That the Assembly
authorize the Assembly Standing Committee, on the advice of the Legal Reference Committee, to amend Regulation 2.10.1 (j) to read:
2.10.1 (j) A Minister, Youth Worker or Lay Pastor whose placement has been terminated shall have a right of appeal which shall be dealt with in accordance with Part 6 of these Regulations. The appeal shall be directed to:
(i) the Synod Secretary when the termination decision is made by a Presbytery;
(ii) the Assembly General Secretary Synod Secretary in which the appeal arises, who on the advice of the Convenor of the Standing Appeal Panel shall refer the appeal to another Synod for action, when the termination decision is made by a Synod, Placements Committee or Assembly; and
Prior to the Assembly in 2012 adopting a new process for dealing with a number types of Appeals (Part 8, now Part 6 of the Regulations) the process under this Regulation involved the President establishing a group to undertake the appeal and to conclude the matter.
Part 6.6 requires that the President appoints the membership of such an appeal panel from a Standing Appeal panel. The Assembly does not have such a Panel because it does not have the call for it in terms of its own needs and the personnel who might be selected for such a task may not be able to be employed for an appeal if they are from the synod within which the Synod based placement was terminated. Therefore the process has been that a Synod that is not the subject of the appeal is asked to recommend some persons from its Panel which the President then appoints as his / her panel. The President then formally appoints those nominated persons as the Panel and they commence their work. This all takes a significant amount of time, which is compounded when the President is overseas or on leave. The process of appeals under Part 6 is meant to be fast and this process is inherently slow. In addition to being laborious the involvement of the Assembly adds no value and introduces uncertainty about who is managing the process and to whom they are accountable when the report is produced.
The Standing Committee submits that this process is time consuming, cumbersome and has created confusion in the membership of some panels about to whom they are responsible and therefore with whom they need to discuss certain matters. The number of appeals against a decision to terminate a synod placement has increased a little over the last few years. This probably owes as much to the increasing number of placements that are designated as synod placements due to the expansion of chaplaincies of various kinds, than to any other explanation.
Given that effectively the process by which such appeals to the Assembly are addressed is by the use of another synod’s Standing Appeal Panel it seems far more effective to establish a process by which the matter can be referred directly to another synod for action. The Standing Committee has heard that there may be a perception of bias in the choice of the synod which would handle the appeal but considers that this can be overcome by the choice of synod being on the advice of the synod’s Standing Appeal Panel.