What to do if you get a call from the District Superintendent or Bishop...

Know your rights as granted in the Book of Discipline.
Guidelines for responding

As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, you may find yourself facing a complaint by a lay or clergy person or a Cabinet member.  The superintendent or bishop may call you to a personal meeting at which you without prior warning may be confronted with accusations.  The usual strategy is to get you to admit you did wrong and get you to take a leave of absence or withdraw from conference membership, and that you have to make that decision within 24 hours.


 Here's how to respond:

1. Do NOT attend any meeting with the bishop or superintendent alone, if at all possible,

2. Do NOT try to charm or persuade them because everything you say will be used against you!

 3. Do NOT admit to any behavior or feelings related to the complaint or any implied complaints they bring up.

4. Do NOT relinquish any of your Fair Process rights. 

5. Do NOT verbally agree to anything they suggest except a possible meeting time after you get an advocate

6. Do NOT sign any agreement of any kind other than acknowledging you have received a written copy of the complaint and supporting documents.

7. Do NOT think the complaints are frivolous because the DS and bishop obviously do not think so!

8. Do NOT think that going along with the bishop or DS will "make everything easier" or "get it over with." 

9. DO ask for a copy of the complaint so you may prepare a response.

10. DO ask for any support materials they have about the complaint.

11. DO ask for time to get an advocate (an experienced and respected Elder, preferably retired).

12. Do ask what the next step is as they understand it.

13. Do thank them for their time and get out of there gracefully and rapidly.

14. DO keep the faith.  God is at work here and you have not seen why or how just yet.


For administrative complaints: "Unsatisfactory performance" (P 363) such as "incompetence, ineffectiveness, or inability to perform ministerial duties" (P 355 2b)

For judicial complaints: see Paragraph 2702.1* 

*When the 2016 Discipline is available, the numbers of these citations may change.

Fair Process Rights (as listed in the 2012 Book of Discipline*)

1. Presumption of innocence (P 2701)

2. The right to be heard before any final action is taken (P 362.2a)

3. Notification of "reasons for the proposed procedures with sufficient detail to allow the respondent to prepare a response and no less than 20 days prior to the hearing" (P 362.2b)

4. The right to have an advocate present with voice at any interview or hearing to which the respondent (pastor under complaint) is subject (P 362.2c)

5. The right to be present whenever any member of a hearing body is speaking with the one bringing the complaint (P 362.2d)

6. The right to all records relied upon, including oral statements by the decision makers in your case at least seven days before any hearing (P 362.2e)

7. The right to assurance that attention has been given to racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the church is represented on all the groups dealing with your case (P 362.2)

8. The right to ask the bishop to "ensure fair process" (P 415.3)

*When the 2016 Discipline is available, the numbers of these citations may change.

Read the following from the Book Of Discipline of 2012*

Paragraph 362-364 - Administrative Fair Process

Paragraphs 343-345 - Appointment to Extension Ministries

Paragraph 416.5 - Transfer to another annual conference

Paragraphs 351-352, 354-356 - Leaves of absence

Paragraph 357 - Medical leave

Paragraph 358 - Retirement

Paragraph 359 - Honorable Location

Paragraphs 320, 355.1, 358.3, 363.1 and 415.3 - Role of Cabinet members

Paragraph 2701 - Judicial Fair Process

*When the 2016 Discipline is available, the numbers of these citations may change.




Associates in Advocacy