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Memorandum No. 1069

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April 27 2007
In Re: Review of the Bishop’s Decision of Law in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Concerning the Authority of a District Superintendent to Require a Pastor to Take a Leave of Absence.

Decision

During the 2006 clergy session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, a clergy member submitted the following written questions of law:

This question is based upon Para. 352.1b and Para. 359, The Book of Discipline 2000. Question: Does a District Superintendent have the authority and right to tell a pastor that if he does not request a voluntary leave of absence, he would be put on involuntary leave of absence, when he has not seen nor does he have in his possession the “specific reasons for the request” for the involuntary leave of absence (para. 352.1b)? This question is based on Para. 359.1, 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d, The Book of Discipline 2000. Question: Does a District Superintendent have the authority and right to remove a pastor from an appointment without 1) filing a complaint, 2) providing the pastor a copy of “the written complaint and any supporting material accompanying it” (Judicial Council Decision 794), and 3) adhering to the provisions of Para. 359.1, 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d?
The presiding bishop issued his written decision of law within thirty days as follows:
1. The request was properly made in writing under the provisions of ¶ 2609.6, The 2004 Book of Discipline. 2. The two questions raised did not relate to the current business of the clergy session since no one under consideration for Voluntary Leave of Absence related to the details of the questions. It is, therefore, my ruling that in accordance with Judicial Council decisions #33 and #799, the questions are “moot and hypothetical” and “shall not be decided.” Furthermore, as is stated in Judicial Council decision #799, “The bishop has no authority to make substantive rulings on judicial or administrative matters.” Decision #799 goes on to state that “Questions involving the supervisory function of the district superintendent under the Discipline are improper and should be so ruled.”
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶2609.6 of the 2004 Book of Discipline. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed. Decision 799 states, “The so-called ‘questions of law’ though presented properly, which do not relate to business, consideration or discussion of the conference session, are improper and should be so ruled and do not require a substantive answer. Questions involving the supervisory function of the district superintendent … are improper and should be so ruled. Substantive rulings by a bishop which come under the purview of the judicial and/or administrative process are improper; however, the bishop must rule on such matters as being improper.”
DIGEST
The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed. So-called “questions of law” though presented properly, which do not relate to business, consideration or discussion of the conference session, are improper and should be so ruled and do not require a substantive answer. Questions involving the supervisory function of the district superintendent are improper and should be so ruled. Substantive rulings by a bishop which come under the purview of the judicial and/or administrative process are improper; however, the bishop must rule on such matters as being improper. April 28, 2007 Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent.

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