“There can be no healing without justice. And justice requires courage.” – Marie Fortune
Possible Outcomes in the Judicial Process:
As set forth in The Book of Discipline, Section XVI, ¶¶ 362, 363, 364
Just Resolution – Mediation and resolution are sought at every step in the process. If resolution can be agreed upon by all parties, then a written agreement is drawn, and the process ends. As the person bringing the complaint, you would be involved in the discussion and the agreement.
The Committee on Investigation meets to determine whether reasonable grounds exist to support the charges. If so, the specifications adopted by the committee will be sent to you within five days of their meeting. The process would proceed toward trial. If not, the Committee may dismiss the complaint, may refer the complaint to Church officials for some other action, or may refer it back to the bishop for just resolution. (The Book of Discipline 2016, par. 2706.5)
- Church Trial – The Committee on Investigation could refer the charges to a trial. “Church trials are to be regarded as an expedient of last resort. Only after every reasonable effort has been made to correct any wrong and adjust any existing difficulty should steps be taken to institute a trial.” (The Book of Discipline 2016, par. 2707)
What Could Happen to the Accused Clergy person?
Just Resolution – Mediation and resolution are sought at every step in the process. If resolution can be agreed upon by all parties, the clergyperson would live by the outcome of the resolution. As the person bringing the complaint, you would be involved in the discussion and the agreement.
Suspension – The bishop may suspend the person from all clergy responsibilities, but not the appointment, for a period of up to ninety days. The clergy would not be involved in any ministerial functions during this time of investigation. This is not a permanent status, only a temporary possibility during the time of investigation.
Penalty – Revoke ministerial credentials and terminate conference membership – The trial court can impose any penalty up to these two possibilities. This outcome would mean that the person no longer has credentials as a clergy in The United Methodist Church and, therefore, cannot practice any form of ordained or licensed ministry as a United Methodist.
- Appeal – The clergyperson may appeal the decision of the trial court and a process outlined in The Book of Discipline 2016 (par. 2715-2716) would be initiated.