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Decision No. 149

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October 16 1958
In Re: Can a Ministerial Member of an Annual Con- ference, Who Has Been Placed in the Retired Relation with the Privilege of Making an Annuity Claim on the Ground of Personal Disability, Serve a Church in a Minis- terial Capacity and Receive Compen- sation for Such Service and at the Time Draw an Annuity from the Board of Pensions of an Annual Conference

Digest of Case

A ministerial member of an Annual Conference who has been placed in the retired relation with the privilege of making an annuity claim on the ground of personal disability may not serve a church in a ministerial capacity and receive compensation for such service and at the same time draw an annuity from the Board of Pensions of an Annual Conference.

Statement of Facts

The Judicial Council received a communication, dated July 1, 1958, from C. A. Tucker, Secretary of the Virginia Annual Conference, in which the following statement and request appears: "Since there is some difference of opinion in regard to what constitutes physical disability as a basis for retirement in keeping with paragraph 1617 of the 1956 Discipline, we the members of the Virginia Annual Conference in regular session, June 9-12, 1958, do hereby earnestly request the Judicial Council to issue a Declaratory Ruling as to whether or not a person retiring on the grounds of physical disability can serve a church from which he receives a salary while at the same time drawing annuity from the Board of Pensions." JURISDICTION Under subsection 8, Paragraph 914 of the 1956 Discipline, the Judicial Council has jurisdiction to render a declaratory decision on the question thus submitted to it by the Virginia Annual Conference. ANALYSIS Reframed for the purpose of clarity, the question propounded by the Virginia Conference is, "Can a ministerial member of an Annual Conference who has been placed in the retired relation on the ground of physical disability with the privilege of making an annuity claim serve a church in a ministerial capacity and receive compensation for such service and, at the same time, draw an annuity from the Board of Pensions of the Annual Conference?" Paragraph 668 of the Discipline, 1956 edition, provides for the establishment of a Committee on Conference Relations in each Annual Conference. Among other duties, the Committee on Conference Relations is required to make recommendations to the Annual Conference concerning the relations of all elders on full connection seeking to become retired members of the Annual Conference. Paragraph 1617 of the Discipline, 1956 edition, which relates to retirement, provides: "1. The Annual Conference may place any ministerial member thereof in the retired relation, with or without his consent and irrespective of his age, if such relation be recommended by the Committee on Conference Relations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . and, "4. Retirement with the privilege of making an annuity claim on the ground of personal disability shall be permitted only after a thorough investigation of the case by, and presentation of a medical certificate to, the Committee on Conference Relations. This certificate shall be made on a form approved by the General Board of Pensions, and shall be given by a regular medical doctor, other than the personal physician of the applicant, who has been approved by the Committee on Conference Relations. If such disability continues for more than one year, such medical certificate shall be required annually." Subparagraph 6 of Paragraph 1617 provides that when, "because of physical or mental incapacity a minister is forced to give up his ministerial work," during the Conference year, the Conference's Board of Pensions may grant him an appropriation from an emergency fund for the remaining part of the Conference year. Simply stated, the question propounded by the Virginia Annual Conference is whether a minister, retired for disability which has been found to be of such a character as to make it impossible for him to serve a church in a ministerial capacity and, therefore, entitles him to an annuity, may, after retirement, perform and receive compensation for the same type of service and at the same time draw annuity payments. Disability is defined in Webster's dictionary to mean the absence or lack of competent physical or mental powers, and the quoted language of subparagraph 6 of Paragraph 1617 indicates that, as used in subparagraph 4 of that paragraph, "personal disability" means physical or mental incapacity. It is clear, therefore, that the words "personal disability," as used in Paragraph 1617 of the Discipline, are used to denote and mean such physical or mental incapacity as make it impossible for the person involved to carry on the work of a minister in the service of a church. It is only when a minister suffers such personal disability or lack of physical or mental powers that he is entitled to retirement on the ground of personal disability with the privilege of receiving an annuity and he is entitled to receive such annuity only so long as such incapacity continues. It seems clear that such disability as would prevent a minister serving a church before retirement would, if present after retirement, continue to make it impossible for him to serve a church. Conversely, when such disability terminates, making it possible for him to serve a church, he would no longer be entitled to receive the annuity. Since it is only because of his inability to serve a church that a retired minister is entitled to receive an annuity under Par. 1617 (4), it follows that when such disability ceases, the right to receive the annuity also terminates.

Decision

It is the decision of the Judicial Council that a ministerial member of an Annual Conference, who has been placed in the retired relation with the privilege of making an annuity claim on the ground of personal disability, may not serve a church in a ministerial capacity and receive compensation for such service and at the same time draw an annuity from the Board of Pensions of an Annual Conference.

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