REMOVAL OF AN ELDER
THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF
THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH
IN THE MATTER OF
THE PETITION OF DAVID E. HOFFMAN
DECISION No. 1992-010
This case comes before the Council by a petition for declaratory judgment filed by Mr. David E. Hoffman, formerly an Elder in the A. M. E. Zion Church pursuant to Article I Jurisdiction, Paragraph B, of the Rules of the Judicial Council in accordance with the Act passed by the 1988 General Conference which reads:
B. The Judicial Council shall not have original jurisdiction, since decisions are declaratory and final in the interim of the General Conference. The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1996 Article I.
2. To hear and make declaratory judgments when petitioned to do so when any law is subject to more than one interpretation or any paragraph in the Book of Discipline is of doubtful meaning. Any person in good and regular standing in the A.M.E. Zion Church can petition the Judicial Counsel for such a judgment. The Council’s decision is final unless revised or reversed by the General Conference. Id. Article VI.
No testimony was presented to the Council. No hearing requested, as none is needed.
QUESTION TO BE DECIDED
The petition presents only one question of interpretation of the law:
"…Can charges be brought against an Elder resulting in that Elder being summarily defrocked and expelled without a trial?"
This question has been presented to all of the Council members. The 1996 Discipline, V, ¶ 304, § 1 reads as follows:
"When a Traveling Minister is under a record of being guilty of some crime or immoral conduct expressly forbidden in the Word of God, sufficient to exclude a person from the kingdom of grace and glory, the following action shall be taken:
1. In the interval of the Annual Conference let the Elder to whom the complaint is made call two other Traveling Ministers and examine into the nature of the complaint. If the Committee finds that the complaint warrants a trial, a former charge shall be made against the accused by a competent person, and the Investigating Committee shall call two or more other Traveling Ministers, which numbers shall constitute a Trial Committee."
2. Further, the 1996 Discipline, V,¶ 311, reads as follows:
"An Annual Conference may entertain and try charges against a Traveling Minister, even though no trial has been held, or, even though a trial was held and did not result in suspension, due notice having been given to the accused."
In addition, the 1996 Discipline, Paragraph 315 makes it explicitly clear that "… When a Traveling Minister has been suspended or expelled by the decision of an Annual Conference he shall have the right of an appeal…"
THEREFORE, it is the decision of the Council that:
1. While the New Jersey Annual Conference at its discretion lawfully tried and expelled the then Reverend David E. Hoffman, The Reverend Hoffman's absence at the time such summary judgment was rendered did not constitute a waiver of his right to appeal.
2. This case is remanded it to the Triers of Appeal of the New Jersey Annual Conference.
BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL, THIS 29th DAY OF JANUARY, 1999.
JUSTICE BROWER, FOR THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL
SOUTH OZONE PARK, NEW YORK
Star of Zion January page 21-28