A CONDENSATION OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE UMC COMPLAINT PROCESS

March 2014

What is the process when a complaint is filed against a bishop?

According to church law, complaints regarding bishops are to be submitted to the president of the College of Bishops in the appropriate jurisdictional or central conference.

The complaint process outlined in church law provides that within ten days of receiving the complaint, the president and secretary of the appropriate College of Bishops should consult with the chair of the jurisdictional committee on the episcopacy to appoint two members of the committee to carry out a supervisory response directed towards a just resolution, along with the supervising bishop.  A just resolution is one that focuses on repairing harm, achieving accountability by making things right as far as possible and bringing healing to all the parties.

This confidential process is to be completed in 120 days, or may be extended for two additional 120-day periods if necessary. The supervising bishop will keep all parties informed of the status of the process.

What happens if resolution does not occur?

Complaints are often resolved in the supervisory process; however, if resolution doesn’t occur, the complaint may be forwarded to the jurisdictional committee on investigation, which decides whether grounds exist to warrant a formal charge.

If there is not sufficient evidence to support charges, the committee may dismiss the complaint or refer concerns to the appropriate church officials for administrative or other action. If the investigating committee decides there is sufficient basis for a trial, a bill of charges is prepared. Trials remain the church’s last resort in resolving an issue when resolution can’t be reached through other steps.

What are considered chargeable offenses for clergy?

A bishop or other clergy person may be tried when charged with any of the following offenses:  immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage; practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies; crime; disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church; dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor; child abuse; sexual abuse; sexual misconduct or harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; or racial or gender discrimination.

What does the denomination say about human sexuality?

The denomination’s foundational statement about human sexuality both affirms the sacred worth of all people and that God’s grace is available to all.  Sexuality is God’s gift to all persons, however, the church only affirms sexual relations within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.   While the Church considers the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching, we commit to be in ministry for and with all persons.

What does the denomination say about marriage?

The denomination’s statement on marriage affirms the sanctity of the marriage covenant expressed through love, commitment and fidelity.  The church supports laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  Ceremonies that celebrate same gender unions may not be conducted by our ministers or in our churches.

What is required to effect a change in church law?

Only the United Methodist General Conference, a legislative body made up of clergy and lay members elected as delegates from around the world, can change church law. The General Conference meets only once every four years.

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