Memorandum Number 940


October 24, 2002

Request from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on a Perceived Conflict Between ¶¶ 352.1.b and 359.2 of the 2000 Discipline.


Paragraphs 359.2 and 352.1b are not in conflict.

Statement of Facts

The report of the Administrative Review Committee of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference on June 6, 2002, resulted in the approval of a resolution by the clergy session requesting a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council to determine if ¶¶ 359.2 and 353.1.b are in conflict. The issue at hand is raised on the question of whether the words ˜administrative complaint (¶359.2) must be directly used in a communication with the respondent. Does the absence of such language in a communication, the substance of which is clearly a complaint, make void the communication? The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610.2(j) of the 2000 Discipline.

The 2000 Discipline is clear and direct. Paragraph 359.1a clearly defines a complaint as a written and signed statement claiming misconduct or unsatisfactory performance of ministerial duties (see Decision 777). Paragraph 359.1d(2) states, If the bishop determines that the complaint is based on allegations of incompetence, ineffectiveness, or unwillingness or inability to perform ministerial duties, he or she may refer the complaint as an administrative complaint to the board of ordained ministry for its consideration of remedial or other action. Paragraph 352.1b states, They [the district superintendents] shall give the probationary, associate, or full member and the board of ordained ministry in writing specific reasons for the request. Paragraph 359.2 establishes that the fair process for administrative hearings commences upon referral of a matter as an administrative complaint and that in any administrative proceeding the respondent shall have the right to be heard.

Consequently, an administrative complaint must be written and signed. In order for the affected clergyperson to clearly understand that the document is an administrative complaint, the wording administrative complaint shall be included in the written communication to the respondent.

Concurring Opinion

We concur in the decision of the Judicial Council and write this concurring opinion to address why we believe the Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this case. The motion seeking a declaratory decision was proposed by the conference administrative review committee and adopted by the clergy session of the annual conference. The request for declaratory decision addressed a perceived conflict in ¶¶ 352.1 b) (involuntary leave of absence) and 359.2 (fair process in administrative hearings) of the Discipline.

Paragraph 605.6 of the Discipline provides:

Questions relating to matters of ordination, character, and conference relations of clergy shall be the business of the clergy session. The actions of the clergy session shall be for and on behalf of the annual conference. The provisions of the Book of Discipline applicable to an annual conference shall also be applicable to the clergy session.

As ¶ 605.6 of the Discipline makes clear, the clergy session is the annual conference when the clergy session is meeting on matters of ordination, character, and conference relations of clergy. In addition, ¶ 605.6 plainly states that the provisions of the Discipline applicable to the annual conference are also applicable to the clergy session. Paragraph 2610 of the Discipline is one of the provisions encompassed by this language in ¶ 605.6.

The Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this matter under ¶ 2610.2(j) of the Discipline because the request for declaratory decision was made by the clergy session during its meeting on matters solely within the province of the clergy session and, under ¶ 605.6, constituted an action for and on behalf of the annual conference.

Keith Boyette

C. Rex Bevins

John G. Corry

James W. Holsinger

Dissenting Opinion

The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction to make a decision under Par. 2610 of the 2000 Discipline when the request comes from the clergy session only. Par. 605.6 does not give the clergy session the authority to act on behalf of the annual conference except on [q]uestions relating to matters of ordination, character and conference relations of clergy.... A request for a declaratory decision must be acted on by the entire annual conference in open session.

Sally Curtis AsKew

Mary A. Daffin

Sally Brown Geis

Larry Pickens

United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

©2023 United Methodist Communications. All Rights Reserved