RECONSIDERATION OF JCM 1217
This memorandum relates to reconsideration of JCM 1217, a request from California-Pacific Conference. Again the Judicial Council decided not to reconsider and, as usual, did not offer any rationale that might help us. At issue in JCD 1217 was the request for recompense for the respondent based on P 2701 during appeal. In 1984, General Conference voted that the suspension of a pastor lasted through appeal and the pastor was owed his support package until the end of the judicial process. Some of that wording remains in P 2701 and 2704.3 (2008 BOD). However, another passage was added to the Discipline more recently which says that a pastor’s rights end upon convection and removal from ministry, thus removing his right to pastoral support during appeal, a financially devastating circumstance to the respondent, especially if the results of the trial court decision was mixed. The Council ruled the request should have gone to the trial court before the trial ended rather than to the jurisdiction’s appellate committee and then to the Council.
At issue, I suspect, was the mixing of civil and church law. In civil law there are appellate processes that can be used without completion of a trial, such as possible prejudice of the judge, improper procedures used by the prosecution that are prejudicing a case, and so forth. and I wish the Council would take time to explore the differences so that confusion over them would not persist in our system. With so many secular lawyers on the Council, it is hoped that there would be serious discussion and review of the differences rather than just allowing the continuation of blurring the two.
In the earlier case in which I participated before the Council, one of the issues was over the necessity of objections in church trials in order for an issue to be subject to appeal. We argued that in every other appeal situation within the church, objections could be raised after the actions were completed and were not required during the respective processes. We argued that since our denomination does not have a way to appeal based on incompetent counsel, being a church system of justice, we allowed for objections to be raised after the fact upon reasonable reflection (PP 2706.3, 2708.3, 2715.1, 2715.7, and 2715.9). Even P 2710.6 does not add that objections are required for appeal. In our case, counsel chose the strategy to not object. Being a church trial, even that strategy was thrown to the winds on several occasions and objections were raised during sidebar conferences off the record and then not brought up on the record afterward. The Council was not convinced by our argument because there was no record and ruled that objections on the record at the moment of the action were required This uncritical mixing of civil court proceedings and church proceedings is most unfortunate.
Hopefully, future Council sessions will be wise enough to clarify such differences where it can do so rightly, and the General Conference can do what it must to sort out such differences.