Monday, May 01, 2006

Why 1031? (Winner: Boringest Post Ever)

If you want to read a less boring post, go check out the one I wrote earlier today. This one is not very sexy, but it is a response that I really felt like I should make.

My friend Tim Sisk asked me (twice!) why I want Judicial Council decision 1031 reconsidered. Well, based on my limited knowledge of legal jargon and a rudimentary understanding of the Book of Discipline, here is my long, boring answer. (I hope someone will help me by correcting my misunderstandings wherever you see them!)

Decision 1031 distinguishes between a judicial complaint and an administrative allegation. It says that Bishop Kammerer was acting like this was an administrative allegation, but the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry was talking like it was a judicial complaint. The decision rules that, since the board was using judicial complaint language, the case at hand was in fact “transformed” into a judicial complaint and not an administrative allegation, and therefore the Annual Conference lost jurisdiction.

A judicial complaint is some disobedience, a “chargeable offense,” meaning that the pastor disobeyed Episcopal or connectional authority, and so judicial proceedings ensue. On the other hand, an administrative allegation, like “unwillingness to perform ministerial duties,” can be handled without involvement of the judiciary at all. And so, the Judicial Council had to make ruling 1031 in order to be able to make ruling 1032. That’s what
Stephen Fife was saying in his comment a while back – without 1031, there would be no 1032. By making the ruling on 1031, the Judicial Council in effect gave themselves jurisdiction to look at making a ruling on 1032.

But in fact the JC's jurisdiction is very slim, by their own admission, since the question originally came to them as a parliamentary question, and they do not rule on parliamentary questions. But they very conveniently point out that, "However, parliamentary inquiry is clearly not the focus of the member’s inquiry." In other words, the JC was responding to what the member meant to ask, rather than what the member actually asked.

And beyond that, I disagree with 1031 because I think the matter was administrative, not judicial, and so the Judicial Council had no jurisdiction in the matter. I think the issue at hand is not disobedience to authority, but rather a minister unwilling to perform his duties. These duties were being pointed out to him by the Bishop, to be sure. But I simply cannot understand this as a judicial matter. The Judicial Council was splitting legal hairs in order to claim jurisdiction over a matter that was not theirs.

With that said, I do think the Virginia Board of Ordained Ministry set itself up for this, however. In their words, “[Johnson’s] unwillingness already threatens the authority of those who are charged to supervise him. For him to continue would only confuse and erode our understandings of connectional authority and boundary.” This language all but ensured that the Judicial Council would be able to get involved with the case. It appears as though Bishop Kammerer and the Virginia BOOM were not exactly on the same page.

So this is why I think 1031 needs to be reconsidered, as well as 1032. I hope that, where I have my understanding wrong about 1031, somebody will correct me. Now go read
something less boring!


Tim Sisk said...

Andy, thanks for addressing my question. My reponse is up on my website.

John said...

So how did Johnson fail to uphold his ministerial duties? From the text of 1031:

The district superintendent met again with the Elder and advised him that he was required to receive the individual into church membership and anyone else who was able to receive the vow, affirm the vow, and promise to fulfill the vow.

And Johnson refused to admit the prospective member. Why? Because the person could not receive, affirm, and fulfill the vow. Part of that vow is "renounce the forces of darkness" and "repent" fo sin. The prospective member refused to do so, so Johnson was correct to decline him membership.

Andy B. said...

It is my opinion that he failed to uphold his ministerial duties when he did not accept the man into membership. The detail of the story that I do not know, and maybe you do John, is whether the man would have been willing to take the vow simply as it is stated in the liturgy, without listing off particular sins.

John said...

In conversation with Rev. Johnson, he refused to repent of his homosexual conduct and planned to continue it. Therefore if he read the membership vow out of the liturgy, he would be lying. Quite sensibly, Johnson refused to admit him into church membership.

Larry said...

Well the decision for review of 1031 and 1032 has now been officially denied by the Judicial Council. So as far as the "church proper" it appears there wasn't an issue with Pastor Johnson exercising his discretion in the manner he did. Does that change anybody's opinion, or just further polarize you position?

Seamhead said...

It makes me angry and sad. I believe it's wrong.