Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 514
October 29 1982
In Re: Appeal from Bishop's Ruling on Denial of Compensation and Pension Credit to Minister on Special Appointment Who was "Unappointed" for a Period of Five Months.
Digest of Case
The bishop's ruling that having refused an offered appointment, a minister is not entitled to remuneration or pension credit for the period, is sustained.
Statement of Facts
In June 1982 Rev. Samuel Little in writing requested a ruling from the presiding bishop of the Wyoming Annual Conference as to his right to annuity credit for a period of time that he was without an appointment and for his right to minimum salary for that six month period. The bishop ruled that there was no entitlement either to the annuity credit or the minimum salary. This appeal is from that ruling. In brief, the facts are that in the middle of the 1977-1978 conference year the petitioner voluntarily and on his own initiative arranged to serve the International Church in Bangkok, Thailand by episcopal appointment. In 1979 the petitioner advised that he wished to return to the Wyoming Conference. In May 1979, an appointment was offered, but the petitioner refused, because it would require leaving his Thailand appointment early. At that time the petitioner asked for an appointment for the 1980-81 conference year or "sooner if one could be arranged". In late November 1979 the petitioner was offered an appointment for the period February through June 1980. While there is some disagreement about the details, we find that the petitioner was offered an appointment and that for personal reasons he declined it. The petitioner received and accepted an appointment for the 1980-81 conference year. A proper appeal was not taken at the 1981 Annual Conference. Thus, the present appeal taken at the 1982 Annual Conference. Oral hearings were held at a session of the Judicial Council October 28, 1982. The Rev. Samuel Little and his counsel were heard, as was District Superintendent Burtt Sweet, representing Bishop John Warman. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2611 of the 1980 Discipline. ANALYSIS The petitioner contends that he is entitled to annuity credit and salary for the period January through June 1980 under Par. 436 of the Discipline which reads as follows: All ministerial members who are in good standing in an Annual Conference shall receive annually appointment by the bishop unless granted a sabbatical leave, disability leave or are on leave of absence or retired. In Judicial Council Decision 492 it was held, under the facts of that case, that there must be an appointment and a refusal if a ministerial member in good standing is to be denied salary and other remuneration. The Judicial Council found therein that there had been no refusal of an appointment and, in fact, there had only been negotiations regarding a possible appointment. We find that the petitioner in the instant case, for personal reasons, refused to accept the offered appointment, even when he was advised that the appointment was the only one available to him.
The bishop's ruling that, having refused an offered appointment, a minister is not entitled to remuneration or pension credit for the period, is sustained. Concurring Opinion - Decision 514 The specific facts of Decision No. 492. which is quoted in this decision, differ significantly from those of the instant case. Several of us joined in a concurring opinion in No. 492 in which we stressed that we believed the results of that decision seemed unfortunate, but inescapable. We do not depart from that decision but recognize that some of the language in the Analysis may cause misunderstanding. It says that because no "clear and unambiguous announcement" was made, the bishop could not authenticate the minister's refusal or availability for appointment. In the present case, testimony was given by the minister involved and by the District Superintendent regarding the clear intent for a specific appointment. He was told that the appointment was the only one available to him. He admitted in the hearing that he refused the appointment. Par. 529 of the Discipline is definitive in its outline of the consultative process. When the Bishop, or a District Superintendent, as a part of the consultative process, indicates that the Cabinet has agreed on a specific appointment, the minister should regard that message as a firm commitment to that appointment, providing the Pastor/Parish Committee approves. Par. 529 also provides that details of an appointment should be worked out before any public announcement is made. When the offer of appointment has been refused there is no reason for an announcement. It is important, of course, that the offer be firm and that the minister be told it is the only offer open to him. This leaves to the minister the choice of accepting that offer or being left without appointment. October 30, 1982 Elizabeth B. Gundlach Tom Matheny Gene E. Sease Leonard D. Slutz