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Memorandum No. 950

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October 25 2002
In Re: Request from the California-Pacific Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on Whether it Is Allowable for Bishops and District Superintendents to Be Voting Participants in a Hearing Requested by a Clergy Member Recommended for Involuntary Leave as Described in ¶ 352.1 of the 2000 Discipline.

Digest of Case

Bishops and district superintendents shall not participate as voting members in a hearing under the provisions of ¶ 352.1b concerning involuntary leave of absence and may not remain in the hearing room either prior to the hearing or after the hearing has been concluded but prior to the issuance of a decision by the executive committee of the conference board of ordained ministry. To do so would violate fair process as established in ¶ 359.2.

Statement of Facts

On June 18, 2002, the clergy session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference approved a request for a declaratory decision as follows: Under provisions of ¶ 2610, on the question under the constitutional separation of powers doctrine and several Judicial Council decisions, is it allowable for the Bishop and District Superintendents to be voting participants in a hearing requested by a clergy person recommended for involuntary leave of absence as described in ¶ 352.1b? The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610.2(j) of the 2000 Discipline. The issues at hand are clearly related to those found in Decisions 689, 830, and 917. The key issues present are based on separation of powers and fair process. The separation of powers issue is dealt with in Decision 689 as follows: …[S]eparation of authority and decision-making is integral to the United Methodist Constitution and law. While the boundaries can become hazy in any particular situation, the preservation of the separation of powers must be observed. Decision 830 states, “Fair process is a constitutional as well as a disciplinary right… .” Decision 917 deals with the need to protect clergy from having the bishop or district superintendents involved from participating in the deliberations and voting on a variety of administrative processes. The district superintendent acts as a representative of the cabinet and as an extension of the episcopal authority. Consequently, for the bishop or the district superintendents to have presence, voice, or vote violates the separation of powers doctrine as well as fair process. This may be clearly reasoned by analogy from Decision 917 that involves involuntary discontinuation of probationary membership, involuntary retirement, and administrative complaints. Involuntary leave of absence, is identical to the issues addressed in Decision 917. The bishop and district superintendents shall not participate as voting members in a hearing under the provisions of ¶ 352.1b concerning involuntary leave of absence and may not remain in the hearing room either prior to the hearing or after the hearing has been concluded but prior to the issuance of a decision by the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry.

Decision

Concurring Opinion We join in this concurring opinion to state that we believe the Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this case for the same reasons as expressed in the concurring opinion in Decision 940. The 2002 clergy session of the California Pacific Annual Conference requested a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on whether it is allowable for bishops and district superintendents to be voting participants in a hearing requested by a clergy member recommended for involuntary leave of absence as described in ¶ 352.1 b) of the 2000 Discipline. For the reasons expressed in the concurring opinion in Decision 940, the Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this matter under ¶ 2610.2(j) of the 2000 Discipline. Keith Boyette C. Rex Bevins John G. Corry James W. Holsinger Dissenting Opinion The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction to make a decision under Par. 2610 of the 2000 Discipline when the request comes from the clergy session only. Par. 605.6 does not give the clergy session the authority to act on behalf of the annual conference except on “[q]uestions relating to matters of ordination, character and conference relations of clergy....” A request for a declaratory decision must be acted on by the entire annual conference in open session. Sally Curtis AsKew Mary A. Daffin Sally Brown Geis Larry Pickens

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