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Decision No. 628

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October 26 1989
In Re: Appeal of Dean T. Tony

Digest of Case

Par. 2625.1(b) of the 1984 Discipline requires any appellate court to provide a statement of the grounds of its action in changing the penalty of a Trial Court. The Southeastern Jurisdiction Court of Appeals did not provide such explanation. The weight of the evidence sustains the verdict of the trial court and there were no errors of law as to vitiate the verdict and/or the penalty. Therefore, the Trial Court penalty removing Dean Tony from the office of ministry of The United Methodist Church is reinstated .

Statement of Facts

A long and involved process continuing over several years culminated in the forwarding of complaints against Dean T. Tony to the Virginia Conference Committee on Investigation in 1988. The Committee met on May 16, 1988, and found probable cause that Mr. Tony had failed to perform the work of ministry and had undermined the ministry of another pastor. Mr. Tony requested a trial under  2621.1 of the 1984 Discipline. The trial was held August 11 and 12, 1988. The charge of undermining the ministry of another pastor was dropped with the consent of both parties. After hearing witness and arguments for both sides, the Trial Court found Mr. Tony guilty of failure to perform the work of the ministry and set the penalty as removal from the office of ministry of The United Methodist Church. Mr. Tony exercised his right of appeal to the Southeastern Jurisdiction Court of Appeals. The appeal was heard on March 16 and 17, 1989, and the Court of Appeals sustained the verdict but modified the penalty to suspension for two years. Mr. Tony exercised his further right of appeal to the Judicial Council. In June of 1989 a civil suit against three persons involved with the church trial was filed by Mr. Tony in Bedford County, Virginia. The Rev. Pat B. Tony appeared for Dean T. Tony and the Rev. Ray Chamberlain appeared for the Virginia Conference at Oral Hearings on October 26, 1989, in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Rev. Ted Walter from the Southeastern Jurisdiction Court of Appeals was present to answer questions. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under  2625 of the 1984 Discipline. ANALYSIS The Virginia Annual Conference has moved to dismiss this appeal to the Judicial Council under  2625.1(c) of the 1984 Discipline which states that a ministerial member of an Annual Conference forfeits the right to further appeal "by resorting to suit in the civil courts against the complainant or any of the parties connected with the ecclesiastical court in which the appellant was tried." There is a lack of clarity in the record as to the reasons for the civil court suit and the time limitations for filing such a suit in the State of Virginia. Nevertheless, the mandate of the Discipline would seem to apply. We need not, however, resolve these jurisdictional uncertainties but instead decide the case on its merits. The motion to dismiss is denied. Par. 2625.1(g) requires the appellate court to determine only if the weight of the evidence sustains the charge and if there were errors of law as to vitiate the verdict and/or penalty. The record has been examined, and it was found that the weight of the evidence sustains the charge. There were no errors as to vitiate the verdict and/or penalty. In the record of the proceedings there is no statement of the grounds on which the Southeastern Jurisdiction Court of Appeals changed the penalty imposed by the Trial Court. Because the weight of the evidence sustains the charge and there were no errors as to vitiate the verdict and/or penalty, the penalty of the Trial Court is reinstated.

Decision

Par. 2625.1(b) of the 1984 Discipline requires any appellate court to provide a statement of the grounds of its action in changing the penalty of a Trial Court. The Southeastern Jurisdiction Court of Appeals did not provide such explanation. The weight of the evidence sustains the verdict of the trial court and there were no errors of law as to vitiate the verdict and/or the penalty. Therefore, the Trial Court penalty removing Dean Tony from the office of ministry of The United Methodist Church is reinstated.

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