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Decision No. 935

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October 23 2002
In Re: Review of the Revised Insurance Program of the North Georgia Annual Conference as Required by Decision 923.

Digest of Case

The “Mandatory Clergy Salary Deduction Plan, Healthflex, & Flexible Spending Account Plan” (the “2002 Plan”) and the apportionment to fund retiree medical insurance adopted by the North Georgia Annual Conference at its 2002 session remedy the defects identified in Decision 923 and comply with the 2000 Discipline. The North Georgia Annual Conference may proceed to implement the 2002 Plan.

Statement of Facts

In Decision 923, the Judicial Council determined that the North Georgia Flexible Benefits Plan adopted by the North Georgia Annual Conference at an October 17, 2000 special session was null and void because it was not in compliance with procedures outlined by ¶¶ 611.2 and 612.1(d) of the Discipline regarding the preparation and presentation of budgetary and clergy compensation items to the annual conference. The Judicial Council directed the North Georgia Annual Conference to develop a funding plan for its health insurance program, which provides for health coverage that does not use clergy benefits to pay unfunded Retirees’ Medicare Supplemental Insurance Benefits Plan liability. The matter was “remanded to the North Georgia Annual Conference and any subsequent plan [was] to be submitted to the Judicial Council for review and approval prior to implementation.” In response to Decision 923, the president of the North Georgia conference council on finance and administration appointed a “design team” answerable to the conference council on finance and administration to develop an insurance program that would comply with the 2000 Discipline. The recommendations of the design team were approved by the entire conference council on finance and administration, and by the conference board of pensions. The “Mandatory Clergy Salary Deduction Plan, Healthflex, and Flexible Spending Account Plan” (the “2002 Plan”) recommended by the conference council on finance and administration was approved by the annual conference on June 14, 2002. The 2002 Plan requires coverage without exception of clergy persons appointed to serve full-time in either local churches within the annual conference, or positions whose salary is paid by the annual conference. Coverage for spouses and dependents of full-time clergy persons is optional as is coverage for all clergy persons who are appointed to less than full-time appointments, United Methodist Church related agencies, and other settings beyond the local church. Effective July 1, 2002, the annual conference adopted a new apportionment item which provides the mechanism for funding retiree medical insurance. Bishop Lindsey Davis, L. Jonathan Holston, Ed Tomlinson, Bill McKoy, Jack Edmunds, Keith Cox and Karen Fullerton appeared at oral hearings on October 24, 2002, at Baltimore, Maryland. Sally Curtis AsKew recused herself and did not participate in any of the proceedings related to this decision. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council retained jurisdiction over this matter in Decision 923. Analysis and Rationale The North Georgia Annual Conference is commended for its careful and thorough response to Decision 923. In adopting the 2002 Plan, the annual conference has fully complied with ¶¶ 611.2 and 612.1(d) of the 2000 Discipline. The conference council on finance and administration received, considered, reported, and made recommendations to the annual conference prior to final decision by the annual conference of the funding considerations related to the 2002 Plan and the funding of retiree medical insurance liability in full compliance with ¶ 611.2. After consultation with the conference board of pensions, the conference council on finance and administration reported to the annual conference the amounts computed as necessary to meet the needs for pensions and benefit programs of the conference, in full compliance with ¶ 612.1(d). The 2002 Plan, unlike the plan addressed in Decision 923, now appropriately provides that coverage for spouses and dependents of full-time clergy persons is optional as is coverage for all clergy persons who are appointed to less than full-time appointments, United Methodist Church related agencies, and other settings beyond the local church. Finally, the annual conference has now adopted a plan, by means of an apportionment, which funds health coverage for retirees that does not use clergy benefits to fund such coverage. The 2002 Plan and the apportionment to fund retiree medical insurance fully comply with the 2000 Discipline.

Decision

The “Mandatory Clergy Salary Deduction Plan, Healthflex, & Flexible Spending Account Plan” (the “2002 Plan”) and the apportionment to fund retiree medical insurance adopted by the North Georgia Annual Conference at its 2002 session remedy the defects identified in Decision 923 and comply with the 2000 Discipline. The North Georgia Annual Conference may proceed to implement the 2002 Plan.

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