Skip Navigation

Judicial Council Decisions Search


Decision No. 919

Back to Search

October 25 2001
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the South Carolina Annual Conference Related to Compensation and Other Matters Pertaining to a Clergy Member Placed on Involuntary Leave of Absence During a Judicial Process.

Digest of Case

The bishop's decisions of law related to compensation and other matters pertaining to a clergy member placed on involuntary leave of absence during a judicial process are affirmed.

Statement of Facts

At the 2001 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference a clergy member addressed a series of eight questions of law to Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey. Additionally, a question on the legality of an action by counsel for the Church during preparation for a trial was submitted. All of the eight questions were related to the appropriateness of the level of compensation paid to a clergy member during a suspension under ¶ 358 of the 1996 Discipline, followed by involuntary leave of absence under ¶ 351. (All references herein are to the 1996 Discipline as the matter at hand arose under the provisions of that edition.) The bishop responded that ¶ 2609.6 allowed 30 days for him to complete his ruling and that he would do so within that time frame. The bishop completed his ruling and forwarded it to the proper parties, including the secretary of the Judicial Council within the 30 day period. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale During the May 28, 2001, business session of the South Carolina Annual Conference the Reverend Luonne Abram Rouse read into the record eight questions as requests for decisions of law and a ninth question asking for a declaratory decision as to the meaning, application and effect of a disciplinary paragraph. Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey submitted his response to the nine questions as follows: The questions raised by Dr. Rouse contained eight items. In addition, there was a further "Question of Meaning, Application, and Effect." These questions will be treated in the order in which they were presented. 1. Item # 1 - "Did the action taken by the South Carolina Annual Conference Council on Finance and Administration at its May 20, 2001 meeting illegally deny the Reverend Doctor Timothy J. Bowman 'recompense' for lost wages and other benefits denied him while he was on involuntary leave of absence, under paragraph 351.1.b (1996 DISCIPLINE), for the period of July 1999 through February 2001?" The meeting of the Council on Finance and Administration at which action relative to Dr. Bowman's request was taken occurred on March 20, 2001. As noted in the question, Dr. Bowman's involuntary leave of absence was granted under paragraph 351.1.b of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE 1996 (352.1.b of 2000 BOD). Also applicable, as indicated in the communication to Dr. Bowman at the time the involuntary leave of absence was granted, is paragraph 351.1 (352.1 of 2000 BOD), which provides (in both the 1996 and the 2000 editions of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE ): "Clergypersons on leaves of absence shall have no claim on the conference funds. However, in exceptional circumstances, on the recommendation of the district superintendents, salary and/or other benefits may be granted to an elder or associate member by vote of the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference. In an interim between sessions of the annual conference, by vote of the bishop, cabinet, and executive committee of the board of ordained ministry, salary and/or benefits may be granted." Though the provisions of this paragraph specifically exclude any claim on conference funds for clergypersons on leave of absence, they do allow for compensation under the conditions prescribed above. Such allowance may be made for persons on either voluntary or involuntary leaves of absence, only under the conditions prescribed. Further, the allowance for such compensation does not specify a particular level; it only delineates items that may be included. Further, the use of the words "and/or" signifies that such compensation, if provided, may be either one, or all, or some combination of the items mentioned. In short, no compensation is guaranteed; any compensation that is provided must meet the approval processes prescribed in the paragraph. Further, the Council on Finance and Administration is not one of the required bodies which must act in order for such compensation to be granted. Those bodies, as indicated in the paragraph, are the district superintendents and clergy session in regular annual conference sessions, and the bishop, cabinet, and executive committee of the board of ordained ministry in an interim between sessions of the annual conference. Under paragraph 351.1.b (352.1.b of 2000 BOD), the Council on Finance and Administration has no authority to grant compensation to clergypersons on leaves of absence. In Dr. Bowman's case, when he was put on ad interim involuntary leave of absence on June 16, 1999, he was granted compensation at the annual conference minimum salary level for elders upon the recommendation of the bishop, cabinet, and executive committee of the board of ordained ministry. When he was continued on involuntary leave of absence at the May, 2000 clergy session of the annual conference, his compensation at the annual conference minimum salary level for elders was also continued upon the recommendation of the district superintendents and the vote of the clergy session. The compensation granted to Dr. Bowman was granted within the provisions allowed by paragraphs 351.1 and 351. 1.b (352.1 and 352.1b of 2000 BOD). Under these paragraphs, which are the paragraphs governing his involuntary leave of absence, the Council on Finance and Administration has no authority to grant such compensation. ecision: Because the South Carolina Annual Conference Council on Finance and Administration has no authority to grant compensation to clergypersons on leave of absence under paragraph 351.1.b (352.1.b in 2000 BOD), the action of that body regarding Dr. Timothy J. Bowman at its March 20, 2001 meeting was legal and in keeping with the authority of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 1: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above. 2. Item # 2 - "Under paragraph 2627.1.i. of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE (1996) was the Reverend Doctor Timothy J. Bowman denied related benefits, such as annuity and conference group medical and hospital insurance, and financial recompense for the time lost during the period of July 1999 through June of 2001 because he was placed on involuntary leave of absence under paragraph 351.1.b (I 996 DISCIPLINE), as the beginning step of the judicial process and acquitted by the Trial Court (found innocent at the end of the judicial process) on November 29, 2000?" As indicated in the report of the Administrative Review Committee referenced in the background material of these decisions (Exhibit 11), the action to place Dr. Bowman on involuntary leave of absence "followed both the letter and the spirit of the Book of Discipline." This action was taken under the provisions of paragraph 351.1 and 351.1.b (352.1 and 352.1.b of 2000 BOD). Paragraph 2627.1.i (2711.3.b of 2000 BOD) is concerned with an entirely different set of circumstances than those of Dr. Bowman's case. Dr. Bowman's appeal for recompense to the Chairperson of the Council on Finance and Administration on January 22, 2001 (Exhibit 16) is based on 2711.3.b of the 2000 BOOK OF DISCIPLINE (which is identical to 2627.1.i of the 1996 BOD). As noted in the bishop's March 17, 2001 Memorandum to Becky L. Buie and Linda B. Hagins , paragraph 2627.1.i "refers to persons who are involved in a process of appealing a decision of a church trial court. Specifically, it refers to persons who, having been found guilty in a trial court, appeal the decision of the trial court and are suspended during the appeal process. If, following the appeal process, such persons are found innocent, then the provisions of this paragraph would be applicable. Rev. Bowman was not found guilty by the trial court. Therefore he has not appealed the decision of a trial court. He has never been on the kind of suspension defined here. The only suspension on which he was placed was at the beginning of his judicial process, and it was the sixty-day suspension defined in paragraph 358.1.c of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE (1996). During that suspension he received full salary, housing, and all benefits." The two paragraphs cited - 2627.1.i (2711.3.b of 2000 BOD) and 351.1.b (352.1.b of 2000 BOD) deal with entirely different circumstances. One is a suspension during an appeal process. One is an involuntary leave of absence. Both allow compensation under certain prescribed conditions. In the case of the first the level of compensation is established by the Council on Finance and Administration, though it can be no less than the level of minimum salary for an elder in full connection. In the case of the second the level of compensation, if any, is established by the bodies noted in the rationale for the decision on item # 1 above. The Conference Council on Finance and Administration, when Dr. Bowman appealed to it, decided not to grant more than had already been granted by action of the clergy session, that is, the minimum salary for an elder in full connection. Even if paragraph 2627.1.i applied to Dr. Bowman's situation (which it does not), the action of the Council on Finance and Administration would be in compliance with the requirements of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE. Decision: Paragraphs 2627.1.i and 351.1.b of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE (1996) deal with entirely different circumstances, and one of these paragraphs cannot be called upon to enforce the provisions of the other. Paragraph 2627.1.i does not apply to Dr. Bowman's situation. Paragraph 351.1.b is applicable to Dr. Bowman's situation, and the provisions of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE regarding compensation allowed by that paragraph have been met. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 2: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above with the note that the applicable paragraph is 351.1 and not 351.1.b. 3. Item # 3 - "Is the interpretation of the resident bishop of the Columbia Area given in a letter to the chair of the South Carolina Annual Conference on Finance and Administration dated March 17, 2001, regarding recompense for the Reverend Doctor Timothy J. Bowman, consistent with the legal intent of paragraph 2627.1.i of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE (1996)?" The matter of "legal intent" of a paragraph in THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE is actually a matter of a declaratory decision, the process for which is set forth in paragraph 2610 of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE (2000). According to that paragraph only the Judicial Council is authorized to make "a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of the Discipline or any portion thereof...." A bishop does not have the authority to make declaratory decisions. Therefore, a bishop does not have the authority to make a decision concerning the ‘legal intent’ of a paragraph from THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE. Such a decision must be made by the Judicial Council upon request by vote from one of the bodies indicated in paragraph 2610 . . . . The measurement of any document against the "legal intent" of a disciplinary paragraph presupposes a declaratory decision regarding that particular paragraph. Decision: This question is moot because it is improperly stated as a request for a decision of law when it is in fact a request for a declaratory decision against which the letter in question can be measured. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 3: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above. 4. Item # 4 - "Was the decision to place the Reverend Doctor Timothy J. Bowman, faced with complaints from the resident bishop based on allegations of more than one offense listed in Paragraph 2624.1 (1996 DISCIPLINE), on involuntary leave of absence, which subsequently effects his recompense at the end of the judicial process, in keeping with the legal intent of Paragraphs 358.1.d.1 and 358.1.d.2 (1996 DISCIPLINE)?" As with the question in item # 3 above, this question is based on a question of "legal intent," which is a matter of a declaratory decision. The decision is based on the same rationale set forth in relation to item # 3. Decision: This question is moot because it is improperly stated as a request for a decision of law when it is in fact a request for a declaratory decision against which the action of placing Dr. Bowman on involuntary leave of absence can be measured. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 4: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above. 5. Item # 5 - "Did the actions taken by the board of ordained ministry, placing Rev. Dr. Timothy J. Bowman on ad interim involuntary leave of absence at the June 3, 1999 hearing based on complaints from the resident bishop under Paragraph 2624.1 (1996 DISCIPLINE) illegally effect the decision of the bishop, district superintendents, and the council on finance and administration of the South Carolina Annual Conference regarding financial recompense for Dr. Bowman at the end of the judicial process?" As previously indicated, the action of the Executive Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry to place Dr. Bowman on ad interim involuntary leave of absence in accordance with paragraphs 351.1 and 351.lb (352.1 and 352.1b in 2000 BOD) was reported by the Administrative Review Committee (see Exhibit 11) to have "followed both the letter and the spirit of the Book of Discipline." With no reference to specific disciplinary paragraphs, the question implies that, in some unspecified manner, the action taken by the Executive Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry (and judged in order by the Administrative Review Committee) had an illegal effect on subsequent actions regarding financial recompense for Dr. Bowman. No specific disciplinary paragraphs are referenced in the question. No specific questions of law are raised regarding specific paragraphs. The question is hypothetical in that it implies an assumption which it does not document with reference to any specific disciplinary paragraph. Decision: Lacking references to specific disciplinary paragraphs or questions of law, and assuming an illegal effect from an action judged by the Administrative Review Committee to have been proper, this question is hypothetical. In keeping with Judicial Council Decision #799, "Moot and hypothetical questions shall not be decided. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 5: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above. 6. Item # 6 - "Under Paragraphs 2627.1.h and 2627.1.i (1996 DISCIPLINE) is Reverend Doctor Timothy J. Bowman legally entitled to clergy benefits, including pension and conference group medical and hospital insurance, and expenses for moving and storage, and lost wages, from the South Carolina Annual Conference for the period of July 1999 until he has been granted an appointment to a local church or related ministry?" Paragraph 2627.1.h (2711.2 in 2000 BOD) deals with the power of the trial court, votes required for a conviction, and matters related to reporting a conviction. It does not address in any way the matters referenced in the question. Paragraph 2627.1.i (2711.3.b in 2000 BOD), as previously discussed, deals with suspension after a trial and during an appeal of a conviction. Dr. Bowman was not convicted, there was no appeal, and there was no suspension such as that described in this paragraph. Even if this paragraph did apply to Dr. Bowman (which it does not), its requirements would have been met by the granting of the conference minimum salary for an elder for the entirety of his involuntary leave of absence. As previously indicated, however, the only suspension in Dr. Bowman's case was under paragraph 358.1.c (359.1.c in 2000 BOD), and during that suspension Dr. Bowman received salary, benefits, and continued access to the parsonage. Decision: Paragraphs 2627.1.h and 2627.1.i do not deal with matters of compensation in any way related to the circumstances of Dr. Bowman's judicial case, and there are no provisions in them which entitle him to clergy benefits, expenses, or wages. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 6: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above. 7. Item # 7 - "In the judicial process as a result of being found innocent in the trial is Rev. Dr. Timothy J. Bowman immediately at the end of the Trial Court entitled to all of the rights and privileges as stated in Paragraph 335 (1996 DISCIPLINE)?" Paragraph 335 (335 in 2000 BOD) deals with provisions for appointment to extension ministries. Dr. Bowman's judicial process had nothing to do with extension ministry appointments. Decision: Judicial Council Decision 799 provides that questions that are not germane to the case at hand are improper and do not require further commentary by the bishop. This question is improperly posed as a question of law in that paragraph 335 is not germane to Dr. Bowman's judicial case. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 7: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above. 8. Item # 8 - "According to Paragraph 2626.3.b-e (1996 DISCIPLINE) and Judicial Council Decision 498, was Timothy J. Bowman illegally denied rights to clergy wages and benefits during the judicial process?" Paragraph 2626.3.b-e (2704.2. - modified - 2000 BOD) deals with processes of the committee on investigation. Though there is reference here to the possibility of suspension of the clergyperson from clergy responsibilities upon vote of five or more members of the committee on investigation, there was no such suspension enacted in Dr. Bowman's case. Judicial Decision 498 speaks to the matter of suspension during investigation, and it provides that such suspension requires the action of five or more members of the committee on investigation. This decision corrected an earlier provision from the 1980 General Conference which allowed a bishop to suspend an elder pending investigation with the concurrence of the district superintendents. That provision was declared unconstitutional, and the current disciplinary paragraph just cited reflects this Judicial Decision. In Dr. Bowman's case there was no suspension under the provisions of this Judicial Decision. Further, neither the paragraphs cited in this question nor Judicial Decision 498 speak to the issue of clergy wages and benefits. Decision: Paragraph 2626.3.b-e and Judicial Decision 498 address a form of suspension of clergypersons which was not employed in the judicial case of Dr. Bowman. Further, neither the paragraph nor the Judicial Decision speak to the issue of clergy wages and benefits. There is nothing in these paragraphs to support the claim that Dr. Bowman was illegally denied rights to clergy wages and benefits during the judicial process. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 8: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above. 9. Additional Question of Meaning, Application, and Effect - "In the case of Timothy J. Bowman vs. The South Carolina Annual Conference, did the Counsel for the Church abuse its power and the civil rights of Dr. Bowman, when the Counsel for the Church dubbed, transcribed, distributed, and verbally referred to an unlawfully tape recorded interception of the respondent's phone call, in fight of the meaning, application, and effect of Paragraph 2627.1.a.1 of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE (1996)?" Two issues are pertinent in the rationale for a response to this question. First, this question is not a proper question of law to be decided by a bishop. It is a question related to the appeal of procedural or substantive matters in a judicial case that occur prior to a trial. Paragraph 2627.1.a.(3) [2708.3 in 2000 BOD] provides: "All appeals of any procedural or substantive matters that 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." Such matters, if not appealed as prescribed, are not eligible for further appeal beyond this time. Such matters, if appealed as prescribed, are settled at the time by the presiding officer of the trial court. Judicial Decision 799 states: "The bishop has no authority to make substantive rulings on judicial or administrative matters." For the bishop to make such rulings "would violate the principle of separation and balance of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches as set forth in the Constitution." Second, this question is predicated on a request for a declaratory decision as to the meaning, application, and effect of a disciplinary paragraph, and only the Judicial Council is authorized to make such decisions (Paragraph 2610, THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE - ­2000). The bishop has no jurisdiction in such requests. Further, it is improper for a request for a decision about the "meaning, application, and effect" of any portion of THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE to come from an individual; such a request must come from one of the bodies listed in paragraph 2610 (2000 BOD). Decision: In accordance with Judicial Decision 799, this question is not a properly presented question of law because it deals with a judicial matter for which the bishop has no authority to rule. In addition, the question is moot because it raises a question of "meaning, application, and effect" of a disciplinary paragraph, which is a question for a declaratory decision; only the Judicial Council is authorized by THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE to make such decisions. The Council’s Decision On Question No. 9—An Additional Question of Meaning, Application and Effect: The bishop’s decision is affirmed based on the rationale stated above. Bishop McCleskey is commended for his careful and articulate responses to the nine questions.

Decision

The bishop’s decisions of law related to compensation and other matters pertaining to a clergy member placed on involuntary leave of absence during a judicial process are affirmed.

Back to Search