Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 741
April 27 1995
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Minnesota Conference Concerning Effect of Changes in Statute of Limitations on Readmission to Clergy Conference Membership.
Digest of Case
The decision of Bishop Christopher is not affirmed because of unique circumstances present in this particular case. The case is remanded to the Minnesota Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for further action consistent with the analysis. Such action is to be reported to the Judicial Council and to the appropriate Annual Conference bodies.
Statement of Facts
At the 1994 session of the Minnesota Annual Conference Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher was asked to make a decision of law on the following question: May the Annual Conference act on a motion to readmit a person to conference membership without the process described in Paragraph 457 if that person withdrew under a complaint which depended on a change in a statute of limitations (Par. 454.1b and Par. 2526.1b) being applied retroactively? Bishop Christopher's ruling stated: An annual conference may not readmit a person to conference membership without following the strictures of Par. 457 when the conference did not take action to terminate his membership in the first place. In Par. 457 there is provision for a process of readmission after surrender of the ministerial office, but the provisions of that paragraph must be followed for the readmission to take place. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2613 of the 1992 Discipline. ANALYSIS While Bishop Christopher's ruling is generally correct, it must be questioned in this case. If a withdrawal under complaint is submitted and the complaint is based on a grievance which is invalid by reason of fact that the statute of limitations has run, the withdrawal under complaint is a nullity and void. In this case, the Council does not have the necessary facts to determine if the withdrawal was solely made under threat of an invalid complaint. Therefore, we remand this case to the Minnesota Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to determine if the clergy member withdrew under complaint based solely on a grievance based on an event which is alleged to have occurred more than two years prior to the filing of the grievance in December, 1992. The event was reported to the Council as having occurred more than twenty years previously. (See Judicial Council Decision 691.) If the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry so finds, the withdrawal under complaint is void and the clergy member must be restored to his status as of March 29, 1993. The clergy member must be compensated based on the equitable compensation schedule approved or adopted by the Minnesota Annual Conference (Judicial Council Decision 492, Par. 722.3 of the Discipline). If the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry finds that the withdrawal was not solely based on the alleged event, the withdrawal under complaint would remain as submitted.
While generally correct, the decision of Bishop Christopher is not affirmed because of unique circumstances present in this particular case. The case is remanded to the Minnesota Conference Board of Ordained Ministry for further action consistent with the analysis. Such action is to be reported to the Judicial Council and to the appropriate Annual Conference bodies. Concur in Part and Dissent in Part I concur with my colleagues on all issues except what should be done if the withdrawal upon complaint is void. I do not believe that it is appropriate for the Judicial Council to tell an Annual Conference exactly how to resolve a situation with which it is dealing. Rather we are to rule on the basics of the law and then let the parties apply and act on that law in accordance with our ruling. That is especially true in a situation, such as the one in this case, wherein the Judicial Council has no knowledge of the facts surrounding the clergy member's withdrawal. On May 9, 1994, this clergy member wrote requesting restoration of his credentials for the sole purpose of gaining early retirement status effective July 1, 1993, with the promise to then voluntarily surrender his credentials. This may indeed be the best resolution of the matter, but regardless, that decision belongs to the bodies and processes in place within the Annual Conference. Evelynn S. Caterson