(Binding Arbitration - NAD Policy B-90)
The North American Division Conciliation and Dispute Resolution Procedures were developed in order to provide a method whereby the church may resolve disputes between local church members; lay members and various church leaders; employees and church employers; church organizations (service organizations, departments, associations, etc.); and/or conferences and/or institutions.
Unless specifically adopted by the employing organization, these procedures are not intended to apply to any church employer/employee relationship nor are they intended to supersede any employer/employee grievance or currently available dispute resolution procedures.
The following methods are available to the local church for resolving disputes in ways that lead to reconciliation. It is a quasi-legal procedure in which the parties in dispute meet voluntarily in the presence of one or more arbitrator(s) is binding upon all parties.
- Informal Negotiation -- The parties in dispute must voluntarily meet with one another in order to resolve their differences and become reconciled (Matt. 18:15). A pastor or other spiritual counselor may prompt the parties to meet for this purpose.
Adequate time for spiritual preparation should be allowed in order for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of the parties in dispute. The disputing parties must begin the conciliation and dispute resolution process with informal negotiation.
- Mediation -- If the informal negotiation does not suffice, the parties in dispute must voluntarily meet together with one or more mediators. The mediator(s) serve(s) as facilitator(s) to guide the negotiation as the parties seek to agree and become reconciled (Matt. 18:16).
- Binding Arbitration -- Before the process of binding arbitration can begin, all pending law suits related to the dispute must be dismissed, and/or the parties involved must sign an agreement not to institute a law suit against each other.
UNION CONFERENCE DISPUTES
It is the expectation of the North American Division that all grievances be resolved at the level where they arose. The union conference, therefore, has jurisdiction in disputes between:
- Intra union conference employees.
- Local conference employees.
- Union institution employees and the institution.
- Lay members or local churches and the union.
- Local conference employees, conference institutional employees, union conference institutional employees, and the union conference.
- Intra union organizations, union institutions, and/or local conferences.
In disputes between employees / members of different conferences, unless otherwise agreed to by all parties involved, jurisdiction shall be with the conference of the member / employee whom the claim is against.
The NAD Conciliation Procedures may not apply in certain situations, such as cases that are clearly within the jurisdiction of the civil courts and not within the authority of the Church, or for which the Church agrees that it has no adequate process for orderly settlement. Examples of such cases may include but are not limited to:
- The settlement of insurance or self-insurance claims in excess of $50,000 or where the General Conference Adventist Risk Management service has no claims management authority.
- Matters arising from marital differences between husbands and wives.
- The awarding of custody of minor children.
- The issuance of decrees affecting the boundaries and ownership of real property.
- The deciding of some matters involving the administration of estates.
- Debt collection matters.
- Matters involving an individual's disputes with any branch of civil government or law enforcement agency.
- Specific theological questions.
- Questions regarding the transfer or reinstatement of membership.*
- Church elections.*
* Governed by Church Manual Policies.
The following steps must be taken to initiate the Conciliation and Dispute Resolution Procedures at the Local Conference level.
- The grievant(s) shall make a written request for binding arbitration to the secretary of the local conference.
- Normally, within 15 working days of the receipt of the request, the conference secretary shall respond to the grievant(s) with a written acknowledgement and statement as to how and when the request will be processed. Arbitration forms shall be enclosed for the grievant(s) to complete and return to the conference secretary as soon as possible.
- After the initiation forms have been signed and returned, the following steps are taken by the conference secretary:
- Present the request and initiation forms to the local conference administrative committee (or other appropriate body) for appropriate action.
- Notify the grievant of the decision of the conference.
- In collaboration with the parties in dispute, the conference secretary shall develop the arbitration agreement, select the arbitrator(s), and set the date, time, and place for the arbitration hearing. The hearing should normally consume one day or less.
- A Facilitator's Guide containing all the forms required for the process will be sent to the parties in dispute by the conference secretary. These forms may also be obtained from the NAD Office of Human Relations.
When an in-house grievance process has failed to bring about resolution in a local conference institution, the administration of the institution or the party(ies) in dispute may request of the administration of the next higher body a binding arbitration hearing. The acceptance or rejection of this request is left to the discretion of the administration of the next higher body.
- Must be credible, neutral, impartial, and independent.
- Must be church members in good standing.
- Must be representative of the membership served.
- May consist of either one or three persons.
- Must be selected by each party with both panelists selecting the third person who will serve as moderator.
- Must be agreed upon by all parties in dispute.
- Legal representation is discouraged unless both parties agree, and the attorneys are present to provide expert counsel on specific legal matters.
- A peer may be permitted to accompany a party in dispute and speak in his/her behalf when agreed upon by all parties.
- With the consent of all parties, an observer from the next higher level may be invited to ensure that the hearing is conducted in keeping with policy and agreements and to answer questions asked by either the arbitrator or the parties in dispute.
- Witnesses may appear in an arbitration hearing at the call of the moderator. They are present only to testify and must leave when their testimony is completed.
- Parties in dispute pay all of their travel costs and costs for witnesses they invite.
- Parties in dispute pay on a 50-50 basis travel expenses of lay or retired persons who serve as arbitrator.
- Local conferences pay the travel expenses for their employees who are arbitrators.
- The travel expenses of a local conference employee invited to serve as arbitrator in another conference are paid by the inviting conference.
- The NAD pays the travel expenses for its observer(s) and arbitrator(s).
- Incidental expenses incurred by the arbitrators are paid by the entity that appointed them.
- Formal transcripts and recordings are permissible in arbitration hearings.
- Arbitrators and observers shall commit themselves to strict confidentiality and shall disclose all real or potential conflicts of interest. When such are disclosed, the person(s) involved shall be replaced.
Issued January 1, 1996