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Decision No. 938

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October 24 2002
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference Related to the Authority of the Clergy Session to Move That a Clergy Person Be Placed on Involuntary Leave of Absence.

Digest of Case

Bishop Felton Edwin May has correctly delineated the process by which a clergy person may be placed on involuntary leave of absence. His ruling that the motion presented in the 2002 clergy session of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference was out of order because fair process had not been followed is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

A motion made during the 2002 clergy session of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference that a clergy member of the annual conference be placed on involuntary leave of absence was ruled out of order by Bishop Felton Edwin May. Two of the clergy members of the annual conference subsequently presented to Bishop May in a business session of the annual conference a written request for a decision of law related to the motion which had been ruled out of order. Bishop May rendered the following decision of law: The motion at the Clergy Executive Session of June 6, 2002, to place Reverend Steen on Involuntary Leave of Absence can be made by any member in full connection; it need not be made by a district superintendent. The making of such a motion, however, provides for the clergy member to have the full fair process for administrative hearings as set forth in Section 359.2 of the 2000 DISCIPLINE. This includes a hearing before the bishop, district superintendent and executive committee of the board of ordained ministry prior to being placed on involuntary leave of absence. The request to place a member on involuntary leave of absence must be given at least ninety days prior to the annual conference session. The ninety-day notice may be waived by a vote of 2/3 of the members in full connection upon recommendation by the bishop, the district superintendents and board of ordained ministry. The fair process for administrative hearing in Section 359.2(a) of the DISCIPLINE provides that twenty days notice must be given before the hearing. There is no provision for a waiver of the twenty-day period. Judicial Council Decision 721 is a similar case where a member of the clergy on voluntary leave asked to return to active service. At its annual conference session the conference cabinet and executive committee of the board of ordained ministry voted to place the clergy member on leave of absence without consent. The Judicial Council ruled “the request before the executive session to place the clergy member on leave of absence without consent carries with it the right to a hearing.” It appears from the above: That the motion was not in order because the ninety-day notice was not given or was not waived by the 2/3 vote. If the notice had been given no action could be taken on the motion until such time as the administrative hearing process had run. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale While it is true that any member of the clergy session may move that a clergy person be placed on involuntary leave of absence, such motion may not be entertained until there has been adherence to all the provisions of fair process which have been set forth in the 2000 Discipline. In the instant case those provisions had not been followed. Bishop May is affirmed in his decision of law ruling out of order the motion to place a clergy member on leave of absence during the 2000 clergy session of the annual conference because the disciplinary provision of fair process had not been followed.

Decision

Bishop Felton Edwin May has correctly delineated the process by which a clergy person may be placed on involuntary leave of absence. His ruling that the motion presented in the 2002 clergy session of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference was out of order because fair process had not been followed is affirmed.

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