AN ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL
Normally appeals are judicial events, appeals of the actions taken by a judicial body to the next level. They are spelled out in Paragraphs 2715-2718. The Council has also laid out appeal tracks in a number of previous decisions. They again lay them out in this decision in the form of noting failure to appeal in the proper way at the proper time.
Briefly, the case is about a conference moving to involuntarily retire a pastor and his fight to avoid that, but not having his objections always given any response where he raised them where he thought they should be raised.
On the principle that the point of final appeal in an administrative hearing was the launching place for an appeal to the Judicial Council, the pastor and his advocate appealed the ruling of the Administrative Review Committee rather than raise a request for a declaratory decision or question of law at annual conference.
As stated in other commentaries about administrative handling of pastors, JCDs 799 and 1048 have been used to block.appeals of administrative cases from annual conferences. Further, I have argued that the clergy session is not really an objective appeals body since the Board of Ordaiined Ministry which has already acted on the case may vote in the clergy session, The Board’s chairperson may preside in some conferences and would have a conflict of interest since his agency already made a judgment in the case. Similarly, the bishop, who may chair the clergy session in other conferences also has a vested interest in seeing that decisions about the pastor are upheld, decisions on complaints which the bishop initiated against the pastor in some cases and, in all cases, directed into administrative action based on the bishop’s determination that there was cause.
The issue is this: how does a pastor facing administrative mishandling appeal it?
In this case, the advocate and pastor tested an alternative, appealing from the decision of the Administrative Review Committee (ARC). The Council ruled that was not listed in the Discipline as a proper place from which to do it and refused jurisdiction.
The Council seems to be going against its terrible ruling in JCD 1048 to say in this decision that a request for a declaratory decision under Paragraph 2610 was the proper appeal route for an administrative case.
And the Council has broken away from JCD 799 in other significant cases, namely JCDs 1031, 1156, 1189, and 1244 and has allowed some appeals through questions of law under Paragraphs 51, et al.
While the Council is not allowing appeal from the ARC, General Conference could consider it.
I have encountered innumerable times where conference officers act soon after annual conference to remove pastors administratiuvely so that they do not need to face the clergy session until long after the fact. It would be sensible in that circumstance for appeal from the ARC to the Council for the sake of timeliness. There being no other appellate body such as to an annual conference judiciary or even to the jurisdictional appellate committee, the pastor is out of ministry for as much as eleven months before an appeal can be raised. The simplest solution would be an appeal from the ARC’s decision.
If the Council clears away the use of JCD 799 to allow questions of law on procedural matters, as they have in the JCDs cited above, then there would be less need for appeals from administreative bodies like the ARC. The only appellate issue would be to be able to appeal administrative actions taken soon after annual conference.
In any case, I recommend that the Council revise Appendix A which is based in large part on JCD 799 for this very purpose. I am willing to work on such a revision based mostly on the Council’s own rulings.