Memorandum Number 762
Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Detroit Conference Concerning Grievance Procedures.
During the 1995 session of the Detroit Annual Conference, the following questions were submitted to the presiding bishop, Donald A. Ott, as questions of law under Par. 2613 of the Discipline:
1. When a signed grievance has been received by you or a District Superintendent, how does supervision manifest itself as identified in Paragraph 454a? When and how does it begin?
2. The Discipline describes a role of supervision for District Superintendents in Paragraph 454a. and Paragraph 519 and 520. Since Paragraph 520.2 states: "To establish a clearly understood process of supervision for clergy of the District, including observation of all aspects of ministry, direct evaluation, and feedback to the clergy involved," how does supervision in Paragraph 454a. differ or compare to supervision in Paragraph 519 and 520?
3. Would you please identify the distinctions between the roles of supervision in Paragraph 454a and in Paragraph 519 and 520? How does Paragraph 521.4 relate to supervision?
4. Would you please, as our Bishop, give us your understanding of the meaning of each of the words "justice" and "reconciliation" as they appear in Paragraphs 454 and 2622?
5. When the Pastor, accused of violating his/her sacred trust, is brought before you or the District Superintendent, is he/she aware of the reason for this initial meeting? Are they given the specifics of the accusations so they can prepare themselves for this meeting as identified in Paragraph 2622 entitled Fair Process?
6. When you assign your Administrative Assistant to meet with a local church Staff Parish Committee to read a report of a signed grievance, is this meeting with the accused and his/her Staff Parish Committee considered an "informational meeting only" or is it part of the Supervision defined under Paragraph 454a?
The bishop's ruling that the questions were not proper questions of law under Par. 2613 of the Discipline is affirmed. Notwithstanding the fact that there was a statement in the minutes of the session that the questions were related to a specific clergy person, the questions do not constitute questions of law under Par. 2613. Questions of law must set forth specific action taken or to be taken under stated facts of a particular situation or circumstance. Otherwise, the answers would be either moot or merely informational.
Questions similar to those presented here were presented in our Decision 750. Therein, we held that those questions related to procedure in the supervisory process and were not questions of law related to a case. That same conclusion is correct here.
Our Decision No. 33 held that:
It is not the duty of the presiding Bishop to rule upon any hypothetical question which may be propounded, nor to answer requests for information which involve no legal matter.
The questions presented to the bishop in the 1995 session of the Detroit Annual Conference are hypothetical in their present form. The propounder failed to state the relationship of the facts of a specific case to the questions presented.
The bishop correctly ruled that the questions in their present form are hypothetical.