¶ 228. The great object of church discipline is to reclaim and restore the erring member. This should be steadily kept in view in every step that is taken. Every effort that love can suggest should be made to bring back to the Lord one who, while under our care, has wandered from him.
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”
2. Both accuser and accused shall be entitled to the assistance of such counsel as they may select from the members or ministers of the church. In the trial of a traveling preacher the conference may appoint such further counsel as it may deem proper. The accusers shall be responsible for the expense of their own counsel, unless such counsel also represents the conference. The body to which the accused is amenable shall pay the costs of prosecution.
3. Both the accused and the accuser shall have the right of challenge for cause, the validity of which shall be determined by the presiding officer at the society meeting where the committee to try the case is elected.
4. In all trials the proceedings shall be taken down by a secretary appointed by the court; and when an appeal is taken, the case shall be decided from the testimony as it appears upon the record.
5. In appeal cases, no person shall be allowed to sit who has previously voted in the decision of the case.
6. In all appeal cases the appellant shall present the counsel for the church a statement in writing of the grounds of his appeal, at least five days before the trial of the appeal.
7. In the trial of appeal cases the court shall either affirm or reverse the verdict rendered in the former trial, or remand the case for a new trial; and in cases of remanding for a new trial no person shall be eligible as a juror in the new trial who voted on the first trial.
8. After such forms of trial and expulsion, such persons shall have no privileges of society or sacraments in our church, without contrition, confession and reformation satisfactory to the conference or society from which they have withdrawn or by which they have been expelled.
¶ 232. In all cases brought to trial in the church, either the plaintiff or the defendant may request a change of venue, and shall present in writing the reasons for such request; and if the presiding officer shall, after duly considering the grounds upon which such request is made, he convinced that conditions and circumstances are such as to render a fair and impartial trial reasonably doubtful in the conference or other body before which the action has been commenced, he may order the change of venue requested, and decide as to the conference or other body before which the case shall be tried.
¶ 233. The neglect of duties required by the Word of God or the indulgence of sinful tempers, words or actions, as well as the dissemination of false doctrine, shall subject a preacher ao offending to private reproof by the official member of the church having the oversight of the offending brother; and in case of persistence after proper admonition and labor, to trial, suspension from ministerial functions, or expulsion.
¶ 234. Any preacher against whom a charge is brought, shall be furnished by the person preferring the charge, or by the presiding officer of the tribunal to which he is judicially responsible, with a copy of the charges against him, at least ten days before the trial, unless all the parties agree upon an earlier time for trial.
¶ 235. Any traveling preacher who willfully neglects or refuses to do the work assigned him by his annual conference, except in case of sickness or other unavoidable circumstances, shall be brought, by the district elder, or the bishop, before a committee of three ministers and three laymen, which shall have power to suspend him from all the functions of a preacher until the ensuing session of the annual conference, with which the final determination of the case shall rest, and which shall have power to render the suspension final.
¶ 236. If a charge of immorality or of unchristian conduct is brought against a traveling preacher in the interval of the annual conferences, the district elder shall call a committee of not less than three nor more than six traveling preachers, and an equal number of laymen, which shall have power to suspend until the next session of the annual conference, with which shall rest the decision of the case.
¶ 237. But if the accused be a district elder, then three of the preachers of his district shall call in the district elder of an adjoining district, who shall call the accused before a committee as above provided, and preside. The district making such a call shall pay the traveling expenses of the district elder so called.
¶ 238. Each annual conference shall have original jurisdiction over all the preachers belonging thereto, and shall have power to reprove, suspend, locate for inefficiency or want of usefulness, or expel, according to the nature of the case, and as righteousness may require. This shall not be so construed as to deprive traveling preachers of the ten-days’ notice provided in Paragraphs 234, except in case of a preacher charged with gross immorality who voluntarily absents himself from the session of his annual conference.
¶ 239. All cases brought before an annual conference, either by complaint or by appeal, may be referred to a committee of not less than four from each branch, which, in the presence of the president of the conference, or an elder whom he may appoint (provided that neither party objects to the person so appointed) shall, either during its session or after its adjournment, try the case and decide upon its merits, and its decision shall have the same effect as that of the annual conference, provided, however, that in all cases the defendant shall be allowed to be tried by the select committee rather than by the conference, if he so prefers.
¶ 239 1/2. Whenever it is for the best interests of the church and for convenience of witnesses, and the parties so stipulate, a case may be referred to one person appointed by the bishop, to act as a judge to try the case without a committee; and when so referred, his decision shall have the same effect as that of a trial committee of an annual conference, subject to the same right of appeal and for writ of review.
¶ 240. In all cases of trial and conviction of traveling preachers, an appeal to the ensuing General Conference or court of appeals, as the appellant may choose, shall be allowed, if the condemned person signifies his intention to appeal, at the lime of condemnation, or within thirty days after he shall have been notified thereof.
¶ 241. All cases brought before the General Conference by appeal, may, with the consent of both parties, be referred to a committee of not less than six ministerial and six lay delegates, which, in the presence of one of the bishops, shall hear the case, and decide upon its merits; and its decisions shall have the same effect as that of the General Conference.
¶ 241 1/2. Whenever in the judgment of the appellate court a new trial is granted, it may either be remanded back to the original court for a new trial, or it may be tried de novo, (that is, by the appellate court itself) whenever the interests of justice and the general welfare of the church can best be served thereby, provided, however, that no such trial shall be had without the consent of both parties.
¶ 242. When an appeal has been taken, penalty shall be suspended pending the bearing of the appeal, except that a minister suspended shall not exercise his ministerial office while his appeal is pending.
2. Specifications. (Name the acts, times and places.)
2. Reading of the action of the society meeting or conference by which the committee to try the case was appointed, and the names of the committee.
3. The appointment of a secretary.
4. Reading the charges and specifications by the secretary.
5. Answer by the accused in person or by counsel.
6. Statement of the case, and line of evidence by the prosecution.
7. Evidence of the prosecution, and cross-examination by the defense.
8. Statement of the case and line of defense, by the defense.
9. Evidence for the defense, and cross-examination by the prosecution.
10. Rebutting evidence for the prosecution.
11. Rebutting evidence for the defense.
12. Summing up the case by the prosecution.
13. Summing up the case by the defense.
14. In case it be deemed proper to allow the prosecution to reply, the defense shall also be permitted to reply.
15. Instructions of the presiding officer as to the form of bringing in their verdict.
16. The verdict.
17. The court shall announce the verdict and impose the penalty fixed by the trial committee.
¶ 245. 1. When a member of an annual conference is deprived of his credentials, by expulsion or otherwise, they shall he filed with the papers of his conference; and should he, at any future time, give satisfactory evidence to the said conference of his amendment, and procure a certificate from the quarterly conference of the charge where he resides or from an annual conference which may have received him on trial, recommending to the annual conference of which he was formerly a member the restoration of his credentials, the said conference may restore them.
2. When a local elder or deacon shall be expelled the district elder shall require of him the credentials of his ordination, to he filed with the papers of the annual conference within the limits of which the expulsion has taken place; and should he, at any future time, produce to the annual conference a certificate of his restoration, signed by the president and countersigned by the secretary of the quarterly conference, his credentials may be restored to him.
3. If an ordained elder or deacon shall refuse to surrender his credentials of ordination when lawfully required to do so, he thereby forfeits his parchments, and, at its first session thereafter, his annual conference should declare them forfeited.
¶ 246. A preacher on trial in an annual conference shall be accountable for his moral and Christian conduct to the quarterly conference of the district within the bounds of which he travels. If charges are brought against him, he shall be tried the same as s local preacher.
¶ 247. An accused local preacher or evangelist shall be tried by the quarterly conference of which he is a member; or, at the option of the quarterly conference, by a committee of not less than five nor more than nine, chosen for this purpose by the quarterly conference, which shall have power to reprove, suspend or expel, according to the nature of the case and as righteousness may require. The district elder shall preside at the trial.
But if, for any reason, the district elder shall be unable to preside, or, if he shall be personally so related to the case to come before the quarterly conference as to disqualify him for presiding, the bishop who last presided at the annual conference of which the quarterly conference forms a part shall appoint another elder to preside.
¶ 248. If a charge of gross immorality is brought against a local preacher or evangelist in the interval of the sessions of the quarterly conference, the district elder shall call a committee of not less than five members of the quarterly conference, which shall have power to suspend until the next session of the quarterly conference.
2. If in the change of venue the case is removed to a quarterly conference over which another district elder presides, then such district elder shall preside at the trial.
¶ 251. The neglect of duties required by the Word of God, or indulgence of sinful tempers, words or actions, shall subject the person so offending to private reproof by the official members of the church having the oversight of the offender; and, in case of persistence after proper admonition and labor, to trial, censure or expulsion. However, the sentence may be suspended by the committee, and be may be placed on probation for not more than one year by the committee, at the expiration of which time his membership may be restored, upon recommendation of the official board and upon a three-fourths vote of the society of which he was a member and upon giving satisfactory answers to Paragraph 75 of the Discipline.
¶ 252. Any member upon whom the penalty of probation or suspension has been duly imposed for the neglect of duties required by the Word of God or “indulgence of sinful tempers, words or actions,” shall vacate all offices, and surrender all credentials held by action of the church. The secretary of the body that issued the credentials in the case shall hold such credentials during the period of penalty.
¶ 253. Any member against whom a charge is brought shall be furnished by the persons bringing the charge, or by the presiding officer of the tribunal to which he is judicially responsible, with a copy of the charges against him, at least fourteen days before the trial, unless the party against whom charges are brought shall demand an earlier trial. He shall also be notified of the place of the election of the committee to try the case at least ten days prior to its election.
¶ 254. When charges are preferred against a member, the preacher who is to preside at the trial shall call a meeting of the society, which shall select a committee of not less than five, nor more than nine, who shall be members of the church, within the bounds of the annual conference, to try the case. No preacher belonging to an annual conference, either on trial or in full membership, shall be eligible to act on this committee.
¶ 255. If the society shall refuse to appoint such committee the quarterly conference of the district of which the society forms a part shall appoint a committee to try the case, and if after conviction the member tried appeals to the quarterly conference, no member of said committee shall be eligible to sit as a juror in the trial of the case.
¶ 256. The preacher in charge, when in full membership in the conference, shall preside at the trial of members; but the district elder shall, for sufficient reasons, appoint some other traveling preacher in full membership to preside at any particular trial. The district elder shall not preside at such trial.
¶ 257. Any member who has been tried and convicted by a committee, shall be entitled to an appeal to the next quarterly conference, provided he did not voluntarily absent himself from the trial, and provided he gave notice of his intention to appeal at the time of his condemnation, or within thirty days after having been notified thereof.
¶ 258. In case a member who has been expelled from the church shall afterward be proven innocent of the charge upon which he was expelled, he may he restored tO full membership in the church by vote of the society from which he was expelled.
¶ 259. No member of the Free Methodist Church will be permitted to exercise any official functions while under penalty by the church for unchristian conduct. This shall not apply to the office of trustee in states where the civil law will not permit the suspension of the office of a trustee for such reasons.
OR ANNUAL CONFERENCE, TO SHOW CAUSE
¶ 260. 1. The Board of Administration shall have the power to cite a society, quarterly conference or annual conference to appear before it to show cause, if any they may have, why they should not be declared in a state of insubordination when reliable information reaches said board that said society, quarterly conference, or annual conference is openly in a state of insubordination, and refusal of obedience. Notice of said order to show cause shall be given by a statement of the facts constituting the state of insubordination stated in clear and definite terms so that said society, quarterly conference, or annual conference may be properly informed of what acts constitute said insubordination. The said order shall be served upon the secretary of said society, quarterly conference, or annual conference, and in event that said board shall find said society, quarterly conference, or annual conference guilty, or in event said society, quarterly conference or annual conference shall admit their insubordination, then said Board of Administration shall have the power to suspend said society, quarterly conference, or annual conference of all rights and recognition as a Free Methodist society, quarterly conference, or annual conference, until the ensuing General Conference, with whom the final decision of the case shall rest.
2. In event that said society, quarterly conference or annual conference shall reform and pledge their loyalty to the church and Discipline, and make contrition for their insubordination, then said Board of Administration shall have the power to reinstate said society, quarterly conference or annual conference.
¶ 261. 1. A bishop shall have the power to cite a preacher to appear before a committee of not more than six persons, three of whom shall be ministers and three laymen, there to show cause, if any he may have, why he shall not be declared in a state of insubordination and maladministration when said bishop shall have reasonable cause to believe that said preacher is in a state of insubordination or in violation of the Discipline, or when said preacher shall have been accused of willful neglect in the administration of the Discipline or refusal of work assigned to him by the annual conference.
2. In the event the preacher shall be so cited he shall be furnished with the statement of facts purporting to constitute such insubordination and maladministration, stating the time, place and action. Said citation shall show the date, hour and place where said minister shall appear and the names of said committee appointed by the bishop. In the event said committee finds said preacher guilty of maladministration and insubordination, or, in event he shall plead guilty, the committee shall have the power to suspend him of all rights as a minister until the sitting of his annual conference, with whom the final decision of his case shall be, and in event that said conference shall take no action, or in event such conference shall refuse to take action in the case, a trial committee may be appointed by the Board of Administration consisting of not less than six and not more than twelve persons, one-half of whom shall be ministers and one-half laymen, before whom the preacher shall be tried, according to the procedure for trial of the preacher, and if found guilty said committee shall have the power to censure, rebuke, or expel said minister according to the terms of the Discipline.
Paragraphs 260 and 261 shall not be construed
so as to prevent the accused in any of the above stated cases from the
right to challenge for cause any person appointed to sit on said committee.