2012-2016 United Methodist Church Clergy Litigation Timeline
The following is the 2012-2016 complaint process outlined for clergy in The Book Of Discipline paragraph 2701 and following. Note that the process no longer includes the Committee on Investigation. The process is different for clergy and bishops.
(Download summary and detailed versions of process, as prepared by the Marriage Equality Task Force; Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, Washington, D.C)
- A complaint can be filed by any United Methodist concerning a chargeable offense against a Bishop, lay person, or clergy person.
- Signed/written to be valid
- Clergy should be given notice and specific allegations contained therein
- The Complaint contains “allegations” which must be proven before a jury.
- Upon receipt of the signed, written complaint, the Bishop will notify both parties of receipt and ensuing procedure.
Supervisory Response Process: Just Resolution
- Seeks to achieve a just resolution to the complaint.
- Must be completed within 90 days from notice of the complaint to both parties to the cause of action.
- The Bishop may recommend suspension during this process
- Just Resolution: church trials are a measure of last resort; this option is available only after all other attempts at resolution have failed.
- Just Resolution may begin at any time during the litigation process: supervisory, administrative, or judicial proceedings included
- If Just Resolution fails:
- The bishop and Church Counsel (a clergyperson chosen by the bishop) decide either to:
- 1. Dismiss the complaint, or
- 2. Move the complaint forward either through the
- A. administrative track, or
- B. judicial track
- If the respondent does not feel that the resolution is truly just, s/he has a constitutionally guaranteed right to either:
- 1. A Judicial Track Trial, OR
- 2. An Administrative Track Fair Process Hearing.
Administrative or Judicial Track: Hearing or Trial
- Judicial Track: TRIAL
- Either guilty OR not guilty
- If found guilty,
- The trial court will determine the punishment/penalty.
- The Administrative Track: FAIR PROCESS HEARING
- Possible Results:
- 1. Complaint does not have substance, OR
- 2. A recommendation for Involuntary Change in Conference Relationship—such as leave of absence, retirement, or termination of conference membership.
*Already accrued pension benefits cannot be lost even if a clergy person is dismissed through either the Administrative Track or the Judicial Track.
*The 2012 Discipline removes the Committee on Investigation from the clergy complaint process. The process still includes the Committee on Investigation for complaints against Bishops or lay persons.
The processing of a complaint against a bishop begins with supervision which is described in Para. 413. It appears that there is one bishop from the college and two members selected from the jurisdictional committee on episcopacy who actually oversee the supervision. And it appears that the chair of the committee on episcopacy choses the 2 members after consultation with the president and secretary of the college of bishops. (It is NOT the college who chooses the 2 members)
Note that if the complaint is dismissed in supervision that there is NO appeal of the dismissal. It ends there. And a complaint may be dismissed over the objections of the person filing it.
If the complaint leaves supervision, it goes to the jurisdictional committee on investigation (the 2012 GC eliminated this committee for clergy but not bishops or lay people). A dismissal by the committee on investigation can ultimately be appealed to the Judicial Council. There is precedent for the Judicial Council ordering a committee on investigation to vote out complaints.
If the Committee on Investigation votes out complaints, then there is a trial under provisions of Para. 2712. Note that the members of the trial court are clergy from across the jurisdiction, named to the pool of potential trial court members by the bishops. The trial is NOT by the college of bishops. If there is an acquittal,there is NO provision for an appeal to the Judicial Council or any other body. If there is a conviction, the conviction and/or the penalty can be appealed — first to the jurisdictional committee on appeals, but ultimately the Judicial Council.