RIGHT TO A HEARING BEFORE A DECISION IS MADE
A District Committee on Ministry forwarded a candidate for admission to the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. However, in 2013 before she could meet with the Board of Ordained Ministry, she received reports that her candidacy was terminated and she would not get to meet with the Board.
At the 2013 conference, the Board chair reported her being dropped and the conference supported that when it voted down a request for reconsideration. However, that action was challenged by a request for a ruling of law on the failure to have the hearing before the decision was made. The 2014 statement of facts from the case given in JCD 1244 did not include that there had been a vote to forward the request. That omission follows from the ruling by the Council in JCD 1244 that a vote on a question of law was a violation of the constitution. With no vote involved, the request for the ruling could not be interpreted to be a request for a declaratory decision. That made the request a question of law which, according to JCD 799, made it appear to be moot and hypothetical because the bishop was outside the judicial loop of responsibility under separation of powers.
The bishop ruled in 2013 that the question was moot and hypothetical.
According to the Discipline (Paragraph 2609.6), all questions of law presented to a bishop and the bishop’s response go to the Council for review, whether or not they are ruled moot or hypothetical. The Council changed its approach about the question of law in JCD 1244 as it has done occasionally in recent years. The bishop’s ruling was overturned and he was asked to rule on the question within sixty days so that the Council could review it in its next session. See my commentary on JCD 1244 of last November to see just how uncharacteristic this ruling was.
Honoring JCD 1244 that the request had been a question of law and that he had already ruled that actions taken by the clergy session were officially business of the annual conference and therefore something for which he must provide an answer, the bishop did as asked and ruled that because the candidate was not given a hearing prior to the Board’s action, she was still an active candidate.
The analysis of the Council was thorough and educational for those interested in the legal detail. The result was the same as the bishop’s simpler ruling. The Council affirmed it.
Update: The Southwest Texas Board of Ordained Ministry has since interviewed the candidate and recommended to the 2014 clergy session that she not be granted membership. That recommendation was accepted by the clergy session this past June.
Note: Before I post my commentaries on the Judicial Council, I send a copy to them for their information and for any error of fact I may have made. It is against their rules to comment on the meaning of their decisions but I presume they are free to correct facts. While I am sure my work is not error free, I have received no corrections or observations back from the Council or its staff. I take that to mean that they are granting me the right to have my opinions and any error of fact is inconsequential. My hope, of course, is to help them do their work better. Occasionally it appears they have given thought to my opinions, for which I am grateful.