Pastor, Church & Law


§ 2.04

Some issues associated with the termination of ministers are addressed in other sections. These include severance agreements,75 Section 7-22.1, infra.reference letters,76 Section 7-24, infra.and arbitration.77 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:

  1. no act specified as a ground for dismissal in the employment contract or in church or denominational governing documents occurred
  2. the church or denomination failed to follow the procedure prescribed in its governing documents
  3. violation of a civil or property right (including civil rights protected by a state or federal nondiscrimination law)
  4. breach of the employment contract
  5. emotional distress
  6. defamation
  7. fraud or collusion
  8. Most courts have refused to review such claims, although some courts have agreed to do so in limited circumstances. Both views are summarized below.

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