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Decision No. 208

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April 30 1964
In Re: Ruling of Bishop Nolan B. Harmon in North Alabama Annual Conference Session of 1962

Digest of Case

An Annual Conference has the authority under Paragraph 822, 1960 Discipline, to determine the plan and method to be used in distributing apportionments to its several districts and charges for the minimum salary fund required by Paragraph 826, provided the plan and method is in substantial compliance with the purpose and intent of Paragraph 826, 1960 Discipline.

Statement of Facts

On February 26, 1964, the District Superintendent for the Birmingham District, North Alabama Conference, Southeastern Jurisdiction of The Methodist Church, forwarded to the Judicial Council, with authorization of the bishop, a question raised on June 15, 1962, at a regular session of the Annual Conference by a member of the North Alabama Conference on the ruling of the presiding bishop, as to the authority of the conference, under Paragraphs 822 and 826, 1960 Discipline. The written ruling of the presiding bishop, reported in the 1962 Journal of the North Alabama Conference, pages 77 and 78, is as follows: "A query as to the legality of the method the North Alabama Conference uses to apportion the minimum salary fund, and whether the action of the Conference in adopting Report 18 (a revision of the numbers of the World Service and Finance Commission's reports actually made this report No. 14 rather than No. 18), of the Commission on World Service and Finance on June 14 fully complies with the provisions of Paragraph 826.3 of THE DISCIPLINE I answer as follows: " Paragraph 822 of THE DISCIPLINE reads: 'Each Annual Conference shalldetermine what plan and method shall be used in distributing the apportionments to its several districts and charges for the Episcopal Fund (P. 771) for the support of district superintendents and conference claimants, and for the minimum salary fund (P. 826), whether by percentages based on the current cash salary paid to the ministers serving pastoral charges under episcopal appointment and to supply pastors, or by some other method.' "Since each Annual Conference is allowed and directed to determine what method and plan shall be used in apportioning to the several charges and districts the minimum salary fund, 'whether by percentages based on the current cash salary paid ministers serving pastoral charges,' or by 'some other method,' the North Alabama Conference is well within its rights, and in the full exercise of its sovereignty, as a basic constitutional body of the Church, in adopting the plan it did adopt on June 14, 1962, in seeing that this matter will be properly looked after for the coming year and the man dative provisions of Paragraph 826.3 of the Discipline properly carried out." Signed: NOLAN B. HARMON Presiding Bishop, The North Alabama Conference The Methodist Church JURISDICTION The jurisdiction of the Judicial Council to review and rule upon a decision of a bishop is prescribed by the Constitution (Paragraphs 40 and 43.2, 1960 Discipline) and acts of the General Conference (Paragraphs 908 and 909, 1960 Discipline). Therefore, the Judicial Council accepts jurisdiction in this matter under Paragraph 909 of the 1960 Discipline. ANALYSIS In the instant matter, a member of the Annual Conference questions the legality of the method approved by the Annual Conference to apportion the minimum salary fund, and whether the action of the conference in adopting the report of the Conference Commission on World Service and Finance complied with Paragraph 826.3 of 1960 Discipline. Paragraph 826 of the 1960 Discipline requires that "Each Annual Conference shall adopt a schedule of minimum salaries for pastors and shall create a Commission on Minimum Salaries...... The commission after study of the needs for additional ministerial support, with the approval of the Commission on World Service and Finance, shall present to the conference for adoption a schedule of minimum salaries. Paragraph 826.3 of the 1960 Discipline provides: "The Commission on MinimumSalaries shall present its estimate of the amount required to comply with the schedule of minimum salaries for the pastors, as adopted by the conference, to the Conference Commission on World Service and Finance, which shall apportion the amount as an item of ministerial support to the districts or the charges as the conference may direct." The Judicial Council has previously held, in Decision 90, that similar provisions in the 1952 Discipline as are now provided in Paragraph 826 of the 1960 Discipline were mandatory. In the instant matter, the Conference Commission on World Service and Finance submitted a joint report with the Commission in Minimum Salaries to the conference recommending: 1. The establishment of a minimum salary and sustentation commission and nomination of members thereof; 2. Minimum salary levels for the following year; 3. A distribution policy for the sustentation fund; 4. That the Minimum Salary and Sustentation Commission determine a salary schedule; 5. That the amount of $60,000 be raised, of which one-fourth would be allocated to minimum salary fund and three-fourths for the sustentation fund;' 6. ". . . that the amounts of Minimum Salary be distributed to the various districts by the District Superintendents to the District Stewards on the basis of 1.5% of an amount equal to the preachers' salaries for 1962-1963. The apportionment for Minimum Salary to be distributed according to their good judgment." The entire report, with recommendations of the Conference Commission on World Service and Finance and Minimum Salary and Sustentation Commission was adopted by the Annual Conference (1962 Journal, Page 73). The Judicial Council deduces that the propounder of the question of legality was disturbed by recommendation 6, quoted above, as to whether it complied with Paragraph 826.3 in the 1960 Discipline. While the precise wording of recommendation 6 above is ambiguous, we interpret the recommendation of the Conference Commission on World Service and Finance and Minimum Salary and Sustentation Commission to mean that the amount to be raised for the minimum salary fund would be determined and distributed on the basis of 1.5% of the aggregate ministerial salaries paid in a particular district, and the apportionment to individual churches of the amount to be raised within the district for the minimum salary fund would be determined by the knowledge of circumstances and judgment of the District Superintendent and/or the District Stewards. We hold that the report containing this recommendation and adopted by the Annual Conference was in substantial compliance with the purpose and intent of Paragraph 826. The ruling of the bishop held that Paragraph 822, 1960 Discipline, granted to each Annual Conference, as the basic administrative body of the church, the broad authority to determine the plan and the method to be used in distributing the apportionment to its several districts for the minimum salary fund, whether by percentages of current cash salary paid to ministers, or by some other method; and that the adoption by the conference of the joint report of the Commission on World Service and Finance and Minimum Salary and Sustentation Commission had determined the method to be followed by the conference.

Decision

The ruling of Bishop Nolan B. Harmon that an Annual Conference has the authority under Paragraph 822 of the 1960 Discipline to determine the plan and method to be used in distributing apportionments to its several districts and charges for the minimum salary fund required by Paragraph 826, 1960 Discipline, is hereby affirmed.

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