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Decision No. 51

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May 03 1948
In Re: Ruling of Bishop William C. Martin at 1947 Session of Nebraska Annual Conference Relating to Payment of Pastors' Expenses as Affected by Provisions of Par. 1624, Art. 11, Sec. 4 of the Discipline of The Methodist Church in the Year 1944

Digest of Case

An allowance for "travel expenses" to pastors is not to be regarded as supplementary compensation tending to defeat proportional payment under the terms of Paragraph 1624, Discipline 1944; provided always that such item represents an actual expense for the purpose stated, and is not a cover-up for additional salary paid to the Pastor.

Statement of Facts

At its 1946 session the Nebraska Conference adopted the following Resolution: "Whereas Paragraph 1624, Article 11, Section 4 of the Discipline of 1944, does not specify or define the meaning of 'supplementary compensation tending to defeat proportional payment.' "And, whereas the Nebraska Annual Conference has adopted a Resolution which states: 'All Churches in the Nebraska Annual Conference be permitted to allow anexpense account for the pastor's automobile. This account shall not be counted as salary nor be subject to "pro rata" apportionment.' "And, whereas, it is currently reported that Churches in the Nebraska Conference are making payments to pastors in addition to reported cash salaries and are designating such payments as 'Expense Allowance' or by some similar nomenclature and are not making proportional payments of such sums paid to pastors as provided in Paragraph 803 of the Discipline of 1944. "And, whereas, it is desirable and necessary to determine the legality of the Resolution adopted by the Nebraska Annual Conference permitting an expense account for the pastor's automobile which shall not be counted as salary, nor be subject to 'pro rata' apportionment and also to determine if such payments under those conditions and/or the receiving of money by pastors under 'Expense Accounts' render a pastor liable to the responsibilities and penalty provided in Paragraph 1624, Article 11, Sections 3 and 4, and Paragraph 1630, Article 17, Section 2, all of the Discipline of 1944. "Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Nebraska Annual Conference request Bishop William C. Martin to secure through the Council of Bishops and/or the Judicial Council, or in whatever may be the legal and appropriate manner, a ruling on the points covered above and to transmit the same to the Annual Conference of 1947." The question submitted is whether or not the allowance for travel expense to pastors which was authorized by the Nebraska Conference at its 1946 session is to be regarded as "supplementary compensation tending to defeat proportional payment." Ruling of the Bishop Thereupon the Bishop ruled as follows: "Such allowance for Expense to Pastors is not to be regarded as supplementary compensation tending to defeat proportional payment." This interpretation is based largely upon the following statement which was made to the General Conference by Dr. Thomas A. Stafford, Secretary of the Board of Pensions, Illinois Corporation, in explanation of the legislation which was then under consideration: "I think it should be understood clearly what is meant by the word 'bonus.' It does not have any reference to a man's expense account at all. It is an additional payment on salary that is concealed through some conspiracy or arrangement between the people on the local charge and the minister so that he receives more salary than he reports, the idea being to keep down the apportionment for Conference Claimants. That is all that is involved. It doesn't involve expense accounts or anything of that kind." (Proceedings of the Forty-first General Conference of The Methodist Church, 1944, page 118. column 1.)

Decision

On the facts set forth in this case, the Judicial Council affirms the ruling as aforesaid. It should be said, however, that in the legislation on this subject matter in the 1944 Discipline, as well as any probable future legislation relating to the same, it should be borne in mind that every case must be decided on its facts, and that the rule to be applied is whether or not any "expense" item, no matter what the same includes, must not be a cover-up for additional salary or compensation paid the pastor. With this understanding, the ruling of the Bishop is affirmed.

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