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Decision No. 632

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October 26 1989
In Re: The Difference Between Involuntary Leave of Absence (448.1) and Suspension [2624.1(h)], and on the Constitutionality of 448.1.

Digest of Case

Par. 448.1 refers to a relationship which an ordained minister holds to the Annual Conference. Par. 2624.1(h) refers to one of the sanctions which a trial court may impose upon an ordained minister who has been convicted of an offense with which he/she has been charged. Par. 448.1 does not violate  36.

Statement of Facts

The California-Pacific Conference has petitioned the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the difference between an "involuntary leave of absence" under  448.1 and "suspension" under 2624.1(h). It has also asked for a declaratory decision regarding the constitutionality of  448.1. Thomas Griffith, maker of the motion in the California-Pacific Annual Conference was present and made an oral argument on October 26, 1989. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under  2615 of the 1988 Discipline. Analysis There are several relationships which an ordained minister may hold to the Annual Conference. These relationships are granted by the Annual Conference on recommendation of the Conference Board of the Ordained Ministry. One of those relations is that of "involuntary leave of absence," as provided for in  448.1. It is not necessary under the Constitution that every matter dealing with a problem in the ministerial relationship be forced into the trial proceedings covered by  2624. See, e.g., Judicial Council Decisions No. 557 and 611. The General Conference has recognized this and has chosen to make the distinction between leave of absence and suspension from the ministry. The situation of a minister who has been given leave of absence and one who has been terminated is not the same. One of the powers given to a trial court is that of determining the appropriate sanction upon a ministerial member who has been convicted of a chargeable offense. Par. 2624.1(h) of the 1988 Discipline indicates that one of these powers is to suspend the ministerial member from the exercise of the functions of the office of the ministry. Par. 36, Article II of the Constitution reserves to the Annual Conference the right to vote on, and thus determine, all matters relating to the character and conference relationship of its ministerial members. Since an "involuntary leave of absence," as set forth in  448.1, is a conference relationship to be determined by the Annual Conference under  36 of the Constitution,  448.1 is constitutional.

Decision

The phrase "involuntary leave of absence" as used in  448.1 has reference to a relationship which a ministerial member holds to the Annual Conference. It is not punitive. The term "suspension" as used in  2624.1(h) refers to one of the sanctions which a trial court has the power to impose upon a ministerial member of the Annual Conference who has been convicted of a chargeable offense. Since  36 of the Constitution reserves to the Annual Conference the right to vote on, and thus determine, the relationship its ministerial members may hold to the Annual Conference,  448.1 is constitutional under  36 of the Constitution, as "involuntary leave of absence" is a conference relationship.

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