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Book of Discipline: ¶ 2704 Referral of Original Complaint to Counsel for the Church

2704. Referral of Original Complaint to Counsel for the Church, Who Shall Prepare Judicial Complaint and Supporting Material for Consideration by Committee on Investigation

1. When respondent is a bishop

a) Judicial Complaint—A complaint based on allegations that a bishop has committed one or more of the offenses listed in ¶ 2702 shall initially be served on the president and secretary of the College of Bishops. Upon receipt of the complaint the president of the College of Bishops shall forthwith deliver a copy of the complaint to the respondent bishop, notify active bishops of the existence and nature of the complaint, and refer the complaint to an elder in full connection within the same jurisdictional or central conference, who shall serve as counsel for the Church. By agreeing to serve, counsel for the Church signifies his or her willingness to uphold the requirements of Church law and the Discipline. Counsel for the Church shall represent the interests of the Church in pressing the claims of the person making the complaint. Counsel for the Church shall have the right to choose one assistant counsel without voice who may be an attorney. The counsel for the Church shall draft and sign the complaint as a judicial complaint, forward it to the jurisdictional or central conference committee on investigation (¶ 2703), and represent the Church in the judicial process. The fair process provisions in ¶ 2701 shall apply to this judicial process. The statute of limitations in ¶ 2702.4 should be considered prior to the referral of a judicial complaint.20

b) If a written complaint is made against a bishop for any of the offenses in ¶ 2702.1, the counsel for the Church, as appointed under ¶ 2704.1a, shall prepare, sign, and forward the judicial complaint and all documentary evidence under consideration to the chairperson of the committee on investigation, the person making the original complaint, and the bishop being charged (respondent). The respondent shall be given an opportunity to submit to the committee on investigation a written response to the judicial complaint within thirty days of receipt of the judicial complaint. The chairperson shall convene the committee on investigation within sixty days of receiving the judicial complaint.

c) If five or more members of the committee on investigation so recommend, the jurisdictional committee on the episcopacy may suspend the respondent pending the conclusion of the trial process.

2. When respondent is a clergy member of an annual conference, clergy on honorable or administrative location, or a local pastor

a) Judicial Complaint—If the complaint is not dismissed pursuant to the provisions of ¶ 362 and if the bishop determines that the complaint is based on allegations of one or more offenses listed in ¶ 2702.1, the bishop shall refer the complaint to the counsel for the Church, who shall be appointed by the bishop. The counsel for the Church shall be a clergyperson in full connection and shall have the right to choose one assistant counsel without voice who may be an attorney. By agreeing to serve, counsel for the Church signifies his or her willingness to uphold the requirements of Church law and the Discipline. The counsel for the Church shall draft and sign a judicial complaint, attaching as exhibits all relevant written materials, including but not limited to information from the supervisory process and a suggested list of witnesses as deemed appropriate, forward the judicial complaint to the committee on investigation and represent the Church in the judicial process. The statute of limitations in ¶ 2702.4 should be considered prior to the referral of a judicial complaint.

b) If a written complaint is made against a clergyperson for any of the offenses in ¶ 2702.1, the bishop shall appoint a clergyperson in full connection as counsel for the Church (see ¶ 362.1e). Counsel for the Church shall prepare, sign, and refer the judicial complaint, with all relevant material, to the chairperson of the conference committee on investigation and represent the interests of the Church in pressing the claims of the person making the original complaint in any proceedings before the committee. A copy of the complaint and documentary evidence under consideration shall be sent to the respondent, the person making the original complaint, and the bishop. The respondent shall be given an opportunity to submit to the committee on investigation a written response to the judicial complaint within thirty days of receipt of the judicial complaint. The chairperson of the conference committee on investigation shall have sixty days to convene the committee on investigation after receiving the judicial complaint.

c) If five or more members of the committee on investigation so recommend, the bishop may suspend the person charged from all clergy responsibilities pending the outcome of the judicial process. The respondent retains all rights and privileges as stated in ¶ 334.

3. When respondent is a diaconal minister

a) If a written complaint is made against a diaconal minister for any of the offenses in ¶ 2702.1, the supervisory response should be initiated and a just resolution process may be used. (See ¶ 362.1c for a discussion of a just resolution.) If the supervisory process does not result in resolution, the respondent’s district superintendent may appoint a clergyperson in full connection or diaconal minister as counsel for the Church. By agreeing to serve, counsel for the church signifies his or her willingness to uphold the requirements of Church law and the Discipline. Counsel for the Church shall prepare, sign, and refer the judicial complaint, with all relevant material, to the chairperson of the conference committee on investigation for diaconal ministers and represent the interests of the Church in pressing the claims of the person making the original complaint in any proceedings before the committee. A copy of the complaint and documentary evidence under consideration shall be sent to the respondent, the person making the original complaint, and the bishop. The respondent shall be given an opportunity to submit to the committee on investigation a written response to the judicial complaint within thirty days of receipt of the judicial complaint. The chairperson of the conference committee on investigation shall have sixty days to convene the committee on investigation after receiving the judicial complaint.

b) If at least two-thirds of the committee on investigation so recommend, the bishop may suspend the person charged from all professional responsibilities pending the conclusion of the trial process.

4. When respondent is a layperson

a) In all cases, the pastor or district superintendent should take pastoral steps to resolve any grievances or complaints. Such steps may include a just resolution process. See ¶ 362.1c for a discussion of a just resolution. If after such steps have been taken and have not resulted in a resolution and a written complaint is made against a layperson for any of the offenses in ¶ 2702.3, the pastor in charge or co-pastors (¶ 205.1) of the local church, in consultation with the district superintendent and the district lay leader, may appoint counsel for the Church, who shall be a United Methodist. By agreeing to serve, counsel for the Church signifies his or her willingness to uphold the requirements of Church law and the Discipline. Counsel for the Church shall prepare, sign, and refer the judicial complaint, with all relevant material, to the chairperson of committee on investigation.

b) If five or more members of the committee so recommend, the pastor may suspend the charged professing member from exercising any Church office pending conclusion of the trial process.

c) All complaints against a professing member under ¶ 2702.3 shall be submitted in writing, signed by the person(s) making the original complaint, and delivered to the pastor in charge of the local church of which the respondent is a member, and a copy shall be sent to the respondent.

d) The member shall be given an opportunity to submit to the committee on investigation a written response to the judicial complaint within thirty days of a receipt of the judicial complaint and the appointing of the committee and before consideration of the judicial complaint by the committee.

e) The district superintendent shall preside at all meetings of the committee, shall be given a copy of the judicial complaint and any response, and shall have the right to be present and to speak at all meetings of the committee.

20. The statute of limitations for bishops went into effect as law on a prospective basis on April 27, 1996. All alleged offenses that occurred prior to this date are time-barred. See Judicial Council Decisions 691, 704, and 761.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2016. Copyright 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

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