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Decision No. 523

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April 21 1983
In Re: Appeal from the New Mexico Annual Conference for a Definition of its Pension Liabilities in the Merger Agreement with the "Northeast New Mexico Group Ministry" in the Light of Par. 1706.9.

Digest of Case

In the event of a merger the responsibility for pension service approved for pension credit rests with the successor Annual Conference within whose geographic bounds the charge is located. The ruling of the bishop is not affirmed.

Statement of Facts

The Evangelical United Brethren Church had a mission program to the Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley around Espanola. Since merger in 1968 this work, now known as "The Northern New Mexico Group Ministry," has been under the direction of the National Division of the Board of Global Ministries. It is now being merged with the New Mexico Annual Conference. The question at issue is the determination of an exact definition of unfunded pension liabilities to the New Mexico Annual Conference. At the 1982 conference Bishop Schowengerdt was asked to rule on the unfunded pension liability. He stated: After correspondence with the General Board of Pensions of the United Methodist Church, charged with the responsibility of calculating the pension responsibility in such matters, I would rule that in accord with the letters received from Mr. Gerald A. Beam, Associate General Secretary, dated September 25, 1981 and November 10, 1981 respectively, that the total unfunded responsibility incurred by this merger is limited to the service rendered, for pension credit, in the six named churches from the dates of January 1, 1969 to January 1, 1982. No other liability is intended or implied by the "Shared Ministries Report" on the merger. The Bishop's ruling was challenged by a unanimous vote of the Annual Conference requesting an exact ruling of the Judicial Council on the following points: 1. What is the New Mexico Annual Conference pension responsibility for ministerial service rendered in these churches both prior to and after 1969? 2. What is the pension responsibility toward pension credit that may have accumulated by ministers in churches of the group ministry where the church is now closed? 3. What is the conference pension responsibility for service rendered with approved pension credit in the Espanola Valley Hospital and the McCurdy School which have been a part of the mission before and after January 1969? 4. What is the conference responsibility for those who have jointly served the above institutions and as a missionary to geographic locations or local churches? JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2611 of the 1980 Discipline. ANALYSIS Par. 1706.9 of the 1980 Discipline reads: The responsibility for pension for service approved for pension credit shall rest with the Annual Conference in which the service was rendered; provided however in the event of mergers, unions, boundary changes, or transfers of churches such responsibility shall rest with the successor Annual Conference within whose geographic boundaries the charge is located (emphasis added). Since all churches in the Northern New Mexico Group Ministry are within the geographical boundaries of the New Mexico Annual Conference, ministerial services rendered since January 1, 1969 approved for pension credit and not funded from other sources are the pension responsibility of the New Mexico Annual Conference. Ministerial service approved for pension credit rendered prior to January 1, 1969 by ministers serving in the Evangelical United Brethren mission project are the responsibility of the Annual Conference in which the service was rendered or its legal successor. Decision 389 explicitly details this principle. Since the New Mexico Annual Conference is the legal successor conference for past ministerial services rendered within its geographical borders through the Evangelical United Brethren Mission, it has pension responsibility not otherwise funded for service approved for pension credit prior to January 1, 1969. This would include all ministerial service approved for pension credit given in churches now closed, the Espanola Valley Hospital, the McCurdy School, joint appointments to institutions and churches, as well as those now in the New Mexico Group Ministry.

Decision

In the event of a merger, the responsibility for pension service approved for pension credit rests with the successor Annual Conference within whose geographic bounds the charge is located. The ruling of the bishop is not affirmed. Leonard D. Slutz was absent.

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