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Decision No. 63

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April 28 1949
In Re: Ruling by Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam at the Troy Annual Conference of The Methodist Church, April 22,1949, Relative to the Right of a Local Church to Designate All Funds Received on World Service and Annual Conference Benevolences to World Service Alone and None to Annual Conference Agencies

Digest of Case

Designated gifts under Paragraph 775 of the 1944 Discipline (Paragraph 745 of the 1948 Discipline) are subject to the settled and established plan that contributions for the cause of "World Service and Conference Benevolences" by a charge shall first be divided on the ratio prescribed by the Annual Conference. Only that portion of such contributions allocated under the Conference ratio to World Service can be designated to World Service projects; and only that portion of such contributions allocated under the Conference ratio to Conference Benevolences can be designated to Conference Benevolence projects.

Statement of Facts

Mr. Harry N. Van Antwerp, a lay member of the Troy Annual Conference and a member of the Third Avenue Methodist Church of Watervliet, New York, made the following request for a Ruling from the Bishop at the Troy Annual Conference in session at Saratoga Springs, New York, April 8, 1948: "The Third Avenue Methodist Church of Watervliet, on the authority of Paragraph 775 of the 1944 Discipline of The Methodist Church, elected to designate the causes to which their World Service contributions should go, namely, to the approved program of the World Service Agencies, none to the Troy Conference Benevolences. "Inasmuch as the Treasurer of the Troy Annual Conference refuses to accept these checks so designated on accredited Benevolences the Third Avenue Methodist Church of Watervliet and the writer request a Ruling from the Bishop as to who is in error: the Third Avenue Church or the Conference Treasurer, and whether ornot Paragraph 775 means what it says in English or not. "To make the issue clear; we insist that the clear meaning of the language of Paragraph 775 permits either church or individual to do exactly what we did, and that the Conference Treasurer is in conflict with the Discipline in refusing our checks designated for accepted World Service Benevolences only, and that we are within our rights in asking for credit on Benevolent Askings." Ruling of the Bishop The Third Avenue Methodist Church of Watervliet, New York, did not have the right to designate all receipts o World Service and Annual Conference Benevolences solely to World Service Agencies and none to Troy Annual Conference Agencies by vote of its Quarterly Conference after the every-member canvass had been made. Bishop Oxnam presented in connection with this ruling a able statement of the case and brief on the law applicable the situation, which, for the sake of brevity, is not repeated here, as the main features of same are included in the following:

Decision

The above quoted ruling having been requested in writing in a session of the Annual Conference and the ruling thereon having been officially reported to the Judicial Council by the Bishop making the ruling (the Journal of the Conference not yet having been printed) such ruling is now legally before the Judicial Council for review under the Constitution (Paragraph 43 of the 1948 Discipline) and laws (Paragraph 909 of the 1948 Discipline) of The Methodist Church. There is and has been for years confusion concerning the interpretation of the Disciplinary provisions relating to designated gifts. Paragraph 745 of the Discipline, standing alone, adds to that confusion. It cannot be properly interpreted, however, except in relation to the other Paragraphs of the Discipline relating to World Service and Conference Benevolences. The question here propounded involves an official interpretation of the meaning of Paragraph 745 of the 1948 Discipline. The Quarterly Conference of Watervliet Charge, Troy Conference, N. Y., interpreted it to mean that it could dire all contributions of its membership for benevolent causes those causes represented by the General Conference World Service Agencies to the total exclusion of all causes represented by Conference Benevolences. Bishop Oxnam's ruling is to the effect that this cannot be done; that there must be a distribution of such funds between World Service administered by the General Conference Agencies and the Annual Conference Benevolences. In the opinion of the Judicial Council, Bishop Oxnam's interpretation is correct. Through numerous acts the General Conference has, for the mutual protection of both classes of Benevolences, established a firm fixed policy of equitable distribution of such funds. Paragraphs 731 to 733 state a basic plan for Church Finance. It provides for a Budget including both World Service and Conference Benevolences. Paragraphs 782 to 787 provide how the Budget is to be set up. It is to be a combined Budget for World Service and Conference Benevolences. It is to be distributed by such divisions and ratios as the Conference may approve. It may be distributed by the Annual Conference to the Districts or direct to the several charges in the Conference. Paragraph 261 (1948 Discipline) provides that this combined Budget for World Service and Conference Benevolences shall be presented and explained in detail to the congregation in the local charge, and makes it the special duty of certain officials to see that this is done. Then at the First or Second Quarterly Conference an acceptance is to be made. It may be the exact amount that has been apportioned to the charge by the Annual Conference or by the District Stewards "for World Service and Conference Benevolences," or it may be less or it may be more. "The amount voted by the Quarterly Conference shall be the amount assumed by the charge for this cause," to-wit World Service and Conference Benevolences. Paragraph 264 makes it the duty of the Official Board or Board of Stewards to provide a Budget including this combined apportionment for "World Service and Conference Benevolences." Paragraph 791 makes it the duty of the Conference Treasurer to "divide the total amount thus received, setting aside the proper amount for World Service and the proper amount for Conference Benevolences." In Paragraph 268 the same safeguard is thrown around the Fourth Sunday offerings. They, too, must be divided on the approved Conference ratio between World Service and Conference Benevolences. Since the General Conference has so meticulously set up a definite uniform fixed policy by a mass of legislation, it is hardly conceivable that by this one Paragraph (Paragraph 745 1948 Discipline) it intended to jeopardize this plan or either of the causes so combined in the plan. It is, therefore, the decision of the Judicial Council that Paragraph 745 of the Discipline means that within the limits of the respective proportions of such funds raised for World Service and Conference Benevolences the charge or the individual donor may make designations to specific projects. The part of the fund set aside by the Conference ratio to World Service may be designated to World Service projects approved by the General Conference Agency. The part of the fund set aside to Conference Benevolences may be designated to Conference Benevolence projects approved by the Conference Agency administering same. The whole amount of the combined offering for World Service and Conference Benevolences cannot be designated either for World Service projects or to Conference Benevolence projects. Accordingly, the ruling of Bishop Oxnam that "the Third Avenue Methodist Church of Watervliet, New York, did not have the right to designate all receipts on 'World Service and Conference Benevolences' solely to World Service Agencies and none to Troy Annual Conference agencies," is affirmed.

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