Memorandum Number 930


April 24, 2002

Reconsideration of Decision 920.


Judicial Council Decision 920 is hereby modified to replace the word shall in every instance where it refers to ¶ 359.1(c) with the word may, so as to be in compliance with the language contained in that paragraph in the 2000 Discipline.

C. Rex Bevins was absent.

Statement of Facts

In Judicial Council Decision 920 in reference to ¶ 359.1(c) in the Digest, in the Analysis and Rationale and in the Decision, the word shall is used in regard to placing a clergy person on suspension.

Par. 359.1(c) of the 2000 Discipline states:

When deemed appropriate, to protect the well-being of the person making the complaint, the church, and/or clergy, the bishop, with the recommendation of the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry, may (emphasis added) suspend the person from all clergy responsibilities, but not from an appointment, for a period not to exceed sixty days. . . .

Judicial Council Decision 920 is hereby modified to replace the word shall in the above referenced places with the word may, so as to be in compliance with the language contained in that paragraph in the 2000 Discipline.

Dissenting Opinion

We dissent. We would reaffirm the language of Decision 920 requiring a mandatory suspension. The declaratory decision sought in Decision 920 presented a very narrow and specific fact situation. The statement made by the clergyperson in Decision 920 was held to be a sufficient declaration to subject that person's membership in her ministerial office to review under ¶ 359.1. Decision 920 states that the grounds for such review would be that such person has made a statement which would lead to a determination that the person is a self-avowed, practicing homosexual if affirmed in the course of the ¶ 359.1 proceeding. Paragraph 304.3 makes clear that a person who is determined to be a self-avowed, practicing homosexual cannot be appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church. Given the specific prohibition in ¶ 304.3, the making of a declaration sufficient to begin a review of the person's membership in her ministerial office necessarily involves ¶ 304.3 and its prohibition of appointment. Such a person must be accorded their due process rights.

Decision 920 properly balanced the clear pronouncements of General Conference on this subject while protecting the clergyperson's rights. The clergyperson is suspended during the review, thus continuing to receive all of the privileges of her clergy office (namely compensation and benefits). The church's prohibition on such person's being appointed to serve is safeguarded. The suspension further underscores the necessity of the bishop and other church officials acting expeditiously to bring the inquiry to its proper conclusion, either resulting in the restoration of the person to their appointment because of a determination that though they made the declaration, they were not self-avowing that they were a practicing homosexual, or resulting in the termination of the person's membership in her ministerial office. In addition, the suspension as a standard would preclude clergypersons in different areas being treated in a disparate manner.

Contrary to the suggestion of those who have sought reconsideration of Decision 920, that decision does not say that the bishop must suspend every person against whom any type of complaint is made. Decision 920 is limited to the factual situation set forth in the request for declaratory decision. It is the responsibility of the Judicial Council to interpret the language of the Book of Discipline. The language of ¶ 304.3 when read together with the language of ¶ 359.1(c) requires that such suspension be mandatory under such circumstances. Paragraph 304.3 is a declaration of the General Conference that the well-being of the church requires such suspension. The rights of the clergyperson are fully protected under such circumstances. The limited duration of the suspension encourages all parties to the proceeding to resolve the issues in a timely fashion and ensures that all parties to the proceedings are held to the level of accountability set forth in the Discipline.

Keith D. Boyette
Mary A. Daffin
James Holsinger

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