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Decision No. 812

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October 24 1997
In Re: Review of Sexual Ethics Policy and Procedures of the North Georgia Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

The Sexual Ethics Policy and Procedures of the North Georgia Annual Conference is remanded to the conference for appropriate revisions to bring it into conformity with the 1996 Discipline and related Judicial Council decisions before resubmitting it to the council for a declaratory decision. This Policy is not in effect until reviewed and approved by the Judicial Council.

Statement of Facts

The North Georgia Conference adopted a Sexual Ethics Policy and Procedures in 1994. The policy was reviewed and updated by the Chancellor of the North Georgia Conference and submitted to the North Georgia Conference for approval in its June 1997 session. The Policy was approved. Upon the adoption of the Policy, the conference petitioned the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to whether the Policies and Procedures are in compliance with the 1996 Discipline. Sally Curtis AsKew, because of a conflict of interest, did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under the provisions of Par. 2616 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The Sexual Ethics Policy and Procedures of the North Georgia Conference is not in compliance with the 1996 Discipline and Judicial Council Decision 788. Under Section III, "Responsibility for Reporting Sexual Misconduct and Harassment," Item C, it reads, "In some cases, when the aggrieved person will not report misconduct, abuse, or harassment to proper authorities, the clergy or diaconal minister must inform the district superintendent or bishop." Since the policy does not define which cases must be reported to the district superintendents or the bishop, this statement is in conflict with Decision 788 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 council, in reviewing the "Sexual Ethics Policies and Procedures" of the North Georgia Conference, notes there are other provisions in violation of the Discipline and our Decisions which include but are not limited to the following: 1. The note which defines clergy uses the term "licensed persons." This is overly broad since conferences also license laypersons for specific responsibilities such as "lay speakers." 2. The first sentence of the Purpose Statement appears to focus unduly on the Policy and Procedures acting as a deterrent to inappropriate behavior. The purpose of sexual misconduct policies is to ensure that fair and clear policies and procedures will be employed when someone is accused of misconduct. 3. Outlining and defining certain behaviors may expand and enlarge chargeable offenses which violates Decision 736. 4. Decision 768 cautions against mixing concepts such as sexual harassment and the exploitation of power relationships. 5. At some points the Discipline is misquoted. 6. At other points the Discipline is paraphrased (see Decision 736). It is not the responsibility of the Judicial Council to amend a policy in order to render a declaratory decision. Therefore, the policy must be sent back to the conference for revision before resubmitting it for a declaratory decision.

Decision

The Judicial Council remands the "Sexual Ethics Policy and Procedures" of the North Georgia Annual Conference to the conference for revisions to bring it into conformity with the 1996 Discipline and this decision. This Policy is not in effect until reviewed and approved by the Judicial Council. This copy subject to final editing and correction.

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