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Questions Answered Regarding Class Action Suit Against UMC

From: rb rbigg@seii.net
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 6:30 PM
To: jwarrene@ucmpage.org
Subject: [Jude] questions about the possible class action suit



About the potential lawsuit
Faithful UM's To File Class Action Lawsuit Against Disobedient Church Leaders - July 20, 2001

Here are some questions and discussions concerning topics of relevance related to the potential class action suit. Updates will occur as new information and events transpire.

Question: Here is an issue. Should we let (even if it could be successful) a civil court decide business of the church? My concern is that a precedent (even if successful) could lead to liberals in the church suing to enforce secular laws, customs on the church.

Response: I think we have to separate out the administrative from the religious. In no way do we want to open the door for the courts to get their noses under the tent on religious matters. I don't believe that the proposed suit leads to encouragement of that. We would not be asking the courts to rule on anything other than civil action. What we're saying is essentially to be the enforcement tool our UMC structure is lacking at the present. Think one isn't lacking? Look at the acting out that has been going on for years. Now, let me ask you to point to one example of successful enforcement to corral such behavior when initiated by a lay person and/or pastor. We have a BOD that says to our members words to the effect: "hey, things are supposed to be thus and such". But, lo and behold, here are our leaders running around acting in open disobedience and defiance of what we tell our members should be happening.

Even if you or I could access the Judicial Council (which we can't), that august body has no enforcement powers. They can only interpret and rule on issues brought to them. Then, if some bishop wishes to defy the ruling with impunity, they can. There is no other means of imposing discipline.

Question: Where is the Scriptural warrant for that action?

Response: I'm honestly not sure on this one. It may not be so much that there is a warrant for that somewhere, as that may be no warrant against such action. I do know, that in my case, it is a matter of conscience. Going into GC2000, I said that if things didn't improve sometime after that, I would have to leave UMC. This is my last gasp. I've tried filing charges, to no avail, as have a number of others. I've watched GN, CM, and numerous other evangelical groups and individuals make concerted effort to change things and regain control. It simply hasn't worked.

I think God intends for us to do all that we can in his behalf. That's where I hope this is leading. If it doesn't work, I have to leave UMC. I cannot have the actions of the renegades representing me, down through our local church, as the connection proclaims. They most certainly don't represent me, nor can I condone their actions. Due process has flown out the window when there is no viable enforcement path to having those in charge do what the will of the body of the Church clearly has said it wants.

One of our brothers said more about this topic: " Although I would never want to take fellow Christians to the secular courts to decide religious issues (like Sprague did with the Campground), this particular lawsuit is NOT about religious issues, but rather can be boiled down to the monetary contractual issue at hand: bishops in the UMC are being paid a salary by the UMC members (through apportionments) to perform a job, and the job includes a job description, such description being interspersed throughout many UMC documents such as the BoD and resolutions; since bishops are not performing the job in accordance with their job description, there is a history of UMC members filing complaints charging that the bishops are not performing, yet these complaints are being deflected by other bishops (thus these bishops are also not performing their job by summarily dismissing any and all complaints filed; the highest authority of the UMC (the General Conference) continues to emphasize the bishops' job description, yet the bishops continue to NOT perform according to their job description; thus, either formally or informally the bishops have erected a shield around themselves that is contrary to their contract of employment with the members of the UMC; therefore, the only means left (since theGC is being ignored) to reign in the derelict bishops is for the UMC membership to take the bishops' breach of employment contract issues to the secular court. This is exactly the same thing that you'd do if someone claiming to be a Christian broke into your church and stole all the Sunday offerings--you'd prosecute the person in the secular justice system."

More on this topic from the brother: "This won't be the first lawsuit, since I know first hand of the suit that Sprague orchestrated against the DesPlaines Campgrounds contending of discrimination of homosexuals. The law suits were officially filed by laity, but for all intents and purposes, the suits were filed by Sprague (he was the key focus in every step of the lawsuits)"

Right now, a Methodist church in a Conference out West is in process of suing the UMC to break their trust clause so they can keep their property after they break away from UMC. They are using the same line of reasoning our proposed suit uses. They have been driven out like Kevin Clancy's and Ed Ezaki's congregations were, by the same group of liberals.

Question: . Is this letter ready to broadcast worldwide? (send to all friends, acquaintances, etc.)

Response: nothing secret or confidential about it, but I'm a little shy of the global image at this point, because all we really have going is a concept or idea. If/when the suit eventually gets filed, then I think it will pick up a momentum of its own.

Question: Does the law firm require a certain sum of money upfront?

Response: yes. Nothing etched in stone, but a goal of $100K was set.

Question: Will nothing start until they get it?

Response: correct.

Question: Isn't this sort of thing typically done by lawyers on a contingency basis (no money upfront)?

Response: I don't have the experience to know that. I started out hunting for a firm 2 years ago to take it on a contingency basis. Not only could I not find one, after writing to and talking to many, none wanted to take on a suit that would be perceived as a religious one simply because a target in the suit is to be a church.

Question: I would guess that at $5 to $10 per person that you'd never get enough money to pursue this.

Response: well, we have about 8 million folks in UMC, give or take a few. Probably about 60% of those are conservative/evangelical. That translates out to 5M or so. Of those, maybe 1M would contribute something, if they hear about the suit. Also, a few may send in much more than others. It looks like the pivot point will be how many get word of the suit, and I'm not sure how to estimate that.

Question: I thought that you'd want a list of UMC members to "sign up" in order to have a "constituency" to apply to the lawsuit. Or, is the purpose of the nomination contribution in order for people to have a "monetary interest" in the case?

Response: not sure exactly what is being asked. My understanding is that this thing is going to start out as a conventional suit, then convert over to a class suit. Contributions/donations don't "buy" any special status or consideration in the suit. We may ultimately have class members who do not contribute, and we could also have contributors who don't join the class. The class will become all members of UMC who wish to join it. No cost to join.

Question: Obviously there are details about "the money" in every lawsuit, and I' m wondering what would happen to any money awarded to the plaintiff in this lawsuit as a judgment against the UMC? "reimburse the contributors" -- I understand that one, but what about the funds over and above that?

Response: the attorney fee would come off the top. After that, the contributors would be reimbursed. Finally, anything remaining would be available for disposition. I have a plan for that, but don't want to release details yet. I can tell you that no individual will see personal gain from the proceeds. What we're talking about in regard to proceeds is money from tithes and offerings. None of this should go to individuals, other than the reimbusement of front end contributions. The plan makes that premise a feature.

Question: Lawyers get how much (or what percentage)?

Response: not established. The fee for most cases of this type runs from 30%-40% of the total proceeds.

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