Memorandum Number 1188
Review of a Bishop's Decision of Law in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference Regarding the Right of a Clergyperson to Trial with Reference to ¶¶ 20, 2704.2a, 2706.1, and 2706.5c
At the June 18, 2010, clergy session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference an elder presented two questions of law for a ruling by the bishop. Both questions concerned the constitutional right of a clergy person to trial.
Paragraph 20 of the 2008 Book of Discipline says, in relevant part, "Article IV.- The General Conference shall not do away with the privileges of our clergy of right to trial by a committee and of appeal…" Does the Rev. Dr. Edward W. Paup, an ordained elder of The United Methodist Church and a member of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, have a right to trial guaranteed by this provision?
After the Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference had appointed Counsel for the Church under 2704.2.a) in the case in which the Rev. Dr. Edward W. Paup was respondent did the Bishop have authority to terminate the process before the Committee on Investigation had had an opportunity to hear the case and make a determination either to dismiss the charges (¶ 2706.5.c(1) or to certify a bill of charges (¶ 2706.5.c(1) or did Rev. Paup's demand for a trial remove any authority the Bishop might have had to make such a decision?
To Question 1 the Bishop responded.
The question is moot and hypothetical. Judicial Council Decision 33 established the principle that questions of law should "be based upon some action taken or to be taken" by the Annual Conference. This question does not pertain to any business before the Annual Conference.
To Question 2 the Bishop responded.
The question is moot and hypothetical. Judicial Council Decision 33 established the principle that question of law should "be based upon some action taken or proposed to be taken" by the Annual Conference. This question does not pertain to any business before the Annual Conference.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609 of the 2008 Discipline.
The questions presented were not moot and hypothetical; they were relevant but improper as questions of law to a Bishop.
The minutes of the June 18, 2010, clergy session indicate that the two questions were submitted in writing in the regular business of the clergy session during the Report of the Committee on Conference Relations. Decision 1131 (and numerous other Decisions) states that a request for a " bishop's decision of law must be submitted in writing in the regular business of an annual conference session. Such requests must relate to the business of the conference." The Committee on Conference Relations was addressing matters of conference relations when the questions were asked.
Paragraph 605.6 grants to the annual conference the responsibility and the authority to address "matters of ordination, character, and conference relations of clergy."
The annual conference shall make inquiry into the moral and official conduct of its ordained ministers and local pastors. In response to the inquiry whether all such persons are blameless in their life and official administration, the district superintendent may answer for all the preachers in the district in one answer, or the Board of Ordained Ministry may inquiry of each district superintendent about each ordained minister in the district and make one report to the bishop and the conference in open session. 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. All clergy members (¶¶ 601.1, 602.1) of the annual conference and the lay members of the Board of Ordained Ministry may attend and shall have voice in the clergy session. Only the ordained clergy in full connection and the members of the Board of Ordained Ministry may vote (¶ 602.1a). Others may be admitted by express action of the clergy session, but shall not have vote, nor unless specifically granted by the clergy session, shall have voice (¶ 333).
Earlier in the day of June 18, 2010, Reverend Paup had been granted the status of honorable location. There being no complaint(s) or charge(s) when the request for honorable location was made and granted, Reverend Paup is of good character and was in good standing and eligible to be placed in status of honorable location.
Paragraph 359.1 states:
An Annual Conference may grant clergy members in full connection certificates of honorable location at their own request, provided that the Board of Ordained Ministry shall have first examined their character and found them in good standing, and provided that the clergy session shall also pass on their character after the request is made, and provided further, that this relation shall be granted
only to one who intends to discontinue service in the itinerant ministry. The Board of Ordained Ministry shall provide guidance and counsel to the locating member and family as they return to a new relationship in the local church….
The questions of law presented to the Bishop during the 2010 regular session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference are questions that concern procedural or substantive matters relating to judicial or administrative process. These are not proper questions to be addressed in a substantive ruling by a bishop. Since the Bishop does not have the authority to decide issues related to a judicial or administrative matter, the Bishop's decisions are vacated.