Decision Number 921
IN RE: Request from the California-Pacific Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning of ¶ 633 of the 2000 Discipline Which Is Related to the Administrative Review Committee and Administrative Fair Process Procedures.
Par. 633 does not require the administrative review committee to do anything more than review the record for any violations of fair process. The probationary member in question and a member of the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry are not required to be involved in this review process. However, the board of ordained ministry must provide to the administrative review committee a complete written record of "the entire administrative process leading to the action for change in conference relationship" (¶ 633). If a hearing is held, the administrative fair process procedures in ¶ 359.2 must be followed.
Statement of Facts
During the 2001 session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference a clergy member requested that the annual conference ask the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the following question:
Does the sentence in Â¶ 633 "The administrative fair process hearing procedures (Â¶ 359.2) should be followed by the administrative review committee." mean:
(1) that the respondents whose situation is being reviewed by the administrative review committee has a right to be heard by the administrative review committee before any final action is taken?
(2) that the respondent has a right to a 20 day notice of any meeting of the administrative review committee in which the committee considers their case?
(3) that the respondent has a right to access all records relied upon by the administrative review committee in making a decision about the fairness of the process.
The motion was approved by the annual conference.
Appearing at an oral hearing on October 25, 2001 were Richard R. Bentley, Jr. and Thomas H. Griffith, representing the California-Pacific Annual Conference, and Robert F. Kohler, representing the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Â¶ 2610 of the 2000 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Par. 633 of the 2000 Discipline addresses the composition, purpose, and procedures of the Conference Administrative Review Committee. The purpose of the administrative review committee is to ensure that the disciplinary procedures for certain actions that may be taken administratively by an annual conference are "properly followed." Par. 633 provides, in relevant part:
…The entire administrative process leading to the action for change in conference relationship shall be reviewed by the administrative review committee, and it shall report its findings to the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference prior to any action of the annual conference The administrative fair process hearing procedures (Â¶ 359.2) should be followed by the administrative review committee...
The function of the administrative review committee is not to review the substantive merits of the decision being forwarded to the annual conference for final action, but rather to ensure that the procedures applied in reaching the decision have complied with the Discipline. In this regard, if the administrative review committee "determines that any error has occurred, it may recommend to the appropriate person or body that action be taken promptly to remedy the error, decide the error is harmless, or take other action." Â¶ 633.
Par. 633 does not require the administrative review committee to do anything but review the process leading to the recommendation for the discontinuance of a probationary member under Â¶ 318. In order for the Administrative Review Committee to do its work properly, it must be provided with a complete written record of the entire process leading to the recommendation for a change in conference relationship. This should include, at a minimum, the minutes of the portion of any committees, including the board of ordained ministry or the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry which relate to the person whose conference relationship is being recommended for change. Any questions the probationer or the executive committee have related to fair process should be raised and dealt with as they arise and before the recommendation is forwarded to the administrative review committee for its review.
If the administrative review committee finds in its review of the written record that fair process has not been followed or otherwise determines that further inquiry must be made, it could pursue its questions with the probationer in question and the executive
committee. In such case all parties must be included in any conversations, and all other parts of Â¶ 359.2 must be followed.