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Decision No. 971

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October 23 2003
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the West Michigan Annual Conference Related to the Authority of the Bishop to Replace or Renominate Members on the Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Digest of Case

The decision of Bishop Linda Lee that she did have the authority to decline to renominate the Rev. Oscar Ventura is in error. She has no authority to remove or to renominate persons on the Board of Ordained Ministry during the term for which they were elected. Her only authority with reference to the Board of Ordained Ministry is to nominate members of the board after proper consultation as outlined in ¶ 632.1 of the 2000 Discipline. The Rev. Ventura remains a member of the West Michigan Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry until a new board is elected following General Conference in 2004.

Statement of Facts

At the 2003 session of the West Michigan Annual Conference, Bishop Linda Lee was asked a series of seven questions related to the membership of the Rev. Oscar Ventura on the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. The Rev. Ventura had been elected a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry in 2001 to fill an unexpired term. Subsequently, he was suspended from his clergy responsibilities under ¶ 359 of the 2000 Discipline and notified by Bishop Lee in May of 2003 that he would not be renominated for membership on the Board of Ordained Ministry. Following this notification, a group of clergy and lay members of the 2003 West Michigan Annual Conference asked the questions of Bishop Lee during the regular business of the conference. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline. ANALYSIS AND RATIONALE Par. 359 of the Discipline provides for the suspension of a clergy member of an annual conference from “...ministerial duties, but not from an appointment....” It also states “[t]he person so suspended shall retain all rights and privileges as stated in ¶ 325.” Par. 325 deals with the “Ministry, Authority and Responsibilities of an Elder in Full Connection” which includes being elected to office in the annual conference. These two paragraphs when read together make it clear that a person under suspension is not suspended from office in the annual conference, such as membership on the Board of Ordained Ministry. Par. 632 is silent on the matter of suspension from service on committees and boards of the annual conference. The conditions for limitations of duties to be performed by clergypersons under suspension is spelled out in Par. 359.c and Par. 325 of the 2000 Discipline. Par. 359.1(c) states in part, “The person so suspended shall retain all rights and privileges as stated in Par. 325.” Par. 325.1 states that “elders in full connection have the right to vote on all matters in the annual conference except on the election of lay delegates to the general and jurisdiction or central conferences (¶ 602.1a) and shall share with deacons in full connection responsibilities for all matters of ordination, character, and conference relations of clergy….They shall be eligible to hold office in the annual conference… .” The Rev. Ventura can legally fulfill his term on the Board of Ordained Ministry. Par. 632.1 of the Discipline provides the process for electing members of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Prior to the first session of the annual conference following General Conference, the members of this board are to be nominated by the bishop after consultation with others named in ¶ 632. After that is done, the members are elected by the annual conference for a term of four years. Once the election takes place, members are not renominated annually. Unless a person dies or resigns from the Board, no additional members are elected by the annual conference until the end of the four year period. Any person nominated and elected to fill an unexpired term is elected to serve out only the remaining years of the term. It is the annual conference which does the electing of members of this board, and the bishop has authority only to nominate after proper consultation. The bishop has no authority to remove members of the Board of Ordained Ministry during the term for which they were elected.

Decision

The decision of Bishop Linda Lee that she did have the authority to decline to renominate the Rev. Oscar Ventura is in error. She has no authority to remove or to renominate persons on the Board of Ordained Ministry during the term for which they were elected. Her only authority with reference to the Board of Ordained Ministry is to nominate members of the board after proper consultation as outlined in ¶ 632.1 of the 2000 Discipline. The Rev. Ventura remains a member of the West Michigan Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry until a new board is elected following General Conference in 2004. Sally Brown Geis was absent.

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