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Decision No. 750

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April 27 1995
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Wisconsin Conference Concerning Grievance Procedures.

Digest of Case

The bishop's ruling is affirmed. The issues for a ruling are not on pending questions of law related to a case. The questions are hypothetical issues and therefore moot.

Statement of Facts

The Wisconsin Conference secretary reported that on June 1, 1994 during the Clergy Session of the Wisconsin Annual Conference, the following questions of law were presented in writing to Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader under Par. 2613 of the 1992 Discipline. In September of 1991, at the direction of Cabinet members, [the clergy member] took leave of absence as a response to grievances against him. In May of last year, 1993, in response to the direction of Cabinet and Board of Ordained Ministry officers to turn in his credentials if he was granted the retired relationship because of the grievances against him, [the clergy member] did turn them in. Using the same grievances as grounds for their actions to direct [the clergy member] first to go on leave in 1991 and then turn in his credentials in order to retire in 1993, is that a violation of the double jeopardy passage in Fair Process, Par. 2622.5? If it was a violation of Par. 2622.5, does that mean that [the clergy member] should receive his credentials back as a retired member of this Annual Conference and that his status be that of a retired member of the conference for the period from Annual Conference, 1993, through the present? Related to this same case, please rule on what constitutes appropriate verification of the grievances against [the clergy member] and whether or not that appropriate verification occurred so that any action directed by the Cabinet and/or Board would be in order? And if the grievances were not properly verified, does that then invalidate any actions required of [the clergy member] in the past several years? Would you please define "Supervisory Response" as described in Par. 454 and its predecessor paragraph in the 1988 Discipline and "Supervision" in Pars. 519-523 in both the 1988 and 1992 Disciplines, and rule whether your predecessors in office at the time of the beginning of the original grievances against [the clergy member] followed the Discipline in handling the case? The conference secretary noted that the clergy member was a full member of Wisconsin Annual Conference. He was granted Leave of Absence upon his written request effective September 10, 1991. He retired at the 1993 Session, as recorded in Question 54.a of the "Business of the Annual Conference" as noted in the 1993 Yearbook and Journal of the Wisconsin Conference. The conference secretary stated that the 1994 Yearbook and Journal under Question 46.b records that the clergy member's conference membership was terminated by Surrender of Ministerial Office (Pars. 453.3, .5) effective June 5, 1993 at the close of the Annual Conference Session. The conference secretary noted that he did not have information about the circumstances surrounding these official actions. Bishop Rader's rulings in summary state, ". . . the issues raised ... are not questions of law, are untimely raised, they reference actions which are presumptively valid and, in any event.... is not a proper party to raise the issues." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2613 of the 1992 Discipline. ANALYSIS The ruling of Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader is affirmed. There is no issue of law in the circumstances related to the clergy member's voluntary leave of absence. The issue of double jeopardy is not involved in this instance. The record indicates that the clergy member selected the option of voluntary leave of absence under the supervisory process. The record reflects several supervisory sessions, including September 8, 1991, which indicate the clergy member met with Bishop David Lawson and Cabinet members. Par. 453 of the 1988 Discipline states, "The supervisory response shall be directed toward reconciliation between all parties and the ordained minister and may include consultation with the Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations for pastors . . ." The record reflects that Bishop Lawson and the district superintendent exercised proper supervisory action to move "toward justice for and reconciliation between all parties" as provided under Par. 453 of the 1988 Discipline (Par. 454 of 1992 Discipline). The record reflects such efforts toward the clergy member, which included encouragement of therapy and assistance for therapy for the parties offended by the admitted misconduct. The grievance was addressed under the supervisory response as assigned to the bishop and district superintendent in the Discipline. No complaint was signed and forwarded by the district superintendent; therefore the issue of double jeopardy under Par. 2625.5 is moot. The second ruling request is based on the first and is therefore moot. The third ruling request is not a question of law and therefore, is not under the jurisdiction of Par. 2613. This question relates to procedure in the supervisory process. The fourth ruling request is not a question of law and therefore, not under the jurisdiction of Par. 2613. This question relates to procedure in the supervisory process.

Decision

The bishop's ruling is affirmed. The issues for a ruling are not on pending questions of law related to a case. The questions are hypothetical issues and therefore moot.

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