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October 26 2012
In Re: Request from the North Alabama Annual Conference for Review of a Bishop’s Dismissal of a Complaint Against an Elder
During the 2012 session of The North Alabama Annual Conference, the bishop was presiding. On Friday, June 1, 201, during the late afternoon session, the Bishop recognized a lay member who presented the following motion:
On February 3, 2012, members of the Church of the Reconciler filed a Complaint with Bishop Will Willimon about actions of District Superintendent Ron Schultz. The complaint was dismissed by Bishop Willimon on March 22, 2012 without any conversation with members of the Church of the Reconciler. I make a motion that the ruling by Bishop Willimon which dismissed the church’s complaint against District Superintendent Ron Schultz be referred to the Judicial Council for review.
The Bishop requested clarification of the motion, and the lay member confirmed that the Bishop was correct that she was asking to refer the actions of the Bishop to the Judicial Council for review. Another lay member properly seconded the motion. The maker of the motion then gave a chronological accounting of events involving the Church of the Reconciler over the previous fourteen months.
The Bishop again asked for clarification of what was being requested by the layperson in her motion. The Bishop recognized the elder that was referenced in the complaint. The elder addressed the conference giving a chronology of events conducted by him, the Bishop and the cabinet.
The Bishop then stated that a request for a ruling from the Judicial Council is not debatable and requires a vote of 20% or more from the Annual Conference delegates. This statement by the bishop is in error; it refers to ¶ 2609.7 2008 Discipline which requires one-fifth of that conference present and voting, but when it votes on an appeal from a bishop’s decision on a question of law, which is not the situation before us.
The Bishop recognized the clergy person who was then assigned to the Church of the Reconciler who discussed the ongoing ministries at the church that are benefiting the members and neighbors of the church.
The Bishop called for a vote, and then recognized another lay member who requested a paper ballot. A retired elder was recognized who asked a question of clarification, and summarized what he believed was before the body to be voted upon.
The Bishop ruled that the vote would be by paper ballot, and asked the Conference Secretary to read the motion.
During the morning session of Saturday, June 2, 2012, the results of the vote were read by the Conference Secretary: “468 votes casted, 305 votes to refer the complaint to the Judicial Council, 161 not to refer the complaint, and 2 abstentions.”
All of the questions presented in the briefs addressed the supervisory function of the district superintendent and the bishop. None of this was properly before the Annual Conference. See Decisions 33 and 799. Decision 799 held:
[M]oot and hypothetical questions shall not be decided . . . Questions of law shall be germane to the regular business, consideration, or
discussion of the Annual Conference and shall state the connection to a specific action taken, or the questions must be raised during the deliberation of a specific issue of a matter upon which the conference
takes action. (emphasis added)
These questions are improper and should be so ruled and do not require a substantive answer. The review of the Bishop’s dismissal of the complaint would be an administrative decision, not a decision of law.
The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction in the matter, because the questions presented were moot.
Beth Capen was absent. Sandra Lutz, first lay alternate, participated in this decision.
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