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Decision No. 68

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April 28 1949
In Re: Request of Board of Pensions for Declaratory Decision

Digest of Case

When a minister is elected and consecrated as a Bishop in The Methodist Church, he ceases to be a member of an Annual Conference and is no longer subject to the Ministers Reserve Pension Plan.

Statement of Facts

Prior to his election to the Episcopacy in 1948, Bishop Richard C. Raines was a member of the Reserve Pension Fund of the Northern Minnesota Annual Conference. After his election, the Board of Pensions of The Methodist Church requested the General Commission on World Service and Finance to pay from the Episcopal Fund to the Board of Pensions, in behalf of Bishop Raines' pension, the annual payment required of the employer under the Ministers Reserve Pension Plan. This payment had, of course, been made annually by the Northern Minnesota Annual Conference. The General Commission on World Service and Finance took the position that it had no authority to make any payments for pension of Bishops other than the annual $3,600 retirement allowance authorized by the General Conference, and suggested that the matter be submitted to the Judicial Council for interpretation of the Disciplinary provisions relating thereto. Accordingly, the Board of Pensions instructed its Executive Secretary, Dr. T. A. Stafford, to submit to the Judicial Council the following question. "Are Bishops who were members of the Ministers Reserve Pension Fund, immediately prior to election to the Episcopacy, required by the Discipline to remain under the provisions of the aforesaid Fund for their respective pensions, and is the Episcopal Fund liable in such cases for the contribution on account of the member?" This was done on December 23, 1948, and the matter is properly before us under the provisions of Paragraph 43, Section 4 and Paragraph 914 of the rules governing requests for Declaratory Decisions.

Decision

affirming a Ruling of Bishop Flint, May 2, 1944, the Judicial Council adopted the Bishop's language which was: "A Bishop, effective or retired, is not a member of an Annual Conference. . . . No provision should be made for him as a Conference Claimant; other provision has been made by the General Conference; nor is he subject to Annual Conference assessments." The Constitution of The Methodist Church in Paragraph 8, Article IV, Section 5, provides that the General Conference shall have authority "to define and fix the powers, duties, and privileges of the Episcopacy, to adopt a plan for the support of Bishops, to provide a uniform rule for their superannuation, and to provide for the discontinuance of a Bishop because of inefficiency or unacceptability." Paragraph 1643, Section 2, of the legislation which set up the Reserve Pension Fund, states "support of a member of the fund shall mean: "(a) The sum or sums annually received from a pastoral charge as compensation for his services, plus an amount equivalent to fifteen per cent thereof, if the minister occupy a parsonage free of rent. "(b) The salary of a District Superintendent received from the District as compensation for his services, plus an amount equivalent to fifteen per cent thereof if he occupy a district parsonage free of rent. (c) The salary of a Bishop received from the Episcopal Fund as compensation for his services, plus the allowance for Episcopal residence." From the foregoing it seems clear that: 1. Bishop Raines ceased to be a member of The Northern Minnesota Annual Conference when he was elected to the Episcopacy. 2. The only authority for continuing him as a member of the Reserve Pension Fund after his election is that found in Paragraph 1643, Section 2 (e) noted above. 3. That the legislation in Paragraph 1643, Section 2 (e) is in conflict with the constitutional requirement in Paragraph 8, Section 5, "to provide a uniform rule"o for the superannuation of the Episcopacy. The General Conference has provided such a uniform rule governing pensions for the Bishops. This pension is provided in the Episcopal Fund. To place him in the category of a member of the Reserve Pension Fund would violate such uniform rule. The decision of the Judicial Council is therefore: Bishops who are members of the Ministers Reserve Pension Fund, immediately prior to election to Episcopacy, are not permitted by the Constitution to remain under the provisions of the aforesaid fund for their respective pensions.

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