Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 562
April 17 1986
In Re: Request for a Declaratory Decision Concerning Housing Allowances for Clergy Couples in Light of ¶ 256.3(f).
Digest of Case
An annual conference may not adopt legislation which would permit contravention of the provisions of ¶ 256.3(f) by making it compulsory to provide each member of the clergy with individual housing as a matter of right whether or not the spouse was also being provided housing.
Statement of Facts
At the June 1985 session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, Resolution R.25 was submitted by five members of the Annual Conference. Resolution 25 read as follows: WHEREAS the Pacific and Southwest Annual Conference has passed in each of its two previous years legislation attempting to mandate the provision of housing for every minister, and WHEREAS the Constitution of the United Methodist Church forbids discrimination on the basis of status, and WHEREAS the Judicial Council of the church has consistently held that discrimination on the basis of marital status is not acceptable under the church's Constitution, and WHEREAS in its most recent meeting, the Judicial Council reaffirmed the unacceptability of discrimination on the basis of marital status, reaffirmed the right of the Annual Conference to "determine the compensation package in such a way as to be fair to all concerned." THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the California-Pacific Annual Conference will adopt and abide by the following policy: No ministerial member of the Annual Conference shall be subject to a reduction of the provision of housing based on the employment situation of the minister's spouse. In particular, if any minister is satisfactorily performing his or her appointed duties, that person's right to minimum housing (as recommended by the Board of Equitable Salaries and adopted by the Annual Conference) shall not be abridged, regardless of the salary and/or other employment-related benefits, housing or otherwise, received by that minister's spouse. Housing which is provided for one minister shall, in no circumstances be interpreted to be simultaneously provided for another minister. This resolution shall take effect on July 1, 1985. The presiding bishop ruled the motion to adopt R.25 out of order. This ruling was not appealed, but a motion to request a declaratory decision was adopted by the Annual Conference. Oral hearings were held on April 17, 1986 and Albert Rhodes-Wickett appeared in behalf of the petitioners. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2615 of the 1984 Discipline. ANALYSIS Resolution 25, if adopted, would require the Annual Conference to see that each minister be provided with "minimum" housing as a matter of right whether or not the clergy spouse also received housing. Under Resolution 25 each partner in the clergy couple would be entitled to individual housing (or the value thereof). Par. 256.3(f) of the Discipline together with its legislative history as outlined in the 1984 DCA pp. 726-727 and the debate on the issue make it clear that housing shall not be considered part of compensation or remuneration. Further, it was also clear that ¶ 256.3(f) was intended to deal with the matter of clergy couples' housing. Judicial Council Decision No. 547 upheld the constitutionality of ¶ 256.3(f) of the Discipline. At the same time the decision noted that there was nothing in that paragraph that prevented ministers who would not need housing from negotiating for more salary.
An annual conference may not adopt legislation which would permit contravention of the provisions of ¶ 256.3(f) by making it compulsory to provide each member of the clergy with individual housing as a matter of right whether or not the spouse was also being provided housing. DECISION NO. 562 DISSENTING OPINION In Decision 547 we upheld the constitutionality of ¶ 256.3(f) and held housing or housing allowances provided by the local church are not to be considered compensation or remuneration. Par. 256.3(f) provides: Housing shall not be considered as a part of compensation or remuneration, but shall be considered as a means provided by the local church, and for the convenience of the local church to enable its ministry and the itinerant ministry of the annual conference. Resolution R.25 of the California-Pacific Annual Conference provides that each satisfactorily performing ministerial member, regardless of whether that person is the spouse of another ministerial member, shall not have an abridgment of salary or other employment related benefits, including housing. The resolution also states housing provided for one minister shall not "be interpreted to be simultaneously provided for another minister. I find nothing in Resolution R.25 which violates ¶ 256.3(f) or Decision 547. The majority opinion infers Resolution R.25 makes housing compensation or remuneration. Resolution R.25 does not. This being so, why making it compulsory to provide each member of the clergy with individual housing as a matter of right violates ¶ 256.3(f) is not readily apparent. The majority is of no help on this matter and contains no analysis as to why housing or housing allowance which is not compensation for remuneration is contrary to ¶ 256.3(f). It may well be the Church should ban two housing allowances for clergy couples. If this is the position of the General Conference it should say so. It has not done so in ¶ 256.3(f). Resolution R. 25 is faithful to the Discipline. To enable the ministry of the local church and the itinerant ministry of the California-Pacific Conference that Annual Conference has decided each member of the clergy is entitled to housing or a housing allowance. This policy may well be foolish, unfair, improvident or contrary to the views of some as to the marital relationship. It is not, however, either unconstitutional or in violation of the Discipline. JAMES DOLLIVER April 18, 1986