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Decision No. 768

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October 26 1995
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Iowa Conference as to the Legality of the Iowa Conference Policy on Power and Sexual Abuse.

Digest of Case

The bishop's ruling "that the Iowa Conference Policy on Power and Sexual Abuse is not invalid and is not in violation of The 1992 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church" is reversed.

Statement of Facts

The 1993 session of the Iowa Annual Conference adopted a Policy on Power and Sexual Abuse. The Policy was amended by the 1995 session of the conference. During the 1995 session and after the adoption of the "Policy" as amended, the presiding bishop, Charles Wesley Jordan, was presented with the following question of law: Is the Iowa Annual Conference Policy on Power and Sexual Abuse invalid because it is in violation of the 1992 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church? The bishop ruled as follows: My ruling in response to the Question of Law posed, as set out above, is that the Iowa Annual Conference Policy on Power and Sexual Abuse is not invalid and is not in violation of the 1992 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2613 of the 1992 Discipline . ANALYSIS The Judicial Council has reviewed the "Iowa Annual Conference Policy on Power and Sexual Abuse" as adopted by its 1995 session and finds it in conflict with the Discipline and is not in conformity with Decision 736. While the Council will not undertake to identify each and every violation in the 47 page "Policy", the following are some of the provisions which causes the "Policy" to be invalid: a. Interchanges the term "Abuse of Power" with the term "Sexual Abuse" to the extent it could lead to the conclusion that "Abuse of Power" in and of itself is a chargeable offense contrary to the prohibition that only those offenses set forth in Par. 2623 of the Discipline can be chargeable offenses. b. Establishes a new committee known as the "Supervisory Response Committee" with powers and duties in the supervisory area which is the sole province of the bishop and district superintendent set forth in Par. 454.1 of the Discipline. c. Directs specific action by a bishop in the discharge of the duties of his or her office upon recommendation of a committee. See "Policy" II.B. which reads: "Upon the recommendation of the Sup-ervisory Response Committee, the Bishop and/or the secretary of the cabinet shall submit a complaint in written form to the chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry ..." d. Seeks to set limitations on communications by the aggrieved and/or accused in violation of Fair Process. e. Fails to embrace the requirements of Par. 454.1(a) of the Discipline as to the role of a trained neutral third party mediator or mediation team. f. Sets time lines not provided for in the Discipline for Constitutional and Disciplinary bodies of the Church. Again, while we have not detailed each and every violation in the "Policy," it is obvious that the Policy invades judicial process and procedures which have been established by the General Conference under our Constitution. We have set forth in some detail in Decision 736 the background and some of the requirements which Annual Conferences must follow for the establishment of valid policies in the area of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual abuse.

Decision

The Iowa Annual Conference Policy on Power and Sexual Abuse violates the Constitution, Discipline and Decision 736 of the Judicial Council. We therefore cannot affirm the bishop's ruling. The bishop's ruling is reversed. This copy subject to final editing and correction.

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