Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 492
October 30 1980
In Re: Right of a Ministerial Member in Good Standing of an Annual Conference to an Appointment and Financial Responsibility for Failure to Appoint.
Digest of Case
A ministerial member in good standing of an Annual Conference is entitled to an appointment and must be remunerated for the period of time that no appointment is made. This amount shall be not less than the conference minimum salary and other remuneration, provided in the conference rules prorated for the period without appointment. The Conference Council on Finance and Administration shall be responsible for such payment.
Statement of Facts
On June 7, 1980, the Wisconsin Annual Conference in session voted to appeal the decisions of the Bishop regarding the appointment and financial support of ministerial member Jerry Eckert. The record indicates that the minister in question was left without appointment for a period of thirty-eight (38) days in the fall of 1978. The Bishop ruled that the basis for this action was Par. 419 which requires the members to offer themselves without reserve to be appointed and serve as their superiors direct. The conference member had indicated during the consultation that he preferred not to leave his present residence. Subsequently the Bishop did appoint the member to a charge but the question of liability for compensation for the 38 days was not resolved. The Revs. Jerry Eckert, Richard Truitt and David Hinshaw appeared at an oral hearing before the Judicial Council on October 30, 1980. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2511 of the 1976 Discipline . (Par. 2611 1980 Discipline) ANALYSIS The Cabinet of the Wisconsin Annual Conference had difficulty in finding a new appointment for Jerry Eckert because of his reluctance to change his residence. There was a consultation regarding an appointment but the record indicates that the Bishop never actually made an appointment. No appointment was refused by the member. Such an action is clearly necessary if the process as defined in Par. 527 is to be fulfilled. While consultation, process and criteria as defined in Par. 528, 529 and 530 are relevant to the decision, the final question of appointment rests in Par. 451: All ministerial members who are in good standing in an Annual Conference shall receive annually appointment by the bishop unless they are granted a sabbatical leave, a disability leave, or are on leave of absence or retired. In this case it was necessary for the bishop to make a clear and unambiguous announcement of an appointment. That is the only way that the bishop could determine whether the member had refused or limited his availability for appointment. It is a common situation that during consultation and negotiation persons state conditions which they may subsequently modify or even withdraw. It appears that this is what happened and that if the bishop had in fact made an appointment the member could have complied by accepting. A conference member left without appointment is entitled to financial remuneration for that period. The normal and usual source for pastoral salaries is the charge to which the pastor is appointed, as indicated in Par. 929. In this particular case there is a 38 day period when the pastor was without appointment, and therefore no pastoral charge is responsible for remuneration. Since during this period the pastor received less than the equitable salary of the conference for the year, Par. 934.5 applies. It is clear in Par. 934.5 that the equitable salary fund shall be used to provide each pastor who received less than the minimum salary an additional amount to bring the total funds received up to the minimum approved by the conference. Jerry Eckert, as a member of the conference, had a right during this period to receive not less than the conference minimum as prorated. This is in harmony with Council Decision No. 456 dealing with another specific case of a pastor not receiving salary equal to the conference minimum when left without appointment for a different reason. The question asked in this case deals not only with salary but also with "other remuneration". Par. 936 identifies such items as: The total of all travel, automobile, and other expenses allowed and paid to a pastor in addition to his salary. The conference member is entitled to such other remuneration as specified in the conference rules. The Conference Council on Finance and Administration has responsibility for providing funds for the payment of conference minimum salary and other remuneration in the situation of a ministerial member in good standing left without appointment.
A ministerial member in good standing of an Annual Conference is entitled to an appointment and must be remunerated for the period of time that no appointment is made. This amount shall be not less than the conference minimum salary and other remuneration, provided in the conference rules prorated for the period without appointment. The Conference Council on Finance and Administration shall be responsible for such payment. CONCURRING OPINION Our understanding of the law of the church requires us to join in this decision, but in fairness to the Bishop and cabinet we express some reluctance. They appear to have acted with unusual sensitivity and regard for the minister, his wife and the church to which appointment was proposed. In the consultation with the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, the minister made it clear that he and his wife did not want to leave their home, in considerable part because of his wife's work and schooling. He described what their life-style meant to his wife and spoke of her mental and physical health. He proposed that he would commute to and from the church a distance of some twenty miles. The committee made it equally clear they wanted a pastor who would live in their parsonage and be part of their community. They asked that the appointment not be made. The Bishop had the legal authority to make the appointment, but obviously felt it would be both unwise and unfair. The Bishop and cabinet continued to try to find a suitable appointment, not an easy task so long as consideration was given to the desires of the minister and his wife. At one point the Bishop spoke of the possibility of a Leave of Absence while the search continued. The minister asked for time to consider that procedure. How many days elapsed before he expressed his unwillingness to take a leave does not appear, but finally a charge was located that was willing to have the minister as pastor, even though he commuted 112 miles. He was in that appointment for about six months, then for about two months at a church to which he commuted 82 miles, and finally his present charge was found which is 24 miles from his home. In view of the foregoing circumstances, the result of this case seems unfortunate but inescapable. Alvin J. Lindgren Hoover Rupert Gene E. Sease Leonard D. Slutz