Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 772
October 24 1995
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Iowa Conference Concerning Validity of Request for Surrender of Credentials.
Digest of Case
The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction. Final action in this decision of law is postponed. The Council requires additional documentation of the fair process. The record lacks clarity to show that the respondent has timely and properly elected trial following the recommendation to terminate by the Board of Ordained Ministry. This copy subject to final editing and correction.
Statement of Facts
During the 1995 session of the Iowa Annual Conference, the presiding bishop, Charles Wesley Jordan, was presented three separate requests for rulings on questions of law related to the conference Policy on Power and Sexual Abuse adopted in 1993. In this instance, Question of Law No. 2 related only to the case of the respondent, Steven Wainwright, and whether he was denied those procedures and safeguards provided in the 1992 Discipline. The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2613 of the 1992 Discipline. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction. Final action in this decision of law is postponed. The Council requires additional documentation of the fair process. The record lacks clarity to show that the respondent has elected, in a timely and proper manner, the option of trial following the recommendation to terminate by the Board of Ordained Ministry. To facilitate continuation of the fair process, the Council cites Par. 2626.3 on Trial Procedures and appeal: All appeals of any procedural or substantive matters which have occurred prior to referral of the charges to trial must be appealed to the presiding officer of the Trial Court before the convening of the Trial Court. Otherwise, the right to appeal on such matters is forfeited. Therefore, the Judicial Council advises on the proper procedural matters to this point and cites deficiency points in data to complete this decision at the April 1996 Council session: I. Points of Proper Process: The record indicates the fair process of the Discipline has been followed to the point of data provided in to the letter dated May 24, 1995, from the chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry to the respondent. The record reflects proper process for grievance, complaint, supervision, Joint Review, and Board action. The respondent had option to choose the remedial action to withdraw by Surrender of Ministerial Office (Par. 453.3). This valid option under Par. 454.1(e)(6) was the recommendation of Joint Review Committee to the Board of Ordained Ministry for consideration. With the respondent's refusal to take the recommended remedial voluntary withdrawal, the Board of Ordained Ministry action is valid in recommending termination. The record is clear on the intent to report to the clergy session the Recommendation to Terminate under Par. 454.1(f). The Board properly gave the respondent notice of the right to withdraw or choose trial. The Council affirms the bishop's rulings on the fair process and other issues, with exception that the Council retains final decision for the bishop's rulings on items 20 and 21. II. Points of Deficiency in Data: 1. The bishop cannot be affirmed on rulings in items 20 and 21, if the respondent was discontinued from appointment without proper disciplinary process. Singular decision by the bishop on this point violates the Discipline. The record does not indicate Par. 454.1(b) on suspension of clergy responsibilities was the option followed, nor was the option of interim involuntary leave of absence under Par. 448.1 and .1(b). The provision for compensation, housing, and conference benefits is proper under Par. 454.1(b) and a commendable recommendation under Pars. 448.1 and 448.1(b). The Council requires additional data on this phase of the process. 2. The available record is not clear whether the clergy session in June, 1995, took action on the Board of Ordained Ministry recommendation stated in the May 24, 1995, letter from the chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry to the respondent. Proper process under Par. 454.1(f) says that the Board shall forward the recommendation to the executive session of the clergy members in full connection of the Annual Conference." However, the Council cannot assume from the May 24, 1995, letter that the clergy session did not take action, which is required, ". . unless the ordained minister shall choose withdrawal or trial . . . " by the proper notification to the bishop and chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry within the ten (10) days following receipt of notice of the Board's recommendation. 3. Whether the respondent has chosen trial or withdrawal in a timely (within ten days of receipt of notice) and proper disciplinary manner is not clear from the current record. The chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry advised the respondent regarding the request for trial: "...your request must be resubmitted since it was received prior the May 23, 1995, recommendation for termination by the Board of Ordained Ministry." No written record from the respondent requesting trial before or after May 23, 1995, was made available to the Judicial Council. 4. In accordance with Par. 454.1(f), the record submitted to Judicial Council fails to reflect any action that ". . . the Board of Ordained Ministry shall submit the formal complaint as CHARGES and other appropriate material (verbatim and related materials) to the Committee on Investigation." This Discipline requires Board action upon receipt of a timely and proper request for trial. Action on this matter is not in the data provided. In summary, the Judicial Council retains jurisdiction. The Council remands these matters to the Board of Ordained Ministry to provide by January 1, 1996, written records of the following: 1. The respondent's timely and proper request for a trial and/or the date this matter was forwarded to the Committee on Investigation to decide the merits for a trial, if elected by respondent. 2. Record of submitting complaint as charges to Committee on Investigation (Par. 454.1(f)) 3. Any recommendation of the Committee on Investigation related to the charges. 4. The status of the trial procedure, if timely and properly requested by respondent. 5. If the respondent is not currently appointed, provide a record of the disciplinary status of the respondent and specify which option was taken: a) Option 1: If respondent is not continued under appointment, specify details of the process by the Executive Committee of the Board recommending that the bishop suspend the respondent from clergy responsibilities for the period not to exceed 60 days (Par. 454.1(b) and if suspension was continued by action of the Annual Conference in June 1995. b) Option 2: Between sessions of Annual Conference, interim involuntary leave of absence (Par.448.1 and .1(b) as approved by the Cabinet and Executive Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry following a due notice for a hearing with right of an advocate (Par. 2622). Is there continuation with compensation, housing and benefits pending trial? 6. If the respondent did not submit a timely and proper request for trial or withdrawal to the bishop and chair of Board of Ordained (Par. 454.1(f)), provide a Journal record of Annual Conference action on the Board's recommendation to terminate membership of the respondent in the Annual Conference. 7. All other related documents on this case.