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Decision No. 140

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October 17 1957
In Re: Ruling of Bishop Donald Harvey Tippett in the California-Nevada Annual Conference with Reference to the Report of Joint Committee on Distribution of Responsibility for Conference Claimants

Digest of Case

The report of the Joint Committee on Distribution of Responsibility for Conference Claimants submitted to the 1955 session of the California-Nevada Annual Conference did not change the report of the Joint Distributing Committee of 1940. Therefore, the ruling of Bishop Tippett on this question is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

At the session of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, Friday, June 18, 1954, upon motion by Myron Herrell, the following resolution was adopted: "ThatMyron Herrell, Roy E. Wilson and I. A. Engle be appointed as a committee to meet with a similar committee appointed by the Southern California-Arizona Conference and a representative of the Board of Pensions to adjudicate matters relating to annuity responsibility on account of service rendered to one or more of the predecessor Annual Conferences of the California-Nevada and Southern California-Arizona Annual Conferences and that, subject to agreement by the Executive Secretary of the Board of Pensions, this Committee be granted power to act on behalf of the California-Nevada Annual Conference." (The 1954 Journal of the California-Nevada Conference, page 71, third paragraph.) One year later, on June 18, 1955, the committee authorized on June 18, 1954, submitted the following report: "The report of the Joint Distributing Committee on page 43 of the 1940 Journal of the California Annual Conference assigns annuity responsibility to the successor Annual Conferences. The assignment of responsibility for years of service for men retired prior to 1940 is clear and is not dealt with in this report. Men with Fresno District years of service rendered prior to 1939, but who retired in 1940 or thereafter were not assigned in the 1940 Distributing Committee report. Our job, as a committee with power to act, was to complete the work of that committee. "On December 20, 1954, the following action was taken by our Joint Committee: " 'The clearing house is requested to allocate years of service of men who retired in 1940 and after in line with paragraph 1636, 1952 Discipline, in which pension responsibility for the service of ministers is allocated to the present Annual Conference within which the charge serviced is now situated. This plan of allocation is to be effective for the 1955 clearing house year.' "Agreements entered into by former Conferences and the action of the Joint Distributing Committee were not within our power to change. We therefore endeavored to restrict ourselves to completion of the 1940 report. "We are continuing to negotiate differences of interpretation of the above action in regard to service rendered in the former language Conferences (Pacific German, Pacific Swedish, Western Norwegian-Danish). The total number of years involved in this difference of interpretation is 45.45 years of responsibility." (Page 155, 1955 Journal.) During the discussion of the report, Dr. John R. Kenney requested in writing a ruling of the Bishop in the following points: "(1) Can a Joint Committee change agreements entered into between Conferences, particularly when representatives of the Conferences involved are not members of said Joint Committee? "(2) Can a Joint Committee alter or change the Report of the Distributing Committee made up of three members from the Arizona Conference, and Pacific Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and from the Southern California and California Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church? "(3) Does the report of the Joint Committee, submitted to this conference, change and alter the Report of the Joint Distributing Committee, composed of three members from each of the Conferences being merged into two successor conferences, in 1939-40?" Bishop Tippett ruled as follows: "In view of the answer to Question 3 hereinafter given, Questions 1 and 2 become moot questions, and consequently no attempt will be made to answer them here. "Question 3 asks if the Report of the Joint Committee of 1954-55 changes and alters the Report of the Joint Distributing Committee of 1940. "It does not. The Discipline of 1939, Paragraph 1312, granted the Distributing Committee power to allocate the Conference Claimants and the distributable assets of the Conference to be merged. This the Distributing Committee did. (Again see report of this Committee dated May 28, 1940.) "The Joint Committee of 1955 in no way changed or altered these allocations either of Conference Claimants or of distributable assets - and in their report acknowledged that they could not. Rather they dealt with other matters of annuity responsibility as they affected the California-Nevada and the Southern California-Arizona Conference." JURISDICTION Since Paragraph 909 of the 1956 Discipline requires the Judicial Council to pass upon the decisions of law made by the Bishops in Annual and District Conferences, it has jurisdiction in this case. ANALYSIS The record in this case shows that Bishop Tippett was requested to rule on three questions which were presented in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 40, Article VII, of the 1952 Discipline. On the first two of these he gave no ruling, saying that in ruling on the third, the others became moot questions and consequently no attempt would be made to answer them. He answered the third question by ruling that the report of the Joint Committee of 1955 did not change or alter in any way the report of the Joint Distributing Committee of 1940. In this we concur. In order to ascertain whether or not the report of the Joint Committee of 1955 changed or altered the report of the Joint Distributing Committee of 1940, it is necessary to determine the scope of each report. The report of the Joint Committee of 1955 states that "The assignment of responsibility for years of service for men retired prior to 1940 is clear and is not dealt with in this report." This has not been questioned. The Committee understood its task to be that of assigning certain men who had years of service rendered prior to 1939 but who had retired in 1940 or thereafter. This it did by unanimously requesting the clearing house to allocate the annuity responsibility for those men in line with Paragraph 1636 of the 1952 Discipline in which pension responsibility for the service of ministers is allocated to the Annual Conference within which a charge served is now situated. This allocation was to be effective for the 1955 clearing house year. This is known as divided annuity responsibility, which was taken over from the former Methodist Episcopal Church at the time of union and has been in the Discipline ever since. It was doubtless to the assignment of these men to which the report of the Committee of 1955 referred in its statement, "Our job, as a Committee with power to act, was to complete the work of that Committee." It had no reference to the assignment of those who were Conference Claimants at the time the report of the 1940 Committee was made. The Joint Distributing Committee of 1940 was set up in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 1312 of the 1939 Discipline with power "to allocate the Conference Claimants and the distributable assets of the Conference to be merged." It is to be noted that the Discipline gave power to this Committee to allocate only the Conference Claimants, that is, ministers who were already retired, widows and children of deceased ministers. It was no power to this Committee to allocate annuity responsibility for ministers who were at the time in the effective relation. There is no evidence that the Committee exceeded the authority thus given it. That the Committee recognized this limitation to the allocation of Conference Claimants only is evidenced by the following: 1. All of the persons allocated by name in the report were Conference Claimants at the time the report was adopted. No minister in the effective relation was named. 2. In the computation of assets and pension liabilities of the merging Conferences, which was to form the basis for the allocations, there is no computation of future liability for the pensions of men who would retire subsequent to 1940. If the Committee had been considering these men in its report, it would have figured the pension liability of them in arriving at an equitable allocation of all concerned. Further supporting evidence that the 1940 report was intended to and actually did refer to the assignment of those who were Conference Claimants at the time the report was made and not of ministers who were then in the effective relation is to be found in the following references: 1. In the Journal of the California Conference for 1939 on page 38 there is a resolution which states, "and since it is proposed that the Northern Successor Conference assume the pension responsibility for all retired men of the Pacific Conference, etc.; and the Southern Successor Conference assumes the pension responsibility for all retired men of the Arizona Conference, etc.-." An identical resolution is to be found in the Journal of the Pacific Conference for 1939 on page 23. Both refer to retired men only. 2. In the Journal of the California-Nevada Conference for 1942 on page 321 in the report of the Board of Conference Claimants appears the following: "Whereas in the organization of the California and the Southern California-Arizona Conferences of the Methodist Church by the merging of the California and Southern California Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Pacific and Arizona Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the Joint Distributing Committee allocated the responsibility for the service years of retired men belonging to the four Conferences in proportion to the ability of the two successor Conferences, but did not adjust the responsibility for accrued service years in the effective relation and -" It follows, therefore, that since the report of the Join Distributing Committee of 1940 dealt only with these who were Conference Claimants at that time and since the Joint Committee of 1955 dealt only with certain men who were retired in 1940 and thereafter that the report of the Joint Committee of 1955 did not change or alter the report of the Joint Distributing Committee of 1940. In view of our conclusion with respect to question No.3 it is our opinion that questions No. 1 and No. 2 become moot questions as was indicated by Bishop Tippett.

Decision

It is therefore the decision of the Judicial Council that the report of the Joint Committee of 1955 did not change or alter in any respect the report of the Joint Distributing Committee of 1940. The ruling of Bishop Tippett on this question is hereby affirmed. Note: Donald A. Odell voluntarily refrained from participating in thediscussion in connection with this matter and from voting on the decision.

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