West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod

  Discipline Committee

The Discipline Committee is a pool of synod members who may be called upon to serve in the disciplinary processes related to Ministers of Word and Sacrament, Ministers of Word and Service, and members of congregations. The work is challenging, demanding good listening and observational skills, analytic ability, a commitment to justice and equity, prudence, the ability to maintain discretion and confidentiality, and an understanding of human nature.

When disciplinary charges are brought against a minister, six members of the Discipline Committee are selected to serve on a Disciplinary Hearing Committee (in company with an equal number of members from the ELCA Discipline Committee). When activated, a discipline hearing committee has a narrow window in which to accomplish its work, usually sixty days to conduct the hearing and another fifteen to complete the report. Members, therefore, need to have sufficiently flexible schedules to adequately respond to the call. Active proceedings may require overnight lodging.

Discipline Committee*
The Rev. Jason Felici (2015-2021)
Mr. Joseph Solberg (2015-2021)
Mr. Paul Wangerin (2015-2021)
Ms. Norma Gensler (2017-2023)
The Rev. Ian Reid (2017-2023)
Mr. Jim Nichols (2017-2023)
The Rev. Paul Schafer (2017-2023)
Dr. Brandon Mitchell (2018-2024)
The Rev. Tony Setley (2018-2024)
Ms. Nancy Weeks (2018-2024)

Discipline Committee Members-Elect
(Terms begin 12/1/21)
The Rev. Sally Bartling (2021-2027)
Mr. Shawn Gilmore (2021-2027)
The Rev. Matt Holbert (2021-2027)
Ms. Pamela Pritt (2021-2027)
The Rev. Patrice Weirick (2021-2027)

*Prior to Synod Assembly 2021, The Rev. Carl Ames retired, and The Rev. Matt Day took a call in another synod, creating a temporary vacancy of two clergy members.
The Discipline Committee of this synod totals twelve members. These members are elected by the Synod Assembly. Six are laity. Six are clergy. The term is six months, the term beginning first day of the second month following election. There is a one-term limit. To be eligible for election, the individual must be a voting member of a congregation of the synod or on the synod roster of ministers.

In the Governing Documents

The specific duties of the Consultation Committee and the related general processes are codified in our governing documents.

In the Constitution and Bylaws of the ELCA

Related to the Discipline of Ministers of Word and Sacrament

20.21.08. A discipline hearing committee shall be convened to conduct a hearing. The voting members of this committee shall be composed of 12 persons of whom six shall be selected by the Synod Council’s Executive Committee from the Committee on Discipline of the synod and six shall be selected from the churchwide Committee on Discipline under the process described in 20.21.12. The rules authorized in 20.21.16. shall establish the method, based upon the remainder of the term, for determining which members of the synodical committee shall serve as the voting members and which shall serve as alternates. A hearing officer selected from the churchwide Committee of Hearing Officers under the process described in 20.21.14. shall preside as the non-voting chair of the discipline hearing committee.

20.21.17. In each specific case for which a discipline hearing committee has been constituted, the committee shall, within 60 days after the secretary of this church has given notice of the selection by the Executive Committee of the Church Council of the members of the churchwide Committee on Discipline to serve on a discipline hearing committee, meet with the accused and the accuser(s) to hold a hearing. The committee shall render its written decision within 15 days after the committee concludes the hearing. The 60-day period may be extended one or more times to a specified date by a written stipulation signed by the accuser(s), the accused, and the hearing officer prior to the expiration of the original 60-day period or prior to the extended specified date.

20.21.21. The discipline hearing committee shall render its decision in writing. The written decision shall be in two parts:
a. Findings of Fact. In this part, the committee shall set forth what it has found to be the relevant facts, that is, what it believes to be the truth of the matter.
b. Determination. In this part, the committee shall state whether, based upon the facts that it has found, it believes discipline should be imposed and, if so, what discipline it has chosen to impose.

20.21.22. The decision of the discipline hearing committee shall be made by a majority vote of its members who were present at the hearing. The decision of the discipline hearing committee shall be final on the date it is issued by the committee. Within 30 days, one of the parties may appeal to the Committee on Appeals and may request the Committee on Appeals to stay the effective date of the decision. A stay may be granted in whole or in part and subject to such conditions, if any, as the Committee on Appeals may require. The decisions of the Committee on Appeals shall be final.
 
Related to Discipline of Ministers of Word and Service

20.23.02. The voting members of a discipline hearing committee convened to conduct a hearing on charges described in 20.23.01. shall be six members of the synod’s Committee on Discipline selected by the Executive Committee of the Synod Council. A hearing officer selected from the churchwide Committee of Hearing Officers by the secretary of this church shall preside as the nonvoting chair of the discipline hearing committee described in this 20.23.02.

20.23.05. In each case for which a discipline hearing committee has been constituted, the committee shall, within 60 days after the secretary of this church has given notice of the selection of the hearing officer to serve on a discipline hearing committee, commence a meeting or series of meetings with the accused and the accuser(s) to receive testimony or other evidence offered by the accused or the accuser(s). The 60-day period may be extended one or more times to a specified date by a written stipulation signed by the accuser(s), the accused, and the hearing officer prior to the expiration of the original 60-day period or prior to the extended specified date.

20.23.08. The discipline hearing committee shall conclude its meeting(s) and render its decision in writing within 45 days of the commencement of the meeting for which written notice was given under 20.23.06. The written decision shall be in two parts:
a. Findings of Fact. In this part, the committee shall set forth what it has found to be the relevant facts, that is, what it believes to be the truth of the matter.
b. Determination. In this part, the committee shall state whether, based upon the facts that it has found, it believes discipline should be imposed and if so, which one or more of the following should be imposed:
1) private censure and admonition by the synodical bishop.
2) suspension for a period not exceeding three months from the office/role and functions of ministry in this church.
3) participation in such programs of evaluation, therapy, continuing education, or similar experience as the committee may direct.
4) referral of written charges (amended to reflect additional evidence presented to the committee) to a discipline hearing committee convened under 20.21.08.  through 20.21.24. or 20.22.05. through 20.22.07.
20.23.09. The decision of the discipline hearing committee shall be made by a majority vote of its members who were present at the hearing. The decision of the discipline hearing committee shall be final on the date it is issued by the committee. Within 30 days of that date, one of the parties may appeal to the Committee on Appeals and may request the Committee on Appeals to stay the effective date of the decision. A stay may be granted in whole or in part and subject to such conditions, if any, as the Committee on Appeals may require. The decisions of the Committee on Appeals shall be final.

20.31.05. If those efforts fail, the procedures for discipline shall be the same as that set forth above for ministers of Word and Sacrament in 20.21.07. through 20.21.22.

Related to the Discipline of a Congregation Member

20.41.02. Discipline for an offense shall be administered consistent with the procedure which Christ instructed his disciples to follow (Matthew 18:15–17), proceeding through these successive steps, as necessary:
…d. written referral of the matter pursuant to bylaw 20.41.04. by the consultation panel to the Committee on Discipline of the synod, which shall hold a hearing and render a final decision.

20.41.06. The Executive Committee of the Synod Council shall select six members from the Committee on Discipline of the synod to decide the case, and shall appoint a member of the Synod Council to preside as nonvoting chair. Those six members plus the nonvoting chair comprise the discipline hearing panel for deciding the case. The Congregation Council and the accused member(s) are the parties to the case.

20.41.07. The discipline hearing panel shall, within 30 days after its selection, commence a meeting or series of meetings to receive testimony or other evidence offered by the Congregation Council and the accused member(s). Written notice of the date, time, and place of the hearing shall be sent by the nonvoting chair to the Congregation Council and the accused member(s) 10 days in advance of the meeting. Until that first meeting is convened, the vice president of the synod shall, if necessary, appoint other members of the Committee on Discipline to fill vacancies so that the discipline hearing panel consists of six members plus the nonvoting chair.

20.41.08. The discipline hearing panel shall decide the time, manner, and procedures for its meetings consistent with the following:
a. the hearing before the discipline hearing panel is intended to be informal;
b. the hearing shall be closed to the public unless the Congregation Council and the accused member(s) agree to a public hearing;
c. all Congregation Council members, including any elected after written charges were first submitted, may attend the hearing and be witnesses;
d. only one Congregation Council member may participate in the proceedings as the council representative;
e. the accused member(s) may choose to testify in person or remain silent;
f. the council representative and the accused member(s) will be allowed to present their arguments and evidence without unnecessary interruption;
g. the accused member(s) may be accompanied by a spouse and one friend or advisor, but the spouse and friend or advisor may not participate in the proceedings, except as witnesses;
h. the panel may conduct some of its sessions outside the presence of the parties to the case;
i. rules of evidence and similar rules used in secular judicial proceedings shall not apply in these hearings; and
j. the parties to the case cannot be compelled to provide any information or documents to each other or to the panel.

20.41.09. Upon conclusion of the hearing, one of the following disciplinary sanctions can be imposed by the vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the discipline hearing panel who are present and voting:
a. suspension from the privileges of congregation membership for a designated period of time;
b. suspension from the privileges of congregation membership until the pastor and Congregation Council receive evidence, satisfactory to them, of repentance and amendment of life;
c. termination of membership in the congregation; or
d. termination of membership in the congregation and exclusion from the church property and from all congregation activities.

20.41.10. The written decision of the discipline hearing panel shall be sent to the vice president of the synod, the accused member(s), and the Congregation Council in writing within 45 days of the convening of the first hearing for which written notice was given pursuant to 20.41.06. The decision of the discipline hearing panel shall be implemented by the Congregation Council and recorded in the minutes of the next council meeting.

20.41.11. No member of a congregation shall be subject to discipline a second time for an offense that a discipline hearing panel has heard previously and decided pursuant to these bylaws.

Other Resources

Disciplinary Process for rostered leaders of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America --- A basic description of the disciplinary process of the ELCA.

Definitions & Guidelines --- "Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline: Ordained Ministers, Associates in Ministry, Members of the Deaconess Community, and Diaconal Ministers, Congregations sets forth the types of conduct that may lead to discipline."("Disciplinary Process
for rostered leaders of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
")

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Last updated: 23 October 2021