Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 365
October 27 1972
In Re: Petition from the Memphis Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Legality of an Annual Conference Budgeting an Amount for Supplementary Support of the Office Expense of a Bishop.
Digest of Case
The action of an Annual Conference which would include in its annual budget an amount for supplementary support for the office expense of a bishop is contrary to the provisions of the Discipline. This ruling is distinguished from an area expense fund. (See Analysis.)
Statement of Facts
On March 23, 1972, the Commission on World Service and Finance of the Memphis Annual Conference received report of a request from the resident bishop for supplementary support of the office of the bishop. The commission took no action, but expressed the belief that such support was chargeable to the Episcopal Fund. A written request for supplementary support was received by the commission at its meeting on May 4. The request for $1,200 to $1,500 annually for "discretionary purposes" was refused. On May 29 at the final meeting of the commission before presentation of the 1973 budget to the Annual Conference, the bishop's request was again presented, considered and refused. The 1973 budget was presented on May 31 by the Commission on World Service and Finance to the 1972 Session of the Annual Conference and it was adopted. The requested item for supplementary support was not included. Later in the day Bishop H. E. Finger, Jr., asked the chairman of the commission, Dr. Charles W. Grant, to report to the conference concerning the request for supplementary support. After Dr. Grant's report Bishop Finger presented to the Annual Conference the information which he had supplied for the commission. He spoke concerning new guidelines by which direct reimbursement for postage and telephone calls was discontinued. These expenses now "shall be included in the budget for episcopal area offices." (DCA, 1972, p. 26) Upon motion from the floor the conference voted to instruct the Commission on World Service and Finance to provide the necessary funds to grant the bishop's request for $1,200 in supplementary funds. The conference then voted to petition the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to the legality of the Annual Conference's action granting supplementary funds for support of the bishop's office. The Judicial Council received briefs from Jimmy M. Evans, member of Memphis Annual Conference Commission on Finance and Administration, and from R. Bryan Brawner and James A. Crippen of the General Council on Finance and Administration. Oral arguments were presented. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1515 of the 1972 Discipline. ANALYSIS The Memphis Annual Conference in its petition to the Judicial Council asks whether the conference action which would include supplementary funds for support of the office of the bishop complies with the provisions of the Discipline. Paragraph 15 of the Constitution reads in part: "The General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional, and in the exercise of this power shall have authority as follows: * * * "5. To define and fix the powers, duties, and privileges of the episcopacy, to adopt a plan for the support of the bishops . . ." (emphasis added) The General Conference has provided a plan for the support of the bishops, the Episcopal Fund as defined in Paragraph 857, 1972 Discipline: "The Episcopal Fund, raised separately from all other funds, shall provide for the salary and expenses of effective bishops and for the support of retired bishops and surviving spouses and minor children of deceased bishops . . ." Further, General Conference has charged the Council on Finance and Administration with the responsibility for administration of the Episcopal Fund: "The Council shall recommend to each quadrennial session of the General Conference for its action and determination: (1) the amounts to be fixed as salaries of the effective bishops; (2) a schedule of such amounts as may be judged adequate to provide for their expense of house, office, and travel; (3) the amounts to be fixed as annual pensions for the support of retired bishops; and (4) a schedule of allowance for the surviving spouses and for the support of minor children of deceased bishops . . ." (Par. 858) This charge to the Council on Finance and Administration provides four items of episcopal support: salaries; expense of house, office, and travel; pensions;and allowance for surviving spouses and children. Two of these items are defined as fixed: "the amounts to be fixed as salaries of effective bishops" and"the amounts to be fixed as annual pensions for the support of retired bishops." However, concerning other expenses the Council is instructed to recommend "a schedule of such amounts as may be judged adequate to provide for expense of house, office, and travel." Paragraphs 859 to 865 of the Discipline provide: for apportionment of theEpiscopal Fund to the Annual Conferences and to each pastoral charge of the Annual Conferences (Par. 859) ; for payments from the Fund by the treasurer of the Council on Finance and Administration (Par. 860) ; for determining travel expenses (Par. 861); and for administering pensions and allowances (Pars. 862-865). The Council on Finance and Administration defines office expense in Report No. 3 to the General Conference. (DCA 1972, pp. 25, 26) In 1972 the Council on Finance and Administration presented to the General Conference for office allowance (secretarial and office expense) and office equipment (except for establishing a new office) the following maximum amounts:1973-$12,000; 1974-$13,000; 1975-$14,000 and 1976-$15,000. This was adopted by the General Conference. On report forms supplied by the Council to the bishops the following are listed as expenses: secretarial, other staff, employee benefits, taxes,insurance, telephones, rent, travel for others professional services, stationery supplies, postage, equipment maintenance and miscellaneous. The reporting form includes a column for listing area support. There are no further provisions, limits, or interpretations concerning the amount which may be judged adequate for the expense of a bishop's office. In the instant case, the Annual Conference Commission on World Service and Finance refused the request of the bishop for an annual amount of $1,200 to $1,500 for supplementary support. The bishop presented material to the Commission relative to the deficit in the operating budget of the episcopal office and the additional expenses of the coming year. However the refusal of the commission was based on the belief that all support of episcopal offices should be charged to the Episcopal Fund and that supplementary support by the Annual Conference would be contrary to the provisions of the Discipline. The Annual Conference responded in a different manner. On learning of the deficit and the additional expenses in the operating budget of the episcopal office, a ministerial member of the conference, stating that he wanted the episcopal office to be "adequately financed," made a motion to instruct the Commission on World Service and Finance to provide the necessary money for supplemental support of the bishop's office. The Annual Conference, in adopting this motion, sought to provide adequate support of the office of the bishop. The question presented by the Memphis Annual Conference is the legality of actions by the Annual Conference instructing the Commission on World Service and Finance to grant the bishop's request for supplemental funds in the amount of $1,200 for the 1973 budget year. The Constitution provides that the General Conference shall adopt a plan for support of bishops (Par. 15) and the General Conference has enacted legislation to provide the Episcopal Fund administered by the Council on Finance and Administration (Pars. 857, 858). Although the Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church, the right and responsibility to provide support to a bishop has been delegated to the General Conference and the method of furnishing such support has been pre-empted by legislation of the General Conference. An "Area Expense Fund" is not to be identified as the "expenses of the office of a bishop." Such an Area Expense Fund, which may provide for additional program staff and for services to the churches in the area, is a legitimate claim upon the budgets of the Annual Conferences. It is to be noted that such legitimate claims vary widely depending on geographical location, size of the area, and type of program projected for the area by the bishop and the leadership of the Annual Conferences. We conclude that any need for additional support of the bishop and his office should be addressed to the General Council on Finance and Administration as the administrative agency of the General Conference, and not to the Annual Conference or Conferences in an episcopal area. To permit otherwise would foster double apportionment for episcopal support on those Annual Conferences responding to such requests.
We hold that the action of the Memphis Annual Conference to provide supplemental funds for office expense of a bishop as requested by the bishop of the area was unconstitutional and invalid. This ruling is not to be construed as affecting those programs adopted and supported voluntarily as episcopal area projects for which the Annual Conferences provide annual supporting budgets.