or have failed to meet the requirements for continued eligibility . . . .

¶ 357. Incapacity Leave Resulting from Health Matters and Disabling Conditions.
1. When clergy who are members of an annual conference are unable to perform their ministerial work because of incapacity due to health matters and disabling conditions, upon recommendations of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the conference board of pensions, . . . they may be granted annual incapacity leave without losing their relationship to the annual conference; provided, however, that such leave may be granted or renewed upon reasonable and appropriate investigation of the case by the joint committee on incapacity of the annual conference . . . . This relationship may be initiated by the clergy member or cabinet with or without the consent of the clergy member through the Board of Ordained Ministry. When incapacity leave is given without the clergy member's consent, reasonable accommodation shall be offered whenever possible. . . .
2. When clergy who are members of an annual conference are unable to perform their ministerial work between sessions of the annual conference on account of health matters and disabling conditions, with the approval of a majority of the district superintendents . . . . an incapacity leave may be granted by the bishop for the remainder of the conference year . . . .
3. When clergy members on incapacity leave provide medical evidence that they have recovered sufficiently to resume ministerial work, or are able to return through reasonable accommodation, they may receive an appointment . . . .
4. A person under consideration for incapacity leave shall have the right to appear before the joint committee on incapacity or to designate someone to meet with the committee on his or her behalf.

¶ 407. Vacancy in the Office of Bishop.
A vacancy in the office of bishop may occur due to death, retirement, resignation, judicial procedure, leave of absence, or incapacity. [Describes procedure to fill such vacancy].

¶ 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.

¶ 430. Appointment-Making Responsibility
Open itineracy means appointments are made without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status or age, except for the provisions of mandatory retirement. Annual conferences shall, in their training of staff-parish relations committees, emphasize the open nature of itinerancy 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 appointing clergy with physical challenges to responsibilities and duties that meet their gifts and graces.

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

    k) To interview applicants and make recommendations concerning: . . . . (6) incapacity leave

¶ 652. [Annual Conference Committee on Incapacity]
Each annual conference shall establish a procedure by which it will manage incapacity of clergy. The annual conference may establish a joint committee on incapacity. . . . The joint committee shall be encouraged to include in its composition a person with a disability, preferably someone under appointment. . . . If the annual conference does not establish a joint committee, the annual conference's established policy and process for managing incapacity of clergy nonetheless should involve the Board of Ordained Ministry, the conference board of pensions and representation from the cabinet.
The duties of the annual conference, with respect to incapacity, or the joint committee on incapacity, or its equivalent, shall be:

    a) To study the problems of incapacity of clergy in the annual conference.
    b) To provide for a continuing personal ministry to any disabled clergy 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 incapacity 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, and
      (iii) establishing rehabilitation and return-to-service programs.

    d) To make recommendations to the Board of Ordained Ministry, the conference board of pensions, and the cabinet on matters related to incapacity, including steps for its prevention, incapacity leave, benefits, grants or other assistance, and programs of rehabilitation.
    e) To cooperate with and give assistance to the Genera 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 incapacity, and to the extent applicable assist with the disability benefits and other benefits provided under those plans.

¶ 1421. Duties and Responsibilities of the Division of Ordained Ministry
4. Support/Accountability

    g) Give attention to the specific needs of clergy with disabilities.
  • 15. It shall provide content for clergy and laity in local congregations in a variety of accessible formats to promote understanding and appreciate of the global, connectional church, to develop support for and encourage participation in initiatives, ministries, and missions 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.
  • 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.


    From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church—2012. Copyright ©2012 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.