LAY PERSON'S TRIAL
THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF
THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH
IN THE MATTER OF
THE PETITION OF JOSEPHINE DRAKE
DECISION No. 2004-015
This is case comes before the Council by Mrs. Josephine E Drake, a member in good standing of First A.M.E. Zion Church, Los Angeles, California, regarding the trial of Ms. Annabel Northern, a former member in good standing of first AME Zion Church, Los Angeles, California for Declaratory Judgment and interpretation of The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, (2000), in regard to the following manner.
a) The Council shall have appellate function.
b) The Council shall not have original jurisdiction, since decisions are declaratory and final in the interim of the General Conference.
c) The Council is amenable to the General Conference, and any decision of the Council may be reversed or modified by the General Conference in regular or special session. ¶ 360, Article II, The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, (2000),
b) 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 Council for such a judgment. The Council's decision is final, unless revised or reversed by the General Conference. Id. ¶ 361, Article III.
The petitioner seeks a declaratory judgment on the interpretation of The Book of Discipline of The African Method list Episcopal Zion Church (2000), Immoral Conduct. After the Chairman of the Trial Committed announced the date of the Prep-trial Conference and Trial, the accused appealed to the Presiding Elder who issued and Order prohibiting the trial or any person from participating or testifying at the trial. The accused failed to appear at either the Pre-trial Conference or the Trial. The trial was conducted before the society, and its use was found guilty of a vote of 33 – 4. The Presiding Elder, after the trial, declared it to be null and void.
1. Is it lawful for a member accused of immoral conduct to be tried before the society rather than a select committee of 5 to 12 persons?
Yes – The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (2000),
Part VI, Section 1, P g. 110, Paragraph 280, provides two methods:
Page 110, ¶ 280. A Member of all church against whom the charge of immorality has been made shall be brought to trial before the Society of which he/she is a Member, or a select number of the Same or not less than five or more than twelve persons, aside, if possible, from the Official Members, and if the Pastor deem it necessary, the committee may be selected from any neighboring Church in our Connection, in the presence of the Pastor in Charge, who shall preside and calls exact minutes of the child to be taken. the accuser, of the next best evidence, and, if possible, the accused must be present.
2. Does the Presiding Elder have the authority to prohibit a local church from trying a member accused of Immoral Conduct?
No – The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (2000), Part IV, Chapter VI, pgs. 88-90, paragraphs 244-245, Presiding Elders. The law of the Church and Part VI, Chapter VII, pg.122, paragraph 337 states that:
¶244 The duties of a Presiding Elder are:
To travel through his/her District and labor for the promotion of the spiritual and temporal up building of the work committed to his/her charge.
To assist the Bishop new churches and enlisting local support for World Missions.
In the absence of the Bishop to take charge of all the Traveling Ministers, Local Preachers, and Exhorters in his/her District as the Discipline directs.
To fill vacancies in appointments, temporarily, when necessary, subject to the approval of the Bishop, but he/she shall not change an appointment made by a Bishop or he appoints another to fill the vacancy without consulting the Bishop when it is reasonably convenient for him/her to do so.
To appoint the time and place for the Quarterly Meeting, and to be present and preside over the Quarterly Conference, or, if unable to be present, to appoint some Traveling Elder to instead.
To decide all questions of law in proceedings pending in a District or Quarterly Conference subject to an appeal to the Bishop, to the Triers of Appeals, or to the General Conference, but the application of the laws shall in all cases be with the Conference.
After consulting with the Pastors in Charge in the District and District Officers, to appointed time and place of holding the District Conference and Church School Convention and preside over the same, or appoint someone to preside in his/her absence.
To issue License to the defined persons, and to renew them according to the action of the District Conference.
To attach his/her signature to the recommendations given to any Candidate by the District Conference for Opel will Reception on Trial in the Annual Conference, also to any Certificate given Delegates to the Annual Conference.
To see that all Church Property is well insured.
To see that all Deeds, Charters, and other conveyances of Church property in his/her District conform strictly to the laws of the State or Territory within which such property is situated, and according to The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
To promote by all proper means the collecting of the assessments and the interest of Christian Education, Church Extension and Home Missions, Overseas Missions, to observe the rules of the Church concerning these and other benevolent causes himself/herself, and to see that they are observed by every Pastor and Church within his/her District; and to explain the purpose of the different benevolences to the Quarterly and District Conferences, and endeavored to secure uniformity in all our Churches in their observances.
To attend to the Bishop when present in his/her District, and to give him/her by letter when absent all necessary information of the condition of his/her District.
To see that our Hymnals, Disciplines, and Sunday School Literature and other Church Periodicals are used in our Churches.
To see that there is a record of each Church and the names of all the full numbers and probationers are duly recorded. At the last Quarterly Conference of the Conference year he/she shall personally examine the record to see that the number of Members in reported to Annual Conference substantially corresponds to the record as he/she examined it.
To assist in apportioning the amount to be assessed each charge for general purposes.
To motivate Pastors and Congregations to be witnessing Christians in their daily lives; and to develop new Churches for the study and practice of the faith.
To instruct Candidates for the Ministry of the necessity of taking advantage of a thorough training in him and him our literary and theological schools before applying for admission into the Annual Conference and to direct the attention of those who are admitted on Trial to the Course of Study laid down to be pursued.
To explain and enforce the law, as well as the Gospel, but always in the spirit of Christ.
Page 90, ¶245,. The Presiding Elders shall not employ a Preacher who has been rejected by the Annual Conference without the consent of a majority of the Quarterly Conference of which the Preacher is a Member, and without permission from the Bishop.
Page 122, ¶337. If, in the trial of Members, the Pastor in Charge differs from the rest of the Committee concerning the guilt or innocence of the accused, he/she may refer the case to the ensuing Quarterly Conference, which shall have power to affirm or reverse the decision, or order a new trial.
3. Does the Presiding Elder after the trial and a verdict of guilty, have the authority to declare it "null and void?"
No trial can be declared null or void. A new trial can be ordered Part VI, Chapter VII, pg. 122, paragraph 337, The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (2000),.
Page 122, ¶337. If, in the trial of Members, the Pastor in Charge differs from the rest of the Committee concerning the guilt or innocence of the accused, he/she may refer the case to the ensuing Quarterly Conference, we shall have power to affirm or reverse the decision, or order a new trial.
4. If an accused member is dissatisfied with the decision of the trial, is the appeal decided by the Presiding Elder or the Members of the Quarterly Conference?
Part VI, Chapter VII, pg. 122, and 341, The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (2000).
Page 122, ¶341 An appeal of a Lay Member, Exhorter, and Local Preacher ends with the Quarterly Conference. The appeal of a Local Deacon or Local Elder, and Preacher on Trial ends with the Annual Conference.
It is suggested that a person has the right to appeal only to the Quarterly Conference. The right to appeal does not take place until a conviction on the final decision.
5. If an accused member refuses to appear at the trial and pretrial proceedings after sufficient notice, is she entitled to an appeal?
Page 10, Paragraph 283, pg. 122, paragraph 341,The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (2000),.
No – Page 110, ¶283. If the accused person evades a trial by absenting himself/herself, after sufficient notice is given him/her, and the circumstances, of the case afford him strong presumption of guilt, he/she shall be tried in his/her absence, and if found guilty, he/she shall be accordingly expelled.
Page 122, ¶341. An appeal of a Lay Member, Exhorter, and Local Preacher ends with the Quarterly Conference. The appeal of a Local Deacon, Local Elder, and Preacher on Trial ends with the Annual Conference.
6. If a member is found guilty of Immoral Conduct and expelled, may she be legally Appointed/elected an officer in the Missionary Society or the Lay Council?
Paragraph .336, pg. 122, The Book of Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion And (2000).
No – Page 122, ¶336. After due trial and expulsion from Membership, the person expelled shall have no privilege of Society or of the Sacrament in our Church, without contrition, confession and satisfactory and in him reformation.
BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL THIS 11th DAY OF JULY 2004.
White for the Judicial Council
Columbia, South Carolina
ALL Concurring with the exception of:
Neville M. Tucker, Attorney
(recused himself from any decision in this matter)