Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 12
April 28 1942
In Re: Authority of a Joint Distributing Committee Appointed Under the Provisions of Paragraph 1312 of the Discipline of 1939
Digest of Case
The decisions of a Joint Distributing Committee duly constituted under the provisions of Paragraph 1312, Discipline 1939, having acted in accordance with such provisions, are binding upon the several Conferences affected by merger.
Statement of Facts
The Uniting Conference of 1939 defined Conference boundaries for the Kansas Conference by Paragraph 1495 and for the Central Kansas Conference by Paragraph 1492. The Central Kansas Conference, generally speaking, covered the same territory as the Northwest Kansas Conference and the Southwest Kansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, less certain charges in Oklahoma, but also plus three Kansas counties taken from the territory of the former Methodist Episcopal Kansas Conference, to wit, the Counties of Washington, Clay and Dickinson. The new Kansas Conference of The Methodist Church so defined included approximately the territory of the old Kansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, less the three counties allocated to the Central Kansas Conference, there being also some other minor changes due to the allocation of former Methodist Protestant charges, and charges formerly of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. At the first session of the new Kansas Conference of The Methodist Church, the members being composed of those of the former Methodist Episcopal Church Kansas Conference, less the three counties; plus members of the former Methodist Protestant churches within this boundary, declared the Kansas Conference of The Methodist Church to be the ecclesiastical and lawful successor to the Kansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Board of Conference Claimants of the Kansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated under the laws of Kansas by charter dated March 18, 1917, and amended June 24, 1931, its purpose being the holding, managing and distributing funds for the Conference Claimants of said Conference. By action of the Trustees of the Board, ratified by the new Kansas Conference, this Charter was again amended by changing its name to "Conference Claimants' Funds, Inc.," said amendment being dated September 26, 1939. The character of the corporation as amended was stated to be to take and hold property in trust for the use and benefit of the Conference Claimants of the Kansas Conference of The Methodist Church. In accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 1312, Discipline 1939, there was constituted a Joint Distributing Committee appointed by the Conferences affected by the foregoing change of boundaries: that is, three committeemen eachfrom the Kansas, Northwest Kansas, and Southwest Kansas Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and three from the Kansas Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church. This Joint Distributing Committee, in its study of the comparative strength of the charges in the three allocated counties, agreed that it represented approximately one twelfth of the strength of the former Kansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Upon that basis, the Committee proceeded to allocate Conference Claimants, whose annuity years amounted to about one twelfth of the total annuity years for which the said Kansas Conference was responsible, from the Kansas Conference to the Central Kansas Conference; and, further, called upon the Kansas Conference to allocate to the Central Kansas Conference one twelfth of its permanent endowment funds. The action of the Joint Distributing Committee was printed in the Journals of the 1940 sessions of both the Kansas Conference and the Central Kansas Conference. At a later meeting, the Distributing Committee called upon the Trustees of Conference Claimants' Funds, Inc., the corporate body holding the permanent funds of the Kansas Conference, for their decision concerning the requested allocation of funds. The Trustees carefully considered the proposal, and appointed a Special Committee to investigate and to formulate a statement. The decision, which the Trustees believed to be demanded by Charter obligations, was "We do not feel that we as a Board are empowered to make any distribution of endowment funds." On the above statement of facts, a request for a ruling by the presiding Bishop was requested in the 1941 sessions of both the Kansas Conference and the Central Kansas Conference, which Requests and Rulings are as follows: REQUEST FOR RULING The question is raised: Was the duly appointed Joint Distributing Committeewhich adjudicated the respective pension concerns of the Kansas Conference of the former Methodist Protestant Church, the Northwest Kansas Conference, the Southwest Kansas Conference, and the Kansas Conference of the former Methodist Episcopal Church in connection with the reorganization of the aforesaid Annual Conferences consequent upon unification, acting within its authority under the Discipline, and are its decisions binding upon the Central Kansas Conference and the Kansas Conference of The Methodist Church? RULING OF THE BISHOP Pursuant to its powers, the Uniting Conference of 1939 reorganized the entire work in the State of Kansas in such manner as to merge the former Northwest Kansas and Southwest Kansas Conferences of the former Methodist Episcopal Church under the name of the Central Kansas Conference of The Methodist Church and enlarged the area of the new Central Kansas Conference by taking from the area of the Kansas Conference of the former Methodist Church the counties of Washington, Clay and Dickinson. This action of the Uniting Conference altered the status of the new Kansas Conference of The Methodist Church, bringing, thereby, both of the two new Conferences, namely, the Central Kansas and the Kansas, under the provisions of Paragraph 1312 of the Discipline of 1939. One of the most important and delicate problems facing the Uniting Conference was the equitable readjustment of Annual Conference boundaries. It was clearly seen that such readjustment included the much more difficult attendant problems of readjusting the placement of the Conference Claimants involved and the resources hitherto provided for their support. For this reason, the Uniting Conference enacted Paragraph 1312 of the Discipline of 1939 and gave final p to a Joint Committee to "allocate" Conference Claimants and s portion of the assets of a Conference involved as could be designated "distributable," that is, free from a declaration of trust, or other rigidly specified "uses," to which they are to be devoted. It follows, therefore, that under the authority vested in it Paragraph 1312 of the Discipline of 1939, the above-mentioned J Distributing Committee was within its Disciplinary rights and act under the authority of the Uniting Conference when it assigned to new Central Kansas Conference a portion of the Conference Claimants and of the assets of the Kansas Conference commensurate, in judgment of the Joint Distributing Committee, with the transfer the three counties of Washington, Clay and Dickinson to the Central Kansas Conference, and the decisions of the aforesaid Committee are binding upon all Conferences concerned.
The only questions before us which are raised by the foregoing Ruling is whether the Joint Distributing Committee acted within its authority under the provisions of the Discipline of The Methodist Church, and whether its decisions are binding in the manner prescribed by the Discipline. The subject matter of "Pensions and Permanent Funds" constitutes Part VIII of the Discipline of 1939, being the same also of the 1940 Discipline. Chapter 11 of Part VIII is entitled "Permanent Funds." Paragraph 1312 (1) and (2) which is a part of Chapter II reads as follows: Paragraph 1312. 1. There shall be set up a Distributing Committee in each Annual Conference to be merged after Unification, to be composed of three members appointed by the Conference at its session immediately succeeding the Uniting Conference, which Committee shall act jointly with similar Committees of three members each f rom the other Annual Conference or Conferences having an interest in the merger of such Annual Conference; said Joint Committee to have power to allocate the Conference Claimants and the distributable assets of the Conference to be merged. 2. The Distributing Committee shall determine the number of service years rendered in the Annual Conferences which will lose their identity in the merging of Conference territory, and the findings of the Committee shall be final unless definite evidence to the contrary be discovered, and the annuity payments by the continuing Conference shall be made accordingly. There is no question but that the Joint Distributing Committee was duly appointed in this case, and that the Conferences in question were all affected by the merger. It appears further that the Committee proceeded to act in accordance with the provisions of the Discipline, and made its findings as therein presented. These findings are "final unless definite evidence to the contrary shall be discovered," and as there is no allegation of new evidence, we must therefore hold the findings of the Committee in this case to be final. It is to be noted that the question of what are "distributable assets," is not before the Council. This may involve the interpretation and adjudication as to the terms of specific trusts under which funds may be held, all of which questions if there be any dispute must be adjudicated by the proper tribunals. For the foregoing reasons it is now held by the Judicial Council that the Joint Distributing Committee was duly constituted under the provisions of the Discipline of The Methodist Church; that it acted in accordance with said provisions; and that its decisions are binding. Accordingly the Ruling of the Bishop is hereby affirmed.