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Decision No. 1014

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April 28 2005
In Re: Request from Kansas East Conference for a Declaratory Decision on the Meaning, Application, and Effect of ¶¶ 246.12 and 333 of the 2000 Discipline to a Requirement that Full-Time Clergy Contribute to the Cost of Health Insurance.

Digest of Case

Paragraphs 246.12 and 333 of the 2000 Book of Discipline do not preclude the Kansas East Annual Conference from implementing the health insurance contribution policy adopted at its 2004 session.

Statement of Facts

In response to concerns over the increasing cost of health insurance for clergy, the Kansas East Annual Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits conducted an inquiry to determine the best way to remedy the problem of rising premiums and the ensuing financial strain put on the Conference to cover the gap between the cost of those premiums and the amount paid by individual churches. After reviewing the recommendations of the Board, the 2004 Kansas East Annual Conference adopted the following recommendation:

2. In addition, it is the recommendation of the Board that the church/charge deduct from full-time clergy's compensation an amount (equal to 4% of full-time clergy's annual compensation) as a contribution to the cost of the conference-sponsored health insurance plan. . . .
With regard to this recommendation, a concern was raised as to whether this requirement was legal in light of the Conference's minimum base salary for clergy. A member of the Conference moved “to refer the decisions just made to the Judicial Council because of his concern that ¶ 246.12 and 333 of The Book of Discipline prohibit this.” Thus, the 2004 session of the Kansas East Annual Conference requested a declaratory decision as to the meaning, application and effect of ¶¶ 246.12 and 333 of the 2000 Book of Discipline as to the requirement that full-time clergy contribute to the cost of health insurance.
Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2610 of the 2000 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The issue at hand is the meaning, application, and effect of ¶ 246.12 of the 2000 Discipline. Does this paragraph preclude a requirement that each full-time clergy member of the conference contribute a portion (4%) of his or her salary to partially cover the costs of health insurance? Paragraph 246.12 states that “[t]he charge conference shall in consultation with the district superintendent set the compensation of the pastor and other staff appointed by the bishop.” Just as all other deductions from the gross compensation of the full-time pastor do not infringe on the charge conference's responsibility to set the compensation of the pastor, neither does the requirement for a full-time clergy member to contribute to the costs of his or her health insurance. The same logic applies to the question of whether this requirement infringes on the conference's authority to determine equitable salaries. (¶ 333). Since the deduction for health insurance is no different from any other deduction, the health care contribution does not violate ¶ 333.
Decision
Paragraphs 246.12 and 333 of the 2000 Book of Discipline do not preclude the Kansas East Annual Conference from implementing the health insurance contribution policy adopted at its 2004 session. Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent. C. Rex Bevins, the first clergy alternate, participated in this decision.

Decision

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