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Decision No. 809

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October 24 1997
In Re: Review of Rewritten Clergy Sexual Ethics Policy of the West Ohio Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

The West Ohio Conference, in response to the April 1997 Memorandum No. 800 of the Judicial Council, amended their conference "Ministerial Sexual Ethics Policy" to reflect compliance with Decision 736 and Par. 332.5 of the 1996 Discipline, which states: " All clergy of The United Methodist Church are charged to maintain all confidences inviolate, including confessional confidences." The adopted policy in June 1996 made provision for the Discipline to take precedence over any conflict in the wording of the policy and not invalidate the policy. Otherwise, the policy would require further action by the Annual Conference to adopt the policy as amended to comply with Memorandum 800. The ruling of the bishop is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

In the April 1997 Memorandum No. 800 the Digest stated: The Judicial Council's Decision 788 is modified to remand to the West Ohio Annual Conference its Resolution entitled "Confidentiality and Responsibility for Addressing Sexual Misconduct and Harassment." The West Ohio Annual Conference is instructed to modify the language of its Resolution to reflect the language in Decision No. 736 and Par. 332.5, 1996 Discipline. The West Ohio policy as presently worded has no effect and is a nullity until it is reviewed and approved by the Judicial Council. The 1997 session of the West Ohio Annual Conference received a report which stated that the policy had been amended by deleting lines 14 through 23 of Section V entitled "Confidentiality and Responsibility for Addressing Sexual Misconduct and Harassment", which deals with the requirement to report knowledge of sexual misconduct that is shared in confessional confidences . There were no other revisions to the policy. Bishop Judith Craig determined that the Judicial Council's decision was the only action required and the Annual Conference had conformed to Decision 800. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The 1997 revision of the wording of the Resolution of the West Ohio Annual Conference complies with Par. 332.5 of the Discipline and Judicial Council Decision 736. The Ethics Policy strikes lines 14 through 23 on page 4 of the Policy. The June 1996 adopted policy states: "If any provision of this policy is in conflict with the current Book of Discipline, the Discipline shall prevail. Such conflict shall not be grounds for invalidating this policy." Therefore, the West Ohio Annual Conference made provision for the policy to be effective with the striking of the lines which conflicted with the Par. 332.5 of the Discipline and Judicial Council Decision 736. Par. 332.5 of the 1996 Discipline states: "All clergy of The United Methodist Church are charged to maintain all confidences inviolate, including confessional confidences."

Decision

The West Ohio Conference, in response to the April 1997 Memorandum No. 800 of the Judicial Council, amended their conference "Ministerial Sexual Ethics Policy" to reflect compliance with Decision 736 and Par. 332.5 of the 1996 Discipline, which states: " All clergy of The United Methodist Church are charged to maintain all confidences inviolate, including confessional confidences." The adopted policy in June 1996 made provision for the Discipline to take precedence over any conflict in the wording of the policy and not invalidate the policy. Otherwise, the policy would require further action by the Annual Conference to adopt the policy as amended to comply with Memorandum 800. The ruling of the bishop is affirmed. This copy subject to final editing and correction.

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