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Decision No. 968

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October 22 2003
In Re: Request From The Kansas West Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning, Application, and Effect of ¶ ¶ 246.12, 331, 621, 622 and 623 of the 2000 Discipline as Related to Equitable Compensation of Women Pastors.

Digest of Case

Development of a remedy for gender-based inequity in clergy compensation, if established, is a permissible action by an annual conference so long as the remedy developed does not otherwise conflict with the 2000 Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Any gender equity plan must take into consideration performance of individual pastors in determining appropriate base compensation supplementation in order to be lawful. The method of implementation of the remedy adopted by Kansas West Annual Conference is unlawful. The Conference is directed to amend the method of implementation in accordance with the requirements of this decision and to submit such amended method of implementation to the Judicial Council for approval. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction.

Statement of Facts

On June 14, 2002, the Kansas West Annual Conference considered the report of its Board of Equitable Compensation, which included a “Gender Equity Study.” The report was amended to include the use of $50,000 from contingency and reserve for operating expenses for making “lump sum payments to women pastors that have been taken advantage of.” The report, as amended, was adopted by the Conference. On June 15, 2002, the Conference adopted a motion requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council “as to the constitutionality and compliance with the Book of Discipline on the legislation adopted . . . for gender equity in pastoral compensation. . . .” In Memorandum 945, the Judicial Council stated: The Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction in this matter as the purported request for a declaratory decision does not seek a determination of the meaning, application or effect of any specific paragraph of the 2000 Discipline which is a requirement for request of a declaratory decision under ¶ 2610 of the Discipline. On May 30, 2003, the Kansas West Annual Conference adopted a means of implementing the lump sum payments authorized related to gender equity in pastoral compensation at the 2002 Annual Conference. Specifically, the Conference adopted the following procedure: Each female clergyperson that has been part of the Board of Equitable Compensation’s Gender Equity Study will be awarded one “point” for each “year of service” within the limits of the Gender Equity Study - 1995 through 2002 (the ordination year used as a base-line in the study is 1984). Partial “years of service” will be taken into consideration. The “points” for each year of service for each female clergyperson that was/is part of the study will then be summed up and divided into the $50,000 set aside by the Annual Conference. The result of that will be X dollars per “point.” Then the “points” for each female clergyperson will be added individually, and that person compensated in relation to the number of “points.” The Conference then approved a resolution requesting a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council regarding the following question: Whether the action of the Kansas West Annual Conference on June 14, 2002, directing the Conference Council of Administrative Ministries and the Conference Board of Equitable Compensation to designate the sum of up to $50,000 from the contingency or reserve operating expense funds from the fiscal year, for the purpose of making lump sum payments to women pastors who are identified as having experienced gender inequity in their compensation, and the action of the Kansas West Conference on May 30, 2003 in adopting a plan to apportion the $50,000 to female clergy, violates paragraphs 246.12, 333, 621, 622 and/or 623.5 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, and/or whether such action is permitted by paragraph 623 thereof. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2000 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The desire of the Kansas West Annual Conference to remedy gender-based inequity in clergy compensation, if established, is to be highly commended. The Discipline makes clear that both genders are to be treated equitably and fairly in the life of The United Methodist Church. Paragraph 430 of the Discipline codifies the goal of gender equality in the clergy appointment process and provides that “[o]pen itineracy means appointments are made without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age, except for the provisions of mandatory retirement.” The Discipline expressly recognizes that supplementation of base clergy compensation can occur due to ethnicity. (See ¶ 623.6 of the Discipline.) Development of a remedy for gender-based inequity in clergy compensation, if established, is a permissible action by an annual conference so long as the remedy developed does not conflict with the Discipline . Paragraph 604.1 of the Discipline provides that “[t]he annual conference, for its own government, may adopt rules and regulations not in conflict with the Discipline of The United Methodist Church....” Under our polity, compensation of local church staff appointed by the bishop is to be determined by the charge conference of the local church to which such staff is appointed. Paragraph 246.12 of the Discipline provides “[t]he charge conference shall in consultation with the district superintendent set the compensation of the pastor and the other staff appointed by the bishop.” Likewise, ¶ 621 of the Discipline provides “[t]he several charge conferences shall determine the pastors’ base compensation according to the provisions of ¶ 246.12.” Paragraphs 246.12 and 621 of the Discipline establish the fundamental responsibility of the local church to determine the compensation of those under appointment by the bishop. Applying these paragraphs, the Judicial Council has held that the annual conference may not instruct the local church in how it is to allocate such compensation between different categories: Decision 213 (allocation between salary and travel expenses), place limitations on the amount paid in any category of compensation, Decision 252 (limitation on amount of travel expenses), or adopt a plan for compensation of those under appointment by the bishop which deprives the local church of its obligation to set such compensation, Decision 461 (conference basic and uniform salary plan). The action of the Kansas West Annual Conference does not violate ¶¶ 246.12 and 621 because the various charge conferences, for the persons addressed by the Conference action, in fact did set the compensation of those persons and did pay the compensation set in accordance with each charge conference’s determination. The Conference action in no way limits or deprives the charge conference of its authority set forth in ¶¶ 246.12 and 621, but rather addresses potential supplementation to remedy inequity due to gender discrimination. Paragraphs 333 and 333.1 of the Discipline mandate that every elder in full connection who is in good standing and who is appointed to full-time service is entitled to receive not less than a minimum salary as established by the annual conference. Decision 579 interpreted these disciplinary provisions as requiring each annual conference to “establish a basic minimum salary for members of the conference” and further that the “conference may not make rules which would deprive any full member in good standing in the conference of basic minimum salary.” The action of the Kansas West Annual Conference to establish a fund to remedy gender-based inequity in clergy compensation is not an action to establish a basic minimum salary and thus is not governed by the provisions of ¶¶ 333 or 333.1 of the Discipline. Paragraph 622 of the Discipline provides that “[e]ach church or charge has an obligation to pay the full compensation, as approved by the charge conference, to its pastor(s).” Paragraph 622 further provides for a means for addressing the inability of such a church or charge to fulfill this obligation. With respect to each of the persons who would benefit from the Kansas West Annual Conference action, the church or charge which they served during the period encompassed by the action has already paid the full compensation, as approved by the charge conference. Paragraph 622 is thus not applicable to the plan adopted by the Annual Conference. Paragraph 623.3 of the Discipline, which provides for the establishment of a schedule of minimum base compensation for all full-time pastors or clergy appointed to less than a full-time appointment in a local church, is also not applicable to the action of the Annual Conference. The plan to address gender-based inequity in clergy compensation is not a matter of “minimum base compensation” as addressed in ¶ 623.3. The petition for declaratory decision finally inquires whether the action by the Annual Conference is permitted under ¶ 623 of the Discipline. Paragraph 623 is entitled “Equitable Compensation.” Paragraph 623.1 establishes a commission on equitable compensation. Paragraph 623.2 provides that the purpose of the commission is to support full-time clergy serving as pastors in the charges of the annual conference by: (a) recommending conference standards for pastoral support; (b) administering funds to be used in base compensation supplementation; and (c) providing counsel and advisory material on pastoral support to district superintendents and committees on pastor-parish relations. The plan to address gender-based inequity in clergy compensation falls within the charter of the equitable compensation commission under ¶ 623.2(a) as a recommendation on conference standards for pastoral support. The implementation of the plan by the commission on equitable compensation is authorized by ¶ 623.2(b) as an administration of funds to be used in base compensation supplementation. While the adoption of a plan to remedy gender inequity in clergy compensation by an annual conference does not violate the Discipline and is permissible under the Discipline, its method of implementation must not result in further discrimination on the basis of gender. The plan and method of implementation adopted by the Kansas West Annual Conference does not achieve this goal. The method of implementation assumes that all women under appointment during the period from 1995 through 2002 were discriminated against with respect to their compensation on the basis of their gender. Each woman under appointment during that period is given one point for each year of service, regardless of whether or by what amount their compensation was below that of similarly situated males in each year of service. To the extent that the method of implementation compensates or over-compensates those who were not subject to gender-based inequity, it results in the same evil it seeks to remedy in that it discriminates on the basis of gender and violates the requirement of gender neutrality in the open itineracy. The method of implementation, by its formula, does not ensure that the remedy received corresponds to the injury suffered. Because of its treating all affected women the same, the formula results in some individuals who were injured by gender inequity in clergy compensation either receiving more or less as a remedy than the injury they incurred, again resulting in discrimination. Finally, the method of implementation does not take into consideration performance of individual pastors and how that may have impacted their compensation. Any gender equity plan must take into consideration performance of individual pastors in determining appropriate base compensation supplementation; otherwise, such a plan would simply result in a uniform salary plan based on gender thus violating Decisions 461 and 792. In all likelihood, the only way by which these deficiencies in the plan can be remedied is by ensuring a method of implementation which addresses allegations of gender inequity in clergy compensation on a case by case basis and a distribution of the fund created in 2002 equitably based upon such case by case determinations. Thus, the establishment of the fund here to remedy gender inequity in clergy compensation by the Kansas West Annual Conference is permissible. The method of implementation adopted by the Annual Conference is unlawful. The Annual Conference is directed to amend the method of implementation in accordance with the requirements of this decision and to submit such amended method of implementation to the Judicial Council for approval

Decision

Development of a remedy for gender-based inequity in clergy compensation, if established, is a permissible action by an annual conference so long as the remedy developed does not otherwise conflict with the Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Any gender equity plan must take into consideration performance of individual pastors in determining appropriate base compensation supplementation in order to be lawful. The method of implementation of the remedy adopted by Kansas West Annual Conference is unlawful. The Conference is directed to amend the method of implementation in accordance with the requirements of this decision and to submit such amended method of implementation to the Judicial Council for approval. The Judicial Council retains jurisdiction. Sally Brown Geis was absent.

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