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¶ 930 TRIAL OF A MINISTER

¶ 930 Trial of a Minister

In order for a minister who has been suspended by his/her regional MEGaP committee to be entitled to make a request of the next level of jurisdiction (the national MEGaP committee of the Canadian General Conference) for a trial, he/she must have first requested a hearing before his/her regional MEGaP committee, within 30 days of the decision of the regional MEGaP committee’s decision to confirm his/her suspension, to show cause why he/she should not have been suspended.

If after the hearing, the regional MEGaP committee maintains suspension as its final decision, a minister, whose suspension has been confirmed by regional MEGaP, has the right to challenge the decision of the regional MEGaP committee and request a trial. A request for a trial must be provided in writing and must be sent by registered mail to the secretary of the Board of Administration of the Canadian General Conference within 30 days of the regional MEGaP committee’s final decision.

The Secretary of the Board of Administration will direct the national MEGaP committee (excluding the regional MEGaP committee involved in the discipline of the minister) to elect a presiding officer and a trial committee of six persons plus one lay and one ministerial reserve to try the case within 30 days of receiving request for a trial. The trial committee will be composed of three ministers and three 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 trial 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 regional MEGaP in whole or in part. The decision will be delivered within 30 days of the conclusion of the trial.

1. 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. To assist with this, 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 of 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 regional MEGaP committee will appoint a prosecutor who is responsible to prepare the charges in final form, to present them at the proper time and place and to represent the church in all instances. 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 participants 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 conference, 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 regional MEGaP committee 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 are the responsibility of the Canadian General Conference.

2. Appeal of Trial Verdicts
The sole grounds for appealing the verdict of a trial are limited to the following categories:

  • New and important testimony really exists and has become available, and satisfactory reasons are given as to why it was not presented at the trial.
  • The minutes of the trial are so inaccurate that the true merits of the case cannot be determined from them.
  • There was illegal administration of The Manual of The Free Methodist Church in Canada.
  • There was incorrect adherence to proper procedure by the presiding officer and/or the trial committee.

In order for ministers who have been tried and convicted by a trial committee to be entitled to an appeal to the next level of jurisdiction (the Canadian General Conference), they must not have been voluntarily absent from the trial. They must have given notice of intent to appeal within 30 days of the final action of the trial committee. Notice of intent to appeal must be provided in writing by registered mail to the secretary of the Board of Administration of the Canadian General Conference.

Upon receiving a proper request for an appeal, the Board of Administration of the Canadian General Conference will elect a presiding officer and an appeal committee of six members plus one lay and one ministerial reserve. The committee will be composed of three ministers and three 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 voted on the decision of the case or is in a position of conflict of interest.

The secretary of the Board of Administration will, by registered mail, inform the appellant of the names of the members elected to the appeal committee and of the date of the appeal hearing at least 30 days in advance.

The convicted minister must present to the appeal committee a statement in writing demonstrating the grounds for appealing the verdict of the previous trial committee. This statement must be received by the secretary of the Board of Administration, by registered mail, a minimum of 14 days before the appeal is scheduled to be heard. An Order for conducting appeals is found in Appendix 2.

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 appeal. Neither the accused nor the prosecutor is entitled to, and in fact are precluded from, retaining professional legal counsel to participate in the appeal.

The appeal committee will promptly consider the appeal and deliver its decision within 30 days of the conclusion of the appeal hearing. The decision must pass by a majority vote of the appeal committee members. The appeal committee must confine itself to the grounds of the appeal, but it is entitled to all relevant information that is pertinent to the appeal as presented.

If a new trial is granted, it is an entirely new trial in which new charges can be brought (or the
previous charges re-formulated) and new evidence and new witnesses may be introduced by both sides. The case will be tried by the appeal committee using the Rules of Procedure for a Trial as outlined above. The date for the new trial will be negotiated by the secretary of the Board of Administration and communicated to the appellant and prosecutor at least 30 days in advance by registered mail.

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