Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 455
April 26 1979
In Re: The Right of an Annual Conference to Include in the Ministerial Support Apportionment Items not Specified in Pars. 929 and 930 of the Discipline.
Digest of Case
An Annual Conference may include in its Ministerial Support Apportionment items in addition to those items mentioned in Pars. 929 and 930 of the Discipline. However, such added items do not enjoy either the priority status or the protection afforded those designated in the said paragraphs. Further, items of ministerial support must be for ministers and not for lay persons.
Statement of Facts
The Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference in its 1978 session petitioned the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the following question: ". . . whether paragraphs 929 and 930 of the 1976 Discipline is (sic) a definitive list of all that may be included in the Ministerial Support Apportionment or if other items of support for ministers may appropriately be included." The other items referred to include salary support for the Conference Council Director, for other Council staff, and for campus ministers. For years the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference has included items in the ministerial support budget in addition to those listed in Pars. 929 and 930. The Annual Conference Council on Finance and Administration favors limiting items which may be included under the heading "Ministerial Support" to those listed in Par. 929 of the Discipline. The Council on Ministries of the Annual Conference favors maintaining the status quo. Briefs were submitted by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Council on Finance and Administration and by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Council on Ministries. Oral presentations were made to the Judicial Council on Thursday, April 26, 1979 by the Rev. Earl Riddle, representing the Council on Ministries and by the Rev. James Monroe, representing the Council on Finance and Administration. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Discipline Par. 2515.2(i). ANALYSIS The basic question to be decided is whether Pars. 929 and 930 of the Discipline contain a definitive and limiting list of all items that may be included in the ministerial support apportionments. Briefs submitted by the Annual Conference indicate that from time to time other items in the ministerial support apportionments have included salary support for the Conference Council on Ministries Director, other council staff and campus ministers. Persons heretofore covered have included United Methodist ministers, ministers of other denominations, diaconal ministers and lay persons. As the legislative body of the church, the General Conference in Pars. 929 and 930 has provided explicit categories to be included in the ministerial support items, stating that: ". . . the claim for ministerial support in each pastoral charge shall include provisions for the support of pastors, district superintendents, bishops and conference claimants". The Equitable Salary Fund is included in the ministerial support items designated in Par. 930. The designated items of ministerial support identified in Pars. 929 and 930 have a long history of tradition and practice. The designated "ministerial support" categories have been in each Discipline of The United Methodist Church with similar legislation in the former church bodies which formed The United Methodist Church. The General Conference; acting under its authority of full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional (Par. 15); in Pars. 929 and 930 determined that special priority and specific designation should be given to the ministerial support items, because they undergird the administrative and financial support of the connectional system of The United Methodist Church. Evidence of this special priority over all items of the budget of a local charge is the pro rata rule of distribution by the local charge treasurer or treasurers. Par. 931 states: "When the apportionments for bishop, district superintendents, conference claimants and the Equitable Salary Fund for the several districts and charges have been determined payments made to the same in each pastoral charge shall be exactly proportional to the amount paid on the ministerial salary or salaries. The treasurer or treasurers of each pastoral charge shall accordingly make proportional distribution of the funds raised in that charge for the support of the ministry and shall remit monthly if practicable and quarterly at the latest, the items for bishop, district superintendents, conference claimants, and the Equitable Salary Fund to the proper treasurer or treasurers." Judicial Council Decision No. 306 is germane to this question. In that Decision the Judicial Council said: "Items of ministerial support, however, do not have the same status in the Church as other budgetary items. Par. 919 (Now Par. 929) recognizes that the Church has an unusual obligation to its ministers in the "traveling connection". No other items, administrative or benevolent are required to be paid in exact proportion of pastoral salaries. The whole tradition of the traveling ministry of Methodism, supported by numerous paragraphs in the 1968 (and 1976) Discipline of The United Methodist Church gives an undeniable priority to the ministerial support in the Church." Therefore, an Annual Conference must include in its Ministerial Support Apportionments each of the items contained in Pars. 929 and 930 of the Discipline. These items must receive both the priority status and the protection contained in the aforesaid paragraphs of the Discipline. There is nothing contained in Par. 929 or Par. 930 of the Discipline that limits the Ministerial Support Apportionments as a method of collection to the items mentioned in the paragraphs. However, any added items receive neither the priority status nor the protection of these paragraphs. Further, additional items must be limited to ministerial items and may not include lay salaries.
An Annual Conference may include in its Ministerial Support Apportionments items in addition to those items mentioned in Pars. 929 and 930 of the Discipline. However, any added items do not enjoy either the priority status or the protection afforded those designated in the said paragraphs. Further, items of ministerial support must be for ministers and not for lay persons. Dissenting Opinion We are here faced with a difficult question of interpretation. We recognize that the Annual Conference is the basic body of Methodism and has the right to make its own decisions as to its own operations so long as not in conflict with Disciplinary provisions enacted by the General Conference pursuant to its authority to legislate on all matters distinctively connectional. In this instance the present wording of Par. 929 does not clearly disclose the intent of the General Conference as to whether the listing of the four specified items of ministerial support is exclusive or only inclusive. We would find the intent was to make them exclusive. We are influenced by the special priority given those same items by Par. 931 and by the special emphasis that historically has been given them. If some other items are added by Annual Conference action this priority is diluted and there is a question as to where the process will stop. We see the Oregon-Idaho Conference has treated salaries of clergy of other churches, (whether under Methodist appointment is not stated), diaconal ministers and even lay-workers as part of ministerial support. We hope the 1980 General Conference will consider Par. 929 and decide whether its intention should be more clearly expressed. April 27, 1979 Charles B. Copher Truman W. Potter Hoover Rupert Leonard D. Slutz