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Memorandum No. 1012

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April 28 2005
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the California-Pacific Annual Conference Concerning Legality of Incapacity Leave of a Clergy Member.

During a regular business session of the 2004 California-Pacific Annual Conference, an elder requested the presiding bishop to render a decision of law on the following questions:

1) Was Ana Maria Dominguez placed on incapacity leave (¶ 355) illegally in October/November 2001? 2) If the initial incapacity leave was legal, did the incapacity leave of Ana Maria Dominguez cease to be legal on July 1, 2002; December 2002; or July 1, 2003? 3) If the incapacity leave was illegal for any or all of the period of time from November 1, 2001 to June, 2004, must she be remunerated for the period of time during which she had no valid appointment in accordance with a number of Judicial Council Decisions including 492?
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2000 Book of Discipline. At the root of the questions of law is the proponent’s contention that Rev. Ana Maria Dominguez was illegally placed on incapacity leave. Regarding the three questions of law, the bishop responded in the following manner:
1) Was Ana Maria Dominguez placed on incapacity leave (¶ 355) illegally in October/November 2001? No. The procedures of ¶ 355 were applied in placing Ana Maria Dominguez on incapacity leave. She made application in writing October 31, 2001. The request was received by the district superintendent November 5, 2001. It was reviewed by the incapacity committee [sic] on November 15. This included representatives of the Cabinet, Board of Pensions, Board of Ordained Ministry and staff. Approval for the leave was granted effective November 1. This was concurred by the Board of Pensions December 6. 2) If the initial incapacity leave was legal, did the incapacity leave of Ana Maria Dominguez cease to be legal on July 1, 2002; December 2002; or July 1, 2003? No. ¶ 355.3 states that incapacity leave may be terminated when the clergy member provides medical evidence that they have recovered sufficiently to resume ministerial work, or are able to return through reasonable accommodation, and receive an appointment from the bishop. At no time did Ana Maria Dominguez provide this medical evidence. The incapacity committee [sic] agreed that her status on incapacity leave should be continued. The leave continued to be legal and a valid appointment. 3) If the incapacity leave was illegal for any or all of the period of time from November 1, 2001 to June 2004, must she be remunerated for the period of time during which she had no valid appointment in accordance with a number of Judicial Council Decisions including 492? To the best of my knowledge, this question is moot and hypothetical because her incapacity leave was legal from November 1, 2001 to June 2004.
While the Judicial Council notes that Rev. Ana Maria Dominguez had ambivalence about taking incapacity leave, the pertinent facts are: she made a request for incapacity leave in writing to her district superintendent on October 31, 2001; her request was reviewed by the joint committee on incapacity on November 15; and the request for incapacity leave was approved effective November 1, 2001. The Conference Board of Pensions concurred with the recommendation of the joint committee on incapacity on December 6, 2001. Incapacity leave was subsequently approved by the Annual Conference for the years of 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. During this time, Rev. Dominguez did not request that her incapacity leave be terminated by presenting medical evidence that she had recovered sufficiently to resume ministerial work. The elder who raised the questions of law, in his brief to the Judicial Council, delineated several instances where procedures conducive to a thorough investigation were not followed. However, the Judicial Council, in considering these concerns, finds no basis for reversing the decisions of the Annual Conference. The Council strongly recommends that the California-Pacific Annual Conference review its procedures to ensure that each case is thoroughly investigated by the joint committee on incapacity of the annual conference before approval for incapacity leave is granted, including the appropriate documentation of decisions made by the joint committee on incapacity.
DIGEST
The bishop’s decision of law on incapacity leave is affirmed. Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent. C. Rex Bevins, the first clergy alternate, participated in this decision.

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