Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 219
October 29 1964
In Re: Request of the North Arkansas Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision As to the Meaning of Paragraph 1618.2e, 1960 Discipline
Digest of Case
A ministerial member of an Annual Conference may receive annuity claim credit if he is "appointed to attend school" for any years in which he has been so appointed in the period 1952 to 1960. However, for such a person, years after 1960 may be counted only if they do not bring the total years of annuity claim under this category to more than three.
Statement of Facts
The North Arkansas Annual Conference on June 3, 1964, adopted the following motion which is recorded in the Daily Proceedings of that Conference: Motion: James H. Woodward moved that the Conference request a ruling fromthe Judicial Council concerning Paragraph 1618.2e, 1960 Discipline, as it applies to certain men who have been in school. The motion carried." The Secretary of the Annual Conference indicated the reason for the request in a letter dated June 6, 1964, as follows: "A member of the Conference has attended seminary three years prior to 1960 and then decided to work for his Ph.D. He is interpreting the above paragraph to allow him three years after 1960, regardless of the number of years he had before that year. He argues the doctorate will make him a better qualified minister and therefore the years required to get the doctorate beyond the three years prior to 1960 should be allowed for annuity credit. "Another member of the Conference is taking four years to go through seminary because he is serving a pastorate. He wants to be allowed four years, as the school of theology encourages him to use four years because of his outside work." JURISDICTION The request is properly before the Council under the provisions Of Paragraph 914.8 of the 1964 Discipline. ANALYSIS Two cases are involved. Attention will be directed first to the one mentioned in the first paragraph quoted above from the letter of the Conference Secretary, dated June 6, 1964. The person involved, A. W. Martin, Jr., has requested a more liberal interpretation of Paragraph 1618.2e than that made by the Conference Board of Pensions and the General Board of Pensions. He contends in a brief submitted to the Council that he should be allowed annuity credit for years in which he was "appointed to attend school" up to three years after 1960 in addition to any years of credit he might have between 1952 and 1960 in which he was "appointed to attend school." The position of the General Board of Pensions, which is also that of the Board of Pensions of the North Arkansas Conference, is stated in the brief submitted by Claire C. Hoyt, General Secretary of the General Board of Pensions. That brief, after reviewing the legislation in detail, concludes: "The case before the Judicial Council from North Arkansas . . . raises the question of whether a person may receive credit for three years as a student before 1960 and three years again after 1960. The history of this legislation indicates that this was not the intent of the General Conference. It was the intention of the Pension Committee of the 1960 General Conference, and it is the interpretation of the General Board of Pensions that a minister who has three or more school years prior to 1960 has the maximum number of school years possible for annuity credit under the pension code. The reference to 1960 in Paragraph 1618.2e seemed to be necessary because the General Conference of 1960 felt it could not take away the possibility of credit for student years which it had given in 1952. It felt that it did have the right, however, to change its course of action from 1960 forward. This was its intention in 1960 as expressed in the present Paragraph 1618.2e." The claim in the first case rests on two arguments: (1) that the church doesrecognize the importance of advanced degrees beyond seminary graduation and therefore should make pension provision for a person to continue in graduate school in the hope of earning an advanced degree, and (2) that he has been injured because of the interpretation of Paragraph 1618.2e which has been made by the General Board of Pensions and the North Arkansas Conference Board of Pensions. The first argument is irrelevant. The General Conference has made provision for a person entering the ministry of the church so that he is eligible for up to three years of pension credit after being received on trial if he is "appointed to attend school." That is explicit. The legislation makes no comment as to what degree is sought or whether any is sought. The second argument has more merit. Those who drafted the legislation probably considered it clear and explicit. It is not. Taking the statement as it stands in the 1960 Discipline a person who did not know the history of Paragraph 1618.2e might conceivably draw the conclusion which the claimant draws. If legislation is clearly subject to two different interpretations the Council must take into account the history of the legislation including intent as revealed in pertinent discussions in the legislature and the legislative committee. In the present case, as indicated in the brief of the General Secretary of the Board of Pensions, the three-year limit on annuity credit for a person appointed to attend school which had prevailed prior to 1952 was removed in that year. The experience of the pension agencies of the church between 1952 and 1960 caused them to request re-enactment of the three-year limitation in 1960. However, because of the generally recognized impropriety of applying a rule ex post facto, provision was made in 1960 to allow any years of annuity credit which had been granted to a person in the 1952-60 period but not to allow the accumulation of more than three years of credit for anyone who did not in 1960 have more than that maximum. In this context the intent of the 1960 legislation seems plain and the more restrictive interpretation employed by the boards of pensions seems to be the more logical. In the second of the two cases presented by the North Arkansas Conference the person concerned, Joe Edwin Lina, contends he should be allowed four years of pension credit because the theological seminary which he is attending "is requiring him to attend the extra year as he is pastoring a church." In this instance no question is raised because of the change enacted in 1960 in Paragraph 1618.2e. In this case there is no claim that the legislation is ambiguous or that the individual concerned has been injured by the change made in 1960. There is, therefore, no valid claim for an extra year's credit.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that a ministerial member of an Annual Conference, whether on trial or in full connection, who is "appointed to attend school" may, beginning with 1960, have not to exceed three years under such appointment counted for the purpose of determining annuity claims. If a person has been so appointed in the period 1952 to 1960 all of those years shall be counted. However, for such a person years "appointed to attend school" after 1960 may be counted only if they do not bring the total years of annuity claim under this category to more than three.