The 59th GC Session approved the addition of the following texts to Chapter 7: Discipline
section titled Fundamental Rights of the Members on page 64
|Members have a fundamental right to prior notification of the disciplinary meeting and the right to be heard in their own defense, introduce evidence, and produce witnesses. No church should vote to remove a member under circumstances that deprive the member of these rights. Written notice must be given at least two weeks before the meeting and include the reasons for the disciplinary hearing.|
The wording of the section in the 17th Edition (2005) is found on page 197.
"It is a fundamental principle of justice that every member has the right to be heard in his/her own defense and to introduce evidence and produce witnesses. No church should vote to remove a member from church membership under circumstances that deprive an individual of this right, if he chooses to exercise it. Due notice should be given by the church to the member of its intention to consider the problem, thus giving the opportunity for the individual to appear."
It may look like the 59th GC Session removed a “fundamental principle of justice” but this is not true, because the right to be heard and to introduce evidence and produce witnesses still appeared in the old 17th edition. What has been added is the member's right to receive prior notification of the "disciplinary hearing" (business meeting) and a clearer definition of what "due notice" means.
The following text has been added to the section on page 67 titled: Right of Appeal for Reinstatement
|While it is the right of the church to administer discipline, this does not set aside the rights of members to seek fairness. If members believe that they have been treated unfairly by the local church, or not had the right to be heard fairly, and the church is unwilling to reconsider the case or if the officers refuse to consider their application for reinstatement, the former members have a right to appeal in writing to the church for a hearing. The church should not neglect or refuse to grant such hearings. If it does, or if the former members still feel unfairly treated by the church after the appeal, they have the right to a final appeal for a hearing to the executive committee of the conference.|
If after a full and impartial hearing, the conference committee is satisfied that an injustice has been inflicted by the church, the committee may recommend the reinstatement to membership. But if membership is still refused by the church, than the conference committee may recommend membership in some other church. On the other hand, if it finds good grounds for sustaining the church in refusing to reinstate the former members, it will so record its decision.”
The wording of the section in the 17th Edition (2005) is found on page 200, where it can be seen what has been added to the new Church Manual is the words:
"While it is the right of the church to administer discipline, this does not set aside the rights of members to seek fairness. If members believe that they have been treated unfairly by the local church, or not had the right to be heard fairly.
The 59th GC Session has expanded on the concept of ‘fairness to members’ in the discipline process . . . and gave a new right to members that is not found in the 17th edition. This new right is plain 'common sense' when fairness to members is discussed. And it seems that as complaints come to the General Conference, it is my opinion that they found it necessary to redefine the rights of members and "due notice" and include these 'common sense' definitions for fairness.
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