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Decision No. 754

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October 26 1995
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Minnesota Conference Concerning Right of the Annual Conference to Vote on a Motion to Grant Voluntary Leave of Absence to a Person Who Had Surrendered Credentials Under Circumstances Affected by the Statute of Limitations.

Digest of Case

The bishop's decision, that a motion is in order to grant voluntary leave of absence under the circumstances described, is affirmed. Her decision that the ruling did not apply to the case in question is reversed.

Statement of Facts

During the 1995 session of the Minnesota Conference, the following question of law was submitted to the presiding bishop, Sharon Brown Christopher: May an Annual Conference be prevented from voting on a motion to grant voluntary leave of absence to a person who had surrendered credentials when the 1988 Discipline was in effect and in response to a grievance alleging an occurrence of misconduct more than two years prior to the filing of the grievance? In her decision of law, the bishop ruled: If the clergy member under consideration had withdrawn his credentials under complaint (Par. 453.4) and if a complaint based on a grievance which was invalid by reason of fact that the statute of limitation (sic) had run had been filed against him, then a motion to grant voluntary leave of absence to him by the Executive Session of the Annual Conference would have been in order. The decision further stated that since the pastor concerned did not withdraw under complaint, the procedures in Par. 457 for readmission must be followed, and therefore a motion to grant voluntary leave of absence was out of order. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2613 of the 1992 Discipline . ANALYSIS The bishop is correct in her general interpretation of the Discipline and relevant decisions of the Judicial Council. Under the circumstances described in the question addressed to the bishop, a motion to grant voluntary leave of absence would be in order. That portion of her decision of law is affirmed. However, her decision not to apply that decision to the specific case in question must be reversed. The record indicates that the clergy member did indeed withdraw under what at the time was understood to be a complaint, though that complaint has since been ruled invalid because the statute of limitations had run. (See Judicial Council Decision 753. See also Judicial Council Decisions 691, 704, and 741.) The report of the Board of Ordained Ministry to the Judicial Council states, "On January 15, 1993, the Secretary of the Cabinet . . . submitted a formal complaint to the Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry ... as a result of the signed grievance. . . ." The clergy member's letter of March 29, 1993, states, ..." I am writing to inform you of my choice of withdrawing under complaints (sic)." There appears to be no question that the Cabinet, the Board of Ordained Ministry, and the clergy member understood that a formal complaint had been entered. The clergy member's letter makes it equally clear that he understood his withdrawal to be in response to that complaint, now recognized as invalid. In view of these facts, the decision of the bishop in its broad sense is affirmed. The ruling that it does not apply to the person whose circumstances gave rise to and were described in the question is reversed

Decision

The bishop's decision, that a motion is in order to grant voluntary leave of absence under the circumstances described, is affirmed. Her decision that the ruling did not apply to the case in question is reversed. This copy subject to final editing and correction.

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