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Decision No. 165

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April 29 1960
In Re: 1. Whether a Ministerial Member or Approved Supply Pastor Automatically Retired at Age Seventy-Two Is Retired for Payment of An- nuity Whether or Not the Conference Acts on His Retirement in the Ses- sion Following Such Minister's Seventy-Second Birthday

Digest of Case

1. A ministerial member or approved supply pastor retired under the provisions of the Discipline at age seventy-two is then automatically subject to the provisions of the Discipline relating to annuity claims. 2. The Conference Board of Pensions may determine the number of years of service for which a minister is eligible for annuity, without formal action of the Annual Conference Session.

Statement of Facts

The Secretary of the Judicial Council received the following communication: "I enclose herewith copy of a request for a declaratory ruling by the Judicial Council. This was approved by the Virginia Conference at its session in Norfolk, Virginia, June 8-11 of this year. (July 3, 1959.) (s) C. A. Tucker, Secretary Since the Conference Board of Pensions has been faced with some issues where there is a difference of opinion, we, the members of the Virginia Conference in regular session June 8-11, 1959, do hereby request the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church to issue a declaratory ruling on the following matters for their clarification as relates to the work of the Board of Pensions. First, in keeping with Paragraphs 368, 1617 and 1631, Section 3, of the 1956 Discipline, is a member of the Conference or an Approved Supply Pastor having reached the age of seventy-two prior to the opening day of the Annual Conference automatically retired for the payment of annuity whether or not the Conference acts on his retirement in the session following such minister's seventy-second birthday? Second, when a member of the Conference or an Approved Supply Pastor is retired at a session of the Annual Conference without the Conference stating whether the retirement is with or without annuity, is it the right and prerogative of the Conference Board of Pensions to determine the eligibility of the years of service of such a minister for pension payment until the meeting of the next session of the Annual Conference? Geo. W. Amos, Marvin H. Beales, Secretary" JURISDICTION Under Paragraph 914, Section 8, of the 1956 Discipline, the request of the Virginia Annual Conference is properly before the Judicial Council. ANALYSIS The appeal of the Virginia Conference involves two questions: First, is a ministerial member of the Annual Conference or an approved supply pastor having reached the age of seventy-two prior to the opening day of the Annual Conference automatically retired for the payment of annuity whether or not the Conference acts on his retirement in the session following such minister's seventy-second birthday? Relative to the retirement of ministerial members and approved supply pastors having attained the age of seventy-two, the 1956 Discipline states as follows: Paragraph 368, Section 7, "Every clerical member of an Annual Conference whose seventy-second birthday precedes the first day of the regular session of his Annual Conference shall automatically be retired from the active ministry at said conference session." Paragraph 1631, Section 3, "Every approved supply pastor who has attained age seventy-two prior to the first day of the Conference session shall be retired." Decision 7 of the Judicial Council has determined that the fixing of a uniform retirement age is a constitutional function of the General Conference. For an Annual Conference to take action or fail to take action with reference to a minister's retirement at age seventy-two does not alter the law of the Church to which every Annual Conference is subject. Furthermore, the Discipline specifies the condition under which an approved supply pastor may make an annuity claim. Paragraph 1631, Section 1, "An approved supply pastor who shall have rendered not less than ten years of full time approved service as a pastor of a charge may upon retirement make an annuity claim as a Special Conference Claimant; . . ." Paragraph 1631, Section 4, "A Special Conference Claimant shall be entitled to make an annuity claim for each year of approved service rendered as a regularly appointed pastor, . . ." (Emphasis added.) These provisions clearly indicate that a ministerial member or approved supply pastor retired automatically at age seventy-two has completed his years of approved service and is entitled to the benefits of such years. Additional service years may not be allowed thereafter. The second question involved in this appeal of the Virginia Conference is this: In case the Annual Conference does not specify the number of eligible annuity years of a ministerial member or approved supply pastor retiring at the Annual Conference session, is it the right and prerogative of the Conference Board of Pensions to determine these years of service until such time as the Annual Conference officially approves the years for which the minister is eligible for annuity? In determining the answer to this question it is necessary only to review the provisions of the Discipline with regard to the maintaining of the record of the approved service years of ministerial members and approved supply pastors. Paragraph 1629 (1) states: "The General Board of Pensions shall maintaincomplete service records of ministerial members of the Annual Conference . . ." Paragraph 1629, Section 3, "The secretary of each Annual Conference shall publish annually in the Conference Journal the chronological roll of ministerial members and approved supply pastors, indicating the total years of approved service of each; provided, however, that if the alphabetical roll printed in the Conference Journal contains the required information, a separate chronological roll shall not be mandatory." This roll is the official service record of each minister. The Conference Board of Pensions may therefore be governed by the record published annually in the Conference Journal, and determine the approved years for which a minister is eligible for annuity. No other Annual Conference action is required regarding the approved years of an annuitant.

Decision

It is, therefore, the decision of the Judicial Council that: 1. Any ministerial member or approved supply pastor who is automatically retired at age seventy-two is then subject to the provisions of the Discipline relating to annuity claims and approved service years and may make annuity claim on the basis of his approved service years at the time of his retirement whether or not the Conference formally recognizes his retirement. 2. The Conference Board of Pensions may determine the years of service for which a retired ministerial member or approved supply pastor is eligible to receive pension payment from the official record of the Conference as published in the Conference Journal and without additional formal approval by the Annual Conference.

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