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Decision No. 611

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April 20 1988
In Re: Petition From the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry for Clarification of Pars. 453 and 2623.1 of the 1988 Discipline and Judicial Council Decision No. 557.

Digest of Case

Par. 453.1 requires the joint review process to be completed before any charges can be filed by the Board of Ordained Ministry with the Committee on Investigation. Under Par. 2623.1 the district superintendent is empowered to convene the Committee on Investigation following notification that charges have been forwarded to the Committee on Investigation by the Board of Ordained Ministry. The district superintendent may not independently forward charges to the Committee on Investigation. Judicial Council Decision 557 is reaffirmed.

Statement of Facts

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry asks for clarification of certain portions of the 1988 Discipline: In light of new disciplinary provision in Paragraph 2623.1 clarification is petitioned as to (1) whether the District Superintendent can forward charges to the Committee on Investigation since all charges must be signed and forwarded by the Board chairperson, and (2) whether the provisions of Paragraph 453.1(d) and 1(f) require that the joint review process be followed prior to the Board chairperson signing and forwarding all charges. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615. ANALYSIS In Dec. 557 we characterized the provision of Par. 455.1 (Par. 453 in the 1988 Discipline) as providing for a "less formal process of negotiation, reconciliation and resolution which would result in a trial only as a last resort, when all other efforts had failed." We also said Par. 455 (now Par. 453) ". . . gives attention to problems of performance as well as character ... [which] may grow out of limited gifts, a matter of ineffectiveness rather than immorality." Par. 2623.(b) on the other hand "directs a district superintendent to convene the Committee on Investigation within 60 days of receiving an accusation against a minister, citing one of the offenses in Par. 2621, thus beginning the process which may lead directly to trial." While the distinction between grievances growing out of limited gifts and ineffectiveness and the offenses in Par. 2621 continues in the 1988 Discipline, there are some procedural changes. The Discipline now provides that charges can be filed with the Committee on Investigation by the Board of Ordained Ministry (see Par. 453.1(d) and(f)) only after the joint review process. Compare with Par. 455.1(d) and (f) of the 1984 Discipline. Once the charges have been referred by the Board of Ordained Ministry, the district superintendent must also be notified and within 60 days of receiving the charges the district superintendent must convene the Committee on Investigation. Par. 2623.3(b). The district superintendent has no authority to forward charges to the Committee on Investigation; this must be done by the Board of Ordained Ministry. Par. 2623.1(a) provides as follows: All charges shall be submitted in writing and signed by the chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry, and a copy sent to the person charged, the Cabinet, or immediate family members of any of the above. The power of the district superintendent is limited to convening the Committee on Investigation within 60 days after the district superintendent is notified by the Board of Ordained Ministry that charges have been filed. Par. 2623.3(b). In addition we address the question as to whether Pars. 453 and 2623.1 are consistent with our previous decision No. 557. In that decision we stated: Neither Par. 455 nor Par. 2623.3(b) is assured of precedence. The district superintendent who first receives the grievance or accusation may determine which process shall be initiated, depending on the nature of the grievance or accusation and the surrounding circumstances. Moreover. Par. 453.1(a) of the 1988 Discipline makes no basic change in the content of Par. 455.1(a) of the 1984 Discipline and both contain this provision: In the course of the ordinary fulfillment of the superintending role, the bishop or district superintendent may receive or initiate grievances about the performance or character [of an ordained minister. Par. 453.1(a)] [of a minister. Par. 455.1(a)]. The new disciplinary provision in Par. 2623.1 is a clarification of Par. 2623.3(h) and provides that the district superintendent may not independently forward charges to the Committee on Investigation. With this exception we reaffirm the major thrust of Decision 557 which provided for discretion on the part of the district superintendent depending on the nature of the grievance or accusation and the surrounding circumstances.

Decision

The provisions of Par. 453.1(d) and (f) require the joint review process be followed prior to the chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry signing and forwarding the charges to the Committee on Investigation. The district superintendent has no authority independently to forward charges to the Committee on Investigation. Upon notification by the chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry that charges have been submitted, the district superintendent must, within 60 days, convene the Committee on Investigation. Judicial Council Decision No. 557 is reaffirmed. Concurring Opinion We agree with Decision 611, but would further qualify the reaffirmation of Decision 557 by noting that 557 was rendered moot and irrelevant in part by the 1988 General Conference. Decision 557, requested to determine whether Par. 455.1 or Par. 2623.3(b) of the 1984 Discipline took precedence, recognized the flexibility and discretion permitted a district superintendent who received a complaint or accusation against an ordained minister. One option was to forward an accusation directly to the Committee on Investigation without involving the Board of Ordained Ministry or the Joint Review Committee. This option is no longer open, as Decision 611 points out. Decision 557 was an accurate and helpful clarification of perceived ambiguities in the 1984 Discipline, and is reaffirmed as such. The 1988 General Conference removed certain of those ambiguities by requiring that any complaints which reach the Committee on Investigation must have gone through the joint review process. Wayne Coffin Albert W. Sweazy DECISION NO. 611 Concurring Opinion I am constrained to write this concurring opinion because of the one written by my colleagues, above. I do not agree that Decision No. 557 has been rendered moot and that was not the finding of the Judicial Council. The only change really made by the 1988 General Conference is found in the last paragraph of the analysis of Decision No. 611. The new Discipline provides that the district superintendent may not independently forward charges (emphasis supplied) to the Committee on Investigation. This is the only change. It does not apply to grievances, accusations, or other forms of complaints. Tom Matheny

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