Skip Navigation

Judicial Council Decisions Search


Decision No. 202

Back to Search

October 11 1963
In Re: Request of the New England Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision As to the Legality of Conference Action Concerning Pension Payments of a Federated Church Served by a Conference Member

Digest of Case

The actions of the New England Annual Conference concerning annuity credit and responsibility of a federated church are in conformity with the provisions of the 1960 Discipline of The Methodist Church.

Statement of Facts

The Secretary of the Judicial Council received the following letter from the Secretary of the New England Annual Conference: "June 22, 1963 The Judicial Council of The Methodist Church A. Wesley Pugh, Secretary 401 W. Bougainvillea Lehigh Acres, Florida Gentlemen: "At the recent session of the New England Annual Conference, a recommendation in the report of the Conference Board of Pensions was adopted. A question of its standing was raised, and Bishop Mathews, who was presiding, unable to give an opinion in this matter, suggested that it be referred to the Judicial Council for a Declaratory Decision. This action was taken, and I am herewith forwarding the recommendation for your consideration. "The recommendation reads as follows: "We recommend: that service of a member of the New England Conferenceserving a Federated Church with a Methodist constituency be considered part-time service. We further recommend that the non-Methodist part of the Federated Church be considered as an 'institution' and that the rules governing part-time service be applied in determining the minister's annuity credit. "We further recommend that when a Federated Church is served by other than a member of the New England Conference, that part of the apportionments which is for service annuity (9% funding) be subtracted from the total apportionment to that Church. "The action of our Conference was taken on June 7, 1963 at a regular business session of the Conference. Fraternally yours, (s) Daniel A. Thurston Daniel A. Thurston Secretary New England Annual Conference" JURISDICTION Under the provision of Paragraph 914.8 of the 1960 Discipline of The Methodist Church, which grants an Annual Conference the right to request a declaratory decision on matters relating to Annual Conferences or the work therein, this request is properly before the Judicial Council. ANALYSIS The booklet "Program and Reports" to the 1963 session of the New England Annual Conference contains the complete recommendations of the Conference Board of Pensions. Other pertinent information is quoted from the report: "PART-TIME SERVICE "h. According to Paragraph 1618 of the Discipline only 'full time' service is eligible for annuity credit without special action of the Annual Conference. Therefore we recommend: "That beginning with the year 1964 and subject to approval by a three-fourths vote of the Annual Conference, part-time service to a Church by a member on trial or in full connection while attending school or serving another institution, be approved for partial 'service annuity' deposit. The deposit for the service annuity of such member to be 9% of the salary he receives from Methodist Church Sources (increased by 20%). Furthermore, we recommend that this deposit be subject to the rules for proportional payment. If, after proportional payment, the deposit for service annuity as calculated above falls below 9% of the average salary, the Church or institution involved may pay the difference, in which case the full deposit will be made. Full time service is to be defined as defined under the rules governing qualification for Minimum Salary support. "FEDERATED CHURCHES (1623: 6&7) "I. We recommend: that service of a member of the New England Conferenceserving a Federated Church with a Methodist constituency be considered part-time service. We further recommend that the non-Methodist part of the Federated Church be considered as an 'institution' and that the rules governing part-time service be applied in determining the minister's annuity credit. "We further recommend that when a Federated Church is served by other than a member of the New England Conference that part of the apportionments which is for service annuity (9% funding) be subtracted from the total apportionment to that Church." A letter addressed to the Secretary of the Judicial Council, from Mr. Harold H. Cramer of the New England Annual Conference Board of Pensions, states that "The point in question is whether it is legal to excuse a Federated Church from paying the 9% when it has other than a Methodist pastor and is presumably funding him with some other Denominational Pension Board." The service of a member of an Annual Conference of The Methodist Church, on trial or in the effective relation, to a federated church is eligible to be counted for the purpose of determining annuity claims payable thereon. The provisions of Paragraph 1623.6 1960 Discipline, are applicable: "6. The apportionment to a federated church, if and when it is served by a ministerial member or an approved supply pastor of the Annual Conference, shall be made on the same basis as the apportionments to the pastoral charges of the Conference; provided, however, that an annual apportionment may be made to a federated church in accordance with the terms of an agreement between the Conference Board of Pensions and such federated church." Paragraph 1623.6 clearly indicates that the Annual Conference may appoint one of its members to a federated church and work out an agreement with the said federated church regarding the apportionment for pension purposes. When a federated church is served by a member of the annual Conference the apportionment shall be on the same basis as to the pastoral charges of the conference. If not served by a member of the Annual Conference it appears quite clear that an apportionment is not required. The fact that an agreement must be reached between the federated church and the Conference Board of Pensions indicates that acceptance of a Methodist Conference member as pastor by a federated church obligates it to pay the apportionment made by the Annual Conference. Thus it logically follows that when a pastor serves the church who is not related to an Annual Conference of The Methodist Church, there is no service annuity responsibility to The Methodist Church. The matter of approving service to a federated church for pension purposes is left to the discretion of an Annual Conference, according to sub-paragraphs 4 and 9 of Paragraph 1618, 1960 Discipline. Approval is subject to revision at any session of the conference and the fact of approval must be printed annually in the conference journal. Once the Annual Conference accepts annuity responsibility for service rendered by a member thereof under special appointment to a federated church, the conference may make an apportionment to said church subject to the agreement between the Conference Board of Pensions and the federated church. Under the power granted an Annual Conference in Paragraph 1618.2 (c), 1960 Discipline, with regard to approval of service for annuity claim against conference funds, it appears that the action of the New England Annual Conference in considering "the non-Methodist part of the Federated Church be considered as an 'institution' and that the rules governing part-time service be applied in determining the minister's annuity credit" is in conformity with the Pension Code of The Methodist Church. Since action is required by the Annual Conference in connection with service by one of its members to a federated church, it is clear that an apportionment may or may not be made in terms of an agreement between the Conference Board of Pensions and the federated church. Therefore, the action of the New England Annual Conference authorizing the subtraction of the service annuity from the total apportionment to a federated church when served by other than a member of the New England Conference is legal and proper.

Decision

It is therefore the decision of the Judicial Council that the actions of the New England Annual Conference concerning annuity credit and responsibility of a federated church are in conformity with the provisions of the 1960 Discipline of The Methodist Church.

Back to Search