Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 551
October 24 1985
In Re: Disciplinary Requirements Concerning Recommendations toAnnual Conference by Conference Council on Finance and Administration.
Digest of Case
The report of the conference Council on Finance and Administration to the 1984 session of the West Virginia Annual Conference included the following: "Werecommend the Conference Council on Ministries and Conference Agencies eliminate one hundred and seventy thousand dollars of fixed budget askings dealing with program and personnel during 1986-88." There was a written request for an episcopal ruling as to possible violations of the Discipline or the rules of the conference. Bishop William Boyd Grove ruled that such a recommendation from the Council on Finance and Administration did, indeed, violate certain paragraphs of the 1980 Discipline. He cited portions of paragraphs 708, 710, and 717, and stated that "to require elimination of line items in the program budget of the Annual Conference while acknowledging that other program items could be submitted in the same or greater amounts, apart from any prior and specific consultation with the conference Council on Ministries, in fact, represents program evaluation by the conference Council on Finance and Administration and is, thus, an intrusion into the responsibility and authority of the conference Council on Ministries." The episcopal ruling came to the Judicial Council for review under Par. 2612 of the 1984 Discipline. There are a number of disciplinary paragraphs which bear on Annual Conference budget- setting and financial policy decisions. Par. 709.6 gives to the conference Council on Finance and Administration authority to "recommend to the Annual Conference for its action and decision procedures for dealing responsibly with situations in which budgeted funds, as approved by the Annual Conference, are inadequate to meet emerging missional needs or unforeseen circumstances." In the Council on Finance and Administration report to the West Virginia Conference, the recommendation at issue was prefaced with an expression of concern over the financial problems facing the Annual Conference. Among those mentioned were cash flow deficit, operating fund deficit, and need for money for new and creative programs. The context indicates that the Council on Finance and Administration recommendation was intended to reduce the deficit and provide more funds for emerging missional needs, as the Discipline permits. This is a significant responsibility of the Council on Finance and Administration, and its importance must not be minimized; but it must be accomplished in proper relation to other steps in determining the conference budget. Portions of Pars. 709 and 710 make it clear that the Annual Conference has final authority to set the budget, including proposed expenditures for all funds, which provide for Annual Conference benevolence and program causes. Since the Annual Conference has this power, one may reason that it is within the prerogative of the Council on Finance and Administration to make such recommendations to the Annual Conference. It is true that the Annual Conference has final budget-setting authority for its agencies, including the power to order reductions. It is also true that a motion for such reductions could have been made from the floor by a member of the Annual Conference and, in most instances, would have been perfectly in order. However, in the present case, the motion did not come from the floor. It came as a part of the Council on Finance and Administration report. In that context, it is bound by certain limitations placed on the Council on Finance and Administration as it prepares and presents its budget recommendations to the Annual Conference. The Council on Finance and Administration occupies a strategic position as one of two major councils of the Annual Conference. As a result, its reports come to the conference cloaked in a mantle of authority which a motion made from the floor does not possess. It is fitting, therefore, that the Discipline should have imposed some requirements on the Council on Finance and Administration beyond those imposed on individual members of the Annual Conference. Among them is the requirement to consult with the Council on Ministries and other program agencies whose budgets are under consideration. Par. 710.3(b) 1 makes it the responsibility of the Council on Finance and Administration "to study budget requests . . . , including the request of the Council on Ministries, and give the chairpersons or other authorized representatives of such agencies and causes opportunity to represent their claims before the council." In this case, it is not evident that the agencies or causes involved were given that opportunity for representation. Further, the Discipline gives to the Council on Ministries certain responsibilities in the area of program budgets. Par. 710.3(b) makes it "the responsibility of the conference Council on Ministries to study the budget requests of the conference program agencies and to recommend to the conference Council on Finance and Administration amounts to be allocated from the conference benevolences budget to each agency, within the total established by the conference Council on Finance and Administration." In the present case, the lines are blurred because the Council on Finance and Administration report was not dealing with immediate budget proposals, but with long-range adjustments intended to stabilize and strengthen conference finances. Even so, the recommendations would eventually have affected the budgets of the Council on Ministries and program agencies. It seems within the intent of the Discipline that consultation shall take place on such matters, even though the full impact of such a recommendation may not be felt until later years. Par. 710.3 of the 1980 Discipline prescribes a procedure for the Council on Finance and Administration to follow in preparing recommendations for the budgets of the Council on Ministries and program agencies receiving conference benevolence funds. A required part of that procedure is consultation with the Council on Ministries and, if requested, with representatives of other program agencies. Members of the Council on Ministries were not informed of the budget restrictions to be recommended, nor were they given opportunity to respond prior to the Annual Conference session. Since there was no consultation in areas where consultation is required by the Discipline, the ruling of Bishop William Boyd Grove is affirmed. The episcopal ruling and Judicial Council affirmation are based on the 1980 Discipline. It should be noted that the requirements for consultation between the Council on Finance and Administration and the Council on Ministries remain essentially unchanged in the 1984 Discipline. There was, however, some clarification of ambiguity concerning agreement between the Council on Finance and Administration and the Council on Ministries on the amount or percentage to be allocated to each program agency from conference benevolence funds. In the 1980 Discipline, Par. 710.3(a) appears to make agreement mandatory:"such recommendations to reflect agreement with the Council on Ministries." Par. 710.3(b) 4 appears to make it desirable but optional: "The recommendedallocations to conference program agencies should reflect agreement between the council (Council on Finance and Administration) and the conference Council on Ministries." In 1984, the ambiguity is removed. Par. 710.3(a) and Par. 710.3(b)3 have similar wording, stating only that the recommendations "should reflect agreement." Agreement is not mandatory, but consultation is. Requests and rationale from the Council on Ministries and program agencies must be heard and considered, even though the Council on Finance and Administration is not required to recommend those precise amounts to the Annual Conference. The ruling made by Bishop Grove under the 1980 Discipline is also valid under the 1984 Discipline.