Petition 80324

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Leaves of Absence (80324-MH-¶354)

Substitute for current ¶¶354 & 355, deleting current ¶357, and renumbering as follows:

354. Voluntary Leave of Absence
1. Probationary, associate, or members in full connection of the annual conference who for sufficient reason choose  to temporarily take leave from their ministerial appointment  may request in writing with a copy to the bishop and their district superintendent a voluntary leave through the board of ordained ministry.  This leave is granted or renewed by vote of the clergy members in full connection upon recommendation by the board of ordained ministry.  
2. A voluntary leave of absence may be taken for a variety of reasons:
a) Personal Leave – A relationship that is granted to clergy who self-determine for personal reasons that they are temporarily unable or unwilling to continue in a  ministry appointment.
b) Family Leave – A relationship that is granted to clergy who, because of an immediate family member’s need for full-time care, are temporarily unable to continue in a ministry appointment.
c) Transitional Leave – A leave granted for up to twelve months with approval of the bishop and the Board of Ordained Ministry Executive Committee to probationary and associate members and full clergy members in good standing who are temporarily between appointments.    
A transitional leave of absence may be granted for the following reasons:  
1) A probationary or full member deacon needs to seek and secure an appointable primary position—compensated or non-salaried.
2) A probationer, associate member, or full member elder needs to transition from an extension ministry to another appointment.  
During transitional leave, the clergyperson shall provide quarterly substantiation of his or her effort to obtain such an appointable position to the bishop and to the Board of Ordained Ministry Executive Committee.
3.
Written request for a voluntary leave of absence, with the exception of transitional leave,  should be made at least ninety days prior to the annual conference session giving specific reasons for the request. Representatives of the annual conference board of ordained ministry may interview the clergy member to determine sufficient cause.  This relationship shall be approved annually upon written request of the clergy member and personal or family leave shall not be granted for more than five years in succession, except by a two-thirds vote of the clergy members in full connection.  The leave shall be counted as a part of the eight-year limit for probationary members (¶ 327) unless the limit is extended by the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference upon the recommendation of the board of ordained ministry.
4. Between sessions of the annual conference, voluntary  leave of absence may be granted or terminated, with the approval of the bishop and district superintendents, by the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry. 37   This interim action shall be subject to the approval of the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference at its next session. 38
  5. Should there be active complaints or charges, a request for voluntary leave of absence shall not be permitted until those complaints or charges have been resolved.  
  6. Clergy on voluntary leave of absence shall have no claim on the conference funds. Notwithstanding the foregoing, where the conference has made certain elections under applicable benefit plans that require continued participation by clergy on voluntary leaves of absence, the clergy shall continue to participate in such plans. They may participate in the conference health program through their own contributions, if applicable.  However, in exceptional circumstances, on recommendation of the bishop and district superintendents, salary and/or other benefits, subject to the terms of the applicable benefit plans, may be granted to a clergy member, if applicable, by vote of the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference. In an interim between sessions of the annual conference, by vote of the bishop, cabinet, and executive committee of the board of ordained ministry, salary and/or benefits, subject to the terms of the applicable benefit plans, may be granted, if applicable.    
  7. Clergypersons on voluntary leave shall be eligible for membership on annual conference committees, commissions, or boards.  They may vote for other clergy delegates to general or jurisdictional conferences and may be elected to serve  as delegates themselves.
 8. After consultation and with the written consent of the pastor in charge, and with the approval of the district superintendent and the staff-parish relations committee of a local church, clergy members shall designate a charge conference within the bounds of the annual conference to which they shall relate and submit an annual report.  They shall report all marriages performed, baptisms administered, funerals conducted and other ministerial activities to the charge conference, pastor in charge, and board of ordained ministry.  The exercise of this ministry shall be limited to the charge conference in which their membership is held and with the written permission of the pastor in charge unless special permission is granted by the bishop of the conference where membership is held. With the permission of the bishop of the conference where membership is held, under the supervision of the district superintendent, the clergy member may preach, teach, perform marriages, and, if holding sacramental privileges, administer the sacraments outside of the charge where membership is held.  
  9. Those on voluntary leave of absence shall be held amenable to the annual conference for their conduct and the performance of their ministry.  In case of failure to report to the board of ordained ministry, the complaint procedures may be invoked.   (¶362)
 10. Clergy members on voluntary leave of absence may, with the permission of the bishop and with the approval of the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, continue to hold an existing reserve commission as an armed forces chaplain, but may not voluntarily serve on extended active duty.
  11. When an end to voluntary leave of absence is requested, except for transitional leave, it shall be by written request at least six months prior to the session of annual conference. 44 The board of ordained ministry shall review the circumstances surrounding the granting of the leave for the purpose of determining whether those circumstances have been alleviated or resolved. When the board has determined that the circumstances of the voluntary leave have not been alleviated or resolved and the request is denied, the board will inform the person of the remaining options, which include: a) remaining on voluntary leave of absence; b) taking honorable location; c) being recommended to the bishop and district superintendents  to be placed on involuntary leave, administrative location, or involuntary retirement, using the fair process of  ¶ 362.3; or d) such other action as deemed appropriate.
 12. When clergy members on voluntary leave of absence do not request an annual extension of the leave of absence during the five-year period or do not indicate willingness to return to the itinerant ministry at the end of the five-year period, following documented efforts to make contact with the clergyperson, the provisions of location   (¶360) or the complaint procedures of ¶ 362 may be invoked.

355.  Involuntary Leave of Absence—
1. The bishop and the district superintendents may request an involuntary leave of absence without the consent of the probationary, associate, or full member, preferably ninety days prior to the annual conference session. They shall give to the clergy member and the board of ordained ministry in writing specific reasons for the request. The fair process for administrative hearings as set forth in ¶362.3 shall be followed in any involuntary leave of absence procedure.  The clergyperson has a right to a hearing before the bishop, district superintendents, and executive committee of the board of ordained ministry prior to being placed on involuntary leave of absence.
 2. An involuntary leave may be requested by the bishop and the district superintendents when:
a) A written or signed complaint is not resolved through the supervisory response process (¶ 362.1b) within 120 days and is referred as an administrative complaint.(¶ 362.1d)
b) Remedial action is required to address allegations of incompetence, ineffectiveness, or unwillingness or inability to perform ministerial duties, which becomes an administrative complaint. (¶ 362.2 and 362.4a)  
c) An administrative or judicial complaint requires more than a ninety-day suspension. (¶ 362.1c)
Should there be complaints or charges pending at the time of a request for involuntary leave of absence, they should be placed in the personnel file of the clergyperson. All subsequent actions concerning such entries should be duly noted and placed in the file.
 3. Involuntary leave of absence shall be approved by two-thirds vote of the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference. By two-thirds vote of the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference, upon recommendation of the bishop, district superintendents, and board of ordained ministry, the ninety-day notice requirement may be waived.  Involuntary leave  shall be approved annually upon written request of the district superintendents and shall not be approved for more than three years in succession.
4.  Between sessions of the annual conference, an involuntary leave of absence may be granted or terminated, with the approval of the bishop and cabinet, by the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry.  This interim action shall be subject to the approval of the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference at its next session.
  5.  Clergy on involuntary leave shall have no claim on the annual conference funds.  The annual conference assumes no financial responsibility for salary, pension, or other benefits for clergy on involuntary leave of absence.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, where the conference has made certain elections under applicable benefit plans that require continued participation by clergy on involuntary leaves of absence, the clergy shall continue to participate in such plans. They may participate in the conference health plan through their own contributions, if applicable.  In exceptional circumstances, with the recommendation of the bishop and cabinet, salary and/or other benefits, subject to the terms of the applicable benefit plans, may be granted by vote of the clergy session of the annual conference.  Between sessions of the annual conference, in unusual circumstances, the bishop and cabinet may recommend and the executive committee of the board of ordained ministry may approve funding of pensions and other benefits, subject to the terms of the applicable benefit plans, pending approval by the annual conference.
  6.  Clergy placed on involuntary leave shall designate a charge conference within the bounds of the annual conference.  Ministerial service shall be limited to that charge and shall only be provided with the written consent of the pastor in charge and with the approval of the district superintendent, bishop, and pastor/staff parish relations committee.
  7.  Clergy on involuntary leave shall not participate in the boards and agencies of the annual conference, be delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences, or vote on other clergy delegates.
  8.   When an end to the involuntary leave of absence is requested by the bishop and district superintendents, it shall be by written request at least six months prior to the session of annual conference. The board of ordained ministry shall review the circumstances surrounding the granting of the relationship for the purpose of determining whether the conditions of the leave have been met.  If the board determines that the conditions of the involuntary leave have not been resolved, they may recommend other courses of remedial action as stated in ¶ 362.4a.  
9.  If the district superintendents and bishop do not intend to extend the involuntary leave of absence beyond the three years, they shall notify both the board of ordained ministry and the clergyperson at least six months prior to the session of the annual conference to permit clergypersons to exercise their options.  The clergyperson shall have the right to request a change to a voluntary leave of absence or termination of the involuntary leave of absence.  
  10.  Any consecutive combination of voluntary and involuntary leaves of absence shall be counted in the five year limitation on a leave of absence,  unless it is extended by the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference upon the recommendation of the board of ordained ministry.
  11.  The administrative review committee (¶ 635) shall ensure that the disciplinary procedures for involuntary leave of absence were properly followed.  The entire process leading to the recommendation for involuntary leave of absence and its resolution shall be reviewed by the administrative review committee, and it shall report its findings to the clergy session of members in full connection with the annual conference.

Rationale

This legislation substitutes for ¶¶354, 355, and 357.  The purpose is to include these under the rubrics of Voluntary or Involuntary Leave; to provide a common, consistent system for going on and coming off leave; and to establish a common, consistent set of privileges and responsibilities while on leave.