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Memorandum No. 1001

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October 28 2004
In Re: IN RE: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the New York Annual Conference Concerning Whether an Elder's Request for Trial Can be Denied Where the Bishop Determines that a Complaint Will be Handled Administratively.

Decision

On June 5, 2004, during the closing session of the New York Annual Conference, the Bishop received a request for a decision of law from two elders in full connection. The question posed by the elders is as follows: Pursuant to ¶ 2609.6 of the Discipline of the United Methodist Church, we request Bishop Ernest S. Lyght to rule on the following question of law. When an elder in full connection is good standing is charged by a local church with the following, as presented by the elder's District Superintendent:

"1. The use of professional reimbursements; "2. The disclosure of confidential personal matters of parishioners to other parishioners; "3. The discovery of Hea Young's employment at SUNY-Farmingdale; "4. The negative relationship with the secretary; "5. The feelings of lack of trust in relating to Hea Young as Pastor by members of the church; "6. Lack of availability of Hea Young to family members in crisis" (These in bold I am appealing through ¶ 2702, as follows: Charges as came (sic) from an ad hoc committee of the Riverhead United Methodist Church with violations of Discipline ¶2702, as follows: Inappropriate submission of receipts for reimbursement from the church budget from the Pastor's Reimbursement" (sic) fund Neglect of an individual who was dying and the immediate family Failure to call on the sick and dying when specific requests were made Teaching at SUNY Farmingdale without the knowledge of the Bishop or permission of the District Superintendent or the Staff Parish Relations Committee and the Bishop determines that the complaint is administrative in nature under ¶ 359 of the Discipline and where the elder in question requests a trial on the complaint under ¶ 2702, can the elder be denied her right to a trial under ¶2702, as guaranteed by the Restrictive Rules, ¶ 18, Article IV, of the Discipline?
As allowed by ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Discipline, the Bishop's ruling was issued July 1, 2004, within 30 days after the close of the session. The Bishop ruled that the administrative process (¶ 359) does not deny an elder the right to trial by a committee and of an appeal (¶ 18) and that the process conducted under ¶ 359 fulfilled the elder's right to a trial before the church or by a committee and an appeal. The Bishop's decision stated that the report of the Administrative Review Committee concluded that the fair process standards of ¶ 633 were followed. Beth Capen recused herself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision. The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609 of the 2000 Discipline. In Decision 927, the Council noted:
The Council has repeatedly held that questions of law must be germane to the regular business, considerations or discussions of the Annual Conference, The question must state the connection to a specific action taken or to be taken or it must be raised during the deliberation of a specific issue or matter upon which the conference takes action. Questions that do not meet these criteria are moot and hypothetical and shall not be decided. Decisions 33, 396, 651, 746, 747, 762, 763, 799, and 903.
A review of the minutes of the closing session of the New York Annual Conference of June 5, 2004, reveals that there was no regular business, consideration, or discussion before the Conference to which the request for a ruling of law was germane. There was no connection made as to a specific action taken by the Conference. Likewise, the question of law was not raised during the deliberation of the Conference of a specific issue of a matter upon which the Conference was taking action. Therefore, the request for a ruling of law was moot and hypothetical and should not have been decided by the Bishop. The decision of law of the Bishop is void and of no effect. DIGEST The Bishop’s decision of law that the administrative process under ¶ 359 of the 2000 Discipline constituted a trial for an elder under the provisions of ¶ 56 is void and of no effect. The question was not germane to the business, consideration, or discussion of the Annual Conference session.

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