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Decision No. 743

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April 27 1995
In Re: Legality of Annual Conference Payment of Health Care Premiums for Diaconal Ministers.

Digest of Case

Health care insurance premiums for a full-time diaconal minister must be paid by the employing agency. An Annual Conference may provide health care insurance for retired diaconal ministers.

Statement of Facts

In the 1994 session, the Mississippi Conference voted to continue its policy of paying health care insurance premiums for effective full-time and retired diaconal ministers. A motion was adopted to petition the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision as to the legality of that policy in light of Par. 315. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1992 Discipline . ANALYSIS The question before us is narrowly focused on diaconal ministers who are employed by United Methodist entities or who are retired. Par. 315 provides that the "employing agency in which a full-time diaconal minister is serving shall provide adequate salaries plus pension benefits, with the opportunity to participate in the United Methodist pension and benefit funds, health care insurance, and continuing education." Par. 315.3 explicitly requires that "the local United Methodist Church which employs a full-time diaconal minister shall provide the above-mentioned benefits in entirety as part of compensatory consideration." No permission is given the Annual Conference to assume that responsibility. The petition for a declaratory decision distinguishes between a diaconal minister employed by a local church, charge, parish, or other United Methodist entity, and one employed directly by the Annual Conference. If the Annual Conference is the employing agency, it is responsible for compensation and related benefits. The second sentence of Par. 315.1 states that salary and other benefits "will be guided by the Annual Conference standards for ordained elders." This is not to be read as meaning that if the Annual Conference provides health care benefits for ordained elders, then it must also provide those benefits for diaconal ministers. Instead, it refers to the level of support expected (not mandated) for diaconal ministers. Though Par. 315 explicitly requires that any local church employing a full-time diaconal minister shall provide health care benefits "as part of compensatory consideration," we find nothing in the Discipline which would prevent an Annual Conference from paying health care insurance premiums for retired diaconal ministers.

Decision

Health care insurance premiums for a full-time diaconal minister must be paid by the employing agency. An Annual Conference may provide health care insurance for retired diaconal ministers.

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