ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESSES IN PARAGRAPH 413
In JCD 1275, the Council called on General Conference to revise Paragraph 413 so it would be more complete. However, here in JCD 1287, it appears to find no flaws in it when, as I suggest in the commentary on JCD 1275, Paragraph 413 is read “in toto” with Paragraph 363 ff and 2701 ff.
It appears to me that the Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops was in a real bind about how to proceed with a complaint against one of their number who conducted a same sex marriage in another jurisdiction.
At issue seems to be the meaning of “forthwith” in Paragraph 2704.1. That directs sharing the complaint immediately with the other bishops in the college, and with the church counsel as well the bishop under complaint.
Paragraph 413 calls for a confidential supervisory response to occur before distributing the complaint beyond the respondent bishop, especially before a church counsel even had to be selected.
The Council resolved this by comparing Paragraphs 413 and 363 and ruling that the pattern in Paragraph 363 supercedes Paragraph 2704.1’s hastier timeline.
While I agree with the decision, I wonder if the real concern among the bishops was what a church counsel would do with the complaint as far as investigating and writing up a judicial complaint before the supervisory response resolved the case. I do not think anyone doubted the College of Bishops would obtain a “just resolution” so that the bishop would not be tried in a trial that would be in the public eye for a long time. The just resolution was to occur within the confidential context of the supervisory response. While there would be no transparency that way, there would be a much smaller public profile of the event than a trial, even if the result was questionable.
This case is simple in that it did not require comparing all of Paragraph 413 with other sections on fair process. I see no bias in this decision. Law can be so arcane, so dull, at times.
But the right of an accused person to seek just resolution before the complaint becomes public in any sense is an important right for all of us, including bishops. Now if we can only keep complaints from getting out to the whole Cabinet before the supervisory response is concluded, we might be better off.