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Decision No. 721

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October 28 1994
In Re: Legality of Involuntary Leave of Absence Procedures.

Digest of Case

The decision of the bishop is reversed. The 1992 Executive Session of the North Alabama Conference did not meet the requirements of the Discipline in placing a clergy member on leave of absence without consent. The action to place the clergy member on the latter relationship commenced on June 22, 1992 on an interim basis, and was ratified at the Clergy Session of the 1993 Annual Conference.

Statement of Facts

At the 1994 Session of the North Alabama Annual Conference meeting on June 2, Franklin D. Turney made the following motion: I, Franklin D. Turney request an episcopal ruling on whether the requirements of the Discipline were met in putting him (Turney) on "Leave of Absence without consent in 1992." On June 4 the bishop ruled that the placing of a clergy member on involuntary leave of absence (leave of absence without consent) was in compliance with the provisions of the Discipline. After the bishop's decision the clergy member made the following motion: I, Franklin D. Turney, under paragraph 2614 of the 1992 Discipline.(sic) I move that the North Alabama Conference appeal the episcopal ruling of Bishop Robert Fannin to The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church. The motion was sustained by more than one fifth of those present and voting. In the fall of 1990, through the Joint Review process, Rev. Turney requested that he be placed on voluntary leave of absence as part of the resolution of a complaint which had been filed against him. The 1991 Conference Executive Session approved Rev. Turney's voluntary leave of absence request. However, shortly thereafter Rev. Turney verbally requested that the Board of Ordained Ministry terminate his leave and that he immediately come back to active service. Even though Rev. Turney had not put his request in writing, the Board took action to affirm his request in September 1991. The Cabinet responded in May 1992 with notification to Rev. Turney that a request would be made at the Executive Session of the June 1992 Annual Conference that he be placed on leave of absence without consent. The clergy member asked for a hearing which was scheduled and held June 22, 1992. Prior to this hearing, at the 1992 Annual Conference, the Executive Session voted to place Rev. Turney on leave of absence without consent. After the June 22, 1992 hearing, the Cabinet and the Executive Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry voted to place the clergy member on leave of absence without consent, an action which was approved at the 1993 Annual Conference Clergy Session. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2614 of the 1992 Discipline. ANALYSIS Par. 448.1 of the 1988 Discipline stipulates that a leave of absence may be initiated by the clergy member or the Cabinet, with or without the consent of the clergy member, through the Board of Ordained Ministry and granted and renewed by vote of the clergy members in full connection upon the board's recommendation. If the clergy member desires and requests a hearing prior to the granting of this relationship, such hearing shall be granted. Further by Par. 448.3 of the 1988 Discipline, a clergy can request an end to a voluntary leave by putting such request in writing and indicating whether coming off the leave is requested to be immediate or at the next Annual Conference Session. In the instant matter, the clergy member did not properly request an end to his leave and the Board which affirmed his request had no authority to waive the requirement that the request be in writing. Therefore, this request was not properly before the 1992 Executive Session. The request before the Executive Session of 1992 to place the clergy member on leave of absence without consent carries with it a right to a hearing. The Executive Session could not properly act on the recommendation for leave of absence without consent while knowing that the hearing on this matter had been requested and was already scheduled for after the Annual Conference. The only action for the 1992 Annual Conference Executive Session, in order to be in compliance with the Discipline, would have been to continue the clergy member on voluntary leave of absence until the hearing. The decision of the bishop is reversed. The clergy member is considered to have been on voluntary leave of absence until June 22, 1992 when an interim action, later affirmed, was taken to put him on leave of absence without consent.

Decision

The decision of the bishop is reversed. The 1992 Executive Session of the North Alabama Conference did not meet the requirements of the Discipline in placing a clergy member on leave of absence without consent. The action to place the clergy member on the latter relationship commenced on June 22, 1992 on an interim basis, and was ratified at the Clergy Session of the 1993 Annual Conference.

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