Petition 90035

Petition 90035 amends Paragraphs 422.2, 422.5 and 422.6:

Petition 90035 (ADCA at 183), Calendar Item 10 (DCA 383) – Amends ¶¶ 422.2, 422.5 and 422.6 of the Discipline to provide a process of accountability for bishops through the Council of Bishops. In Decision 1366, the Judicial Council held this petition unconstitutional because members of the council relations committee and administrative review committee participated in both the prosecutorial and adjudicative functions. The Judicial Council also held this petition unconstitutional because the lack of a provision granting a right of appeal from the action of the Council of Bishops. The Parliamentary maneuvering during the February 25 Legislative Committee and February 26 plenary session prevented amendments from being considered which would have addressed these two infirmities. Thus, petition 90035 most likely will be held unconstitutional.

Paragraph 422.2 as adopted by the plenary session is as follows:

¶ 422.2. The Council of Bishops is thus the collegial and corporate expression of episcopal leadership in the Church and through the Church into the world. The Church expects the Council of Bishops to speak to the Church and from the Church to the world and to give leadership in the quest for Christian unity and interreligious relationships.  The Council of Bishops is also a body in which its individual members are held accountable for their work, both as general superintendents and as presidents and residents in episcopal areas.

Paragraph 422.5 as adopted by the plenary session is as follows:

¶ 422.5. The Council of Bishops shall establish from its membership a council relations committee of at least three persons to hear requests for involuntary leave of ab-sence, involuntary retirement, as may be referred to it by the Council of Bishops or any seven active bishops.

  1. a) When there is a recommendation for an involuntary status change to be referred to the council relations committee, the council relations committee shall conduct an administrative hearing following the provisions of fair process. The Council of Bishops shall designate the per-son to present the recommendation to the committee. The respondent shall be given an opportunity to address the recommendation in person, in writing, and with the assistance of a clergyperson in full connection, who shall have voice. Once the committee has heard the person designated to represent the recommendation, the respondent, and others as determined by the chairperson of the committee, it shall report its decision to the Council of Bishops. The Council of Bishops may affirm or reverse the decision of the committee. The Council of Bishops shall refer to the council relations committee any bishop who is unwilling to certify that he or she is willing to uphold, enforce, and maintain the Book of Discipline relative to self-avowed practicing homosexuals. When the council relations committee reaches a positive finding of fact that the bishop as not so certified, the council relations committee shall recommend either involuntary leave or involuntary retirement to the Council of Bishops after conducting a fair process hearing.
  2. b) Fair Process Hearings–As a part of the holy covenant that exists within the membership and organization of The United Methodist Church, the following procedures are presented for the protection of the rights of individuals and for the protection of the Church in administrative headings. The process set forth in this paragraph shall be followed whenever the council relations committee meets to process an administrative request by the Council of Bishops.

1) In any administrative proceeding the representative of the Council of Bishops and the respondent (the person against whom involuntary action is directed) shall have a right to be heard before any final action is taken.

2) Notice of any hearing shall advise the respondent of the reason for the proposed procedures with sufficient detail to allow the respondent to prepare a response. No-tice shall be given not less than twenty days prior to the hearing.

3) The respondent shall have a right to be accompanied to any hearing by a clergyperson in full connection, in accordance with the appropriate disciplinary provisions. The clergyperson accompanying the respondent shall have the right to voice.

4) In any administrative hearing, under no circum-stances shall one party, in the absence of the other party, discuss substantive issues with members of the pending hearing body. Questions of procedure may be raised with the presiding officer of the hearing body.

5) The respondent shall have access, at least seven days prior to the hearing, to all records relied upon in the determination of the outcome of the administrative process.

6) In the event that a respondent fails to appear for supervisory interviews, refuses mail, refuses to communicate personally with the bishop, or otherwise fails to respond to supervisory requests or requests from official administrative committees, such actions or inactions shall not be used as an excuse to avoid or delay any Church processes, and such processes may continue without the participation of such individual.

Paragraph 422.6 as adopted by the plenary session is as follows:

¶ 422.6 The Council of Bishops shall establish from its membership an administrative review committee of at least three persons who are not members of the executive committee or the council relations committee. Its only purpose shall be to ensure that the disciplinary procedures for any involuntary action recommended by the council relations committee are properly followed. The entire administrative process leading to the action for change of status of the bishop shall be reviewed by the administrative review committee, and it shall report its findings to the Council of Bishops prior to any action by the Council of Bishops. The administrative review committee shall notify the parties of the review process. The administrative fair process hearing procedures (¶ 422.5) should be followed by the administrative review commit-tee. Prior to its report, if the committee determines that any error has occurred, it may recommend to the appropriate person or body that action be taken promptly to remedy the error, decide the error is harmless, or take other action.