Some issues associated with the termination of ministers are addressed in other sections. These include severance agreements, Section 7-22.1, infra. reference letters, Section 7-24, infra. and arbitration. Section 7-27, infra.
Ministers may face termination in two ways. First, their employment with a local church may be terminated; and second, their ministerial credentials may be terminated by the church or denomination that issued them. A number of ministers have challenged their termination in court, usually on the basis of one or more of the following grounds:
- no act specified as a ground for dismissal in the employment contract or in church or denominational governing documents occurred
- the church or denomination failed to follow the procedure prescribed in its governing documents
- violation of a civil or property right (including civil rights protected by a state or federal nondiscrimination law)
- breach of the employment contract
- emotional distress
- fraud or collusion
Most courts have refused to review such claims, although some courts have agreed to do so in limited circumstances. Both views are summarized below.