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Decision No. 322

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October 31 1969
In Re: Ruling of Bishop Charles F. Golden Regarding Annual Conference Authority to Reject Pension Funds Designated for Conference Claimants By Action of the General Conference.

Digest of Case

It is beyond the authority of an Annual Conference in The United Methodist Church to refuse to accept and distribute funds for the benefit of its conference claimants which the General Conference has specifically mandated an agency of the church to provide for that purpose.

Statement of Facts

A motion was presented, and properly seconded, at the June, 1969, session of the California-Nevada Annual Conference as follows: "The pension check from The United Methodist Publishing House shall be held by the Annual Conference until The Methodist Publishing House becomes a member of Project Equality, or until September 1, 1969, at which time the check shall be returned unless The Methodist Publishing House becomes a member of Project Equality prior to that date. Each local church shall be apportioned under the Ministerial Support item a sum, the aggregate of which shall underwrite the pension subsidy lost by returning the check." The presiding bishop, Bishop Charles F. Golden, ruled the motion out of order on the grounds that it exceeded the authority of the Annual Conference. The ruling was challenged by the maker and seconder of the motion who asked for a ruling by the Judicial Council. The motion requesting a decision by the Judicial Council was sustained by the Conference. JURISDICTION Under Paragraph 1712 of the Discipline the Judicial Council has jurisdiction in this matter. ANALYSIS Bishop Golden bases his Decision of Law by which he ruled the motion out of order on the premise that "An Annual Conference cannot take action which contravenes the law of the General Church." As support for his contention that the motion, by its intent, would contravene the law of the General Church he cites three disciplinary passages. "1. Part I of the Constitution, Division Two, Section III Restrictive Rules, Paragraph 20, Article VI, which reads, 'The General Conference shall not appropriate the net income of the publishing houses, the book concerns, or the Chartered Fund to any purpose other than for the benefit of retired or disabled preachers, their wives, widows and children or other beneficiaries of the ministerial pension systems.' "2. Paragraph 945 which reads, 'The net income from the operations of The Methodist Publishing House, after providing adequate reserves for the efficient operation of the business and allowing for reasonable growth and expansion shall be appropriated by the board and distributed annually on the basis of an equitable plan provided by the General Board of Pensions to the several Annual Conferences for the persons who are and shall be conference claimants.' (Emphases supplied by the bishop.) "3. Paragraph 946 which reads, 'The net income from the operations of The Methodist Publishing House shall be appropriated to no other purpose than its own operating requirements and for persons who are, or shall be, conference claimants as provided in Paragraphs 20 and 945.'" The intent of The United Methodist Church that the net income from all of its publishing interests, specifically including The Methodist Publishing House, must be used only for the benefit of beneficiaries of the ministerial pension systems seems quite clear from the language of the Discipline cited by Bishop Golden. Paragraph 945 by its use of the word "shall" gives the General Board of Publication no alternative. It is a mandate. Not only is the board mandated to give the funds for that purpose, it is also mandated to distribute them annually to the Annual Conferences on the basis of an equitable plan provided by the General Board of Pensions. These funds must go to the Annual Conferences designated for conference claimants. In accordance with the rules of responsibility and authority in The United Methodist Church, it seems clear that it is the responsibility of the Annual Conferences to accept and distribute these funds according to the requirements of the Discipline.

Decision

The Judicial Council sustains the Decision of Law made by Bishop Golden in declaring the motion presented to be out of order.

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