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¶ 920 TRIAL OF A LAY MEMBER

¶ 920 Trial of a Lay Member
In order for lay members whose memberships have been terminated by the official board to be entitled to make requests of the next level of jurisdiction (the Board of Administration of the Canadian General Conference) for trials, they must have first requested a hearing before the official board to show cause why their memberships should not be terminated within 30 days of the decision of the official board to terminate the memberships. If, after the hearing, the official board maintains as its final decision to terminate the memberships, notice of intent to request a trial must be provided in writing and sent by registered mail to the secretary of the Board of Administration of the Canadian General Conference within 30 days of the official board’s final decision.

The Board of Administration will elect a presiding officer and a trial committee of six persons plus one lay and one ministerial reserve within 30 days of receiving the request for a trial. The committee will be composed of 3 ministers and 3 lay persons who are members of a local society or of the Canadian General Conference. No person will be allowed to serve on the committee who has previously been involved in the case or is in a position of conflict of interest.

The secretary of the Board of Administration will, by registered mail, inform the accused and the prosecutor of the names of the presiding officer and of the members elected to the committee and shall negotiate a mutually agreeable date for the trial at least 30 days in advance of the trial.

The trial committee, by a majority vote, may affirm, modify or reverse the action(s) of the official board in whole or in part. The decision will be delivered within 30 days of the conclusion of the trial.

Rules of Procedure for a Trial

  • Presiding Officer – The Board of Administration will appoint a presiding officer who will ensure that the trial proceeds in an orderly manner. The presiding officer is to act impartially. The presiding officer may request the presence of legal counsel who may provide advice to the presiding officer only in matters related to the trial proceedings.

The presiding officer has authority to impose limits on the number of pages of written material submitted to the trial and on the length of time used for presentations and cross examinations.  Objections may not be raised during presentations.  The presiding officer may allow the trial committee to ask questions after each presentation by either the prosecution or the accused. An Order for Conducting Trials is found in Appendix 1.

  • Grounds for Challenge –Thirty days prior to the beginning of the trial, both the prosecutor and the accused will receive a list of the trial committee members. Up to 21 days prior to the trial, each shall have the right to challenge, for cause, the selection of any member of the trial committee. The presiding officer will rule on the validity of the challenge.
  • Evidence – The presiding officer of the trial will rule on the admissibility of witnesses and evidence. Rules of Admissibility of Witnesses and Evidence are found in Appendix 3.
  • Testimony – No one will be barred as a witness on the grounds that they are not a member of a local society or the Canadian General Conference. If circumstances make it impossible for a witness to appear, a proper affidavit from the individual may be presented, provided that both the accused and the prosecutor have had an opportunity to review the affidavit and to question the person signing the affidavit about its contents, with witnesses listening.
  • Charges – It is not required that the charges be written in any particular legal form, but it is recommended they be written in the standard form as provided in Robert’s Rules of Order.
  • Counsel –The Official Board will appoint a prosecutor who is responsible to prepare the charges in final form, to present them at the proper time and place to the trial and to represent the church during the trial. Both the accused and the prosecutor have the right to receive advice or guidance from lay members or ministers of The Free Methodist Church in Canada and to have up to a total of two such persons serve as their assistants in the trial. Neither the accused nor the prosecutor is entitled to, and in fact are precluded from, retaining professional legal counsel to participate in
    the trial.
  • Participants – Only those who are members of a local society or of the Canadian General Conference will be allowed to participate in the trial, with the exception of witnesses. Only those participating in the trial and the spouse of the accused are permitted to attend the trial.
  • Confidentiality – All deliberations of the trial will be considered confidential. All those
    participating in the trial will not discuss the case with anyone not participating in the trial, before, during or following the trial.
  • Withdrawal – If during the trial, the accused submits a letter requesting to withdraw from membership in the church, the request will be granted and the trial will end.
  • Records – The presiding officer will appoint a secretary, not a member of the trial committee, who will be responsible to keep complete and accurate records of all proceedings, testimony, evidence, documents admitted, together with charges, specifications, notices, citations and findings of the trial committee. When advisable, the services of a professional court reporter may be engaged. The presiding officer will be the custodian of such records until the case is finished and then will deliver the records to the secretary of the Board of Administration for permanent filing.
  • Judgment – The trial committee will deliver a decision within 30 days of the conclusion of the trial. The trial committee, by a majority vote, may affirm, modify or reverse the findings of the official board in whole or in part.
  • Expenses – The accused is responsible for his/her own expenses, for the expenses of the person(s) chosen to assist with advice or guidance and for the expenses of witnesses required by the accused to be present at the trial. Other expenses, if any, are the responsibility of the local church and/or the Canadian General Conference.
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