Decision Number 503
Alternate Methods of Collecting Pension Funds Under the Ministerial Pension Plan.
Any Annual Conference electing to be the collecting agency for pension funds under Section 4.2(g) of the Ministerial Pension Plan must abide by all provisions of that section. It is responsible for the full amount due under the computation formula specified in the Plan Document.
Statement of Facts
The South Indiana Annual Conference in its 1981 session acted to request that the Judicial Council provide an interpretation of Section 4.2(g) of the Ministerial Pension Plan. The South Indiana Conference has questioned the General Board of Pension's interpretation of that section. It maintains that the phrase "pursuant to a system of collection determined by the Annual Conference" guarantees to the Annual Conference the right to determine the amounts to be remitted to the General Board for the Pension Plan. The petitioner claims that the Annual Conference may be charged only for such amounts and only when the Conference remits such funds or authorizes the General Board of Pensions to charge the Conference for such amounts.
At a hearing on October 22, 1981, oral presentations were made by Gary K. Drown, Loren E. Maxwell, and Harold Pfrang, representing the South Indiana Annual Conference and by Gerald Hornung, James Walton-Myers, and James F. Parker, representing the General Board of Pensions of The United Methodist Church.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2610 of the 1980 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
It is not required that the Annual Conference collect and transmit church payments to the Pension Plan. Par. 1706.17 of the 1980 Discipline makes this the responsibility of the salary-paying unit of a participant.
Unless otherwise determined by vote of the Annual, Missionary, or Provisional Conference, the treasurer of a local church or pastoral charge shall remit such contributions to the General Board of Pensions related to the participant's contribution which is provided from local church funds.
However, as provided later in that same paragraph and as spelled out in Section 4.2(g) of the Ministerial Pension Plan, an Annual (or other) Conference may elect to raise "part or all of the annual contributions for the pension program of its pastors by an apportionment to the churches of the conference, remitting payments to the General Board of Pensions on behalf of all the pastors covered."
Should an Annual Conference elect to be the collecting and transmitting agency, the Plan assures that Conference the authority to establish its own system of collection. However, that same Plan defines the schedule and method for transmission from the Conference to the Plan.
The phrase "pursuant to a system of collection determined by the Conference" must be read as referring specifically and narrowly to the method by which the Conference apportions and collects the funds. It cannot be read as referring to the method by which the funds are in turn transmitted or the amount to be transmitted. That is clearly specified in the Plan.
"The amount so required" is determined according to the formula prescribed in the Plan, not according to the amount collected by the Annual Conference.
In summary, if an Annual (or other) Conference elects to collect and transmit church payments to the Ministerial Pension Plan, it must do so within the provisions of that Plan, and must abide by the prescribed schedule and method of remittance. The amount required for the account of each active participant shall be credited to that participant's account monthly, and the Conference charged accordingly. That process is spelled out in the Plan as adopted by the 1980 General Conference. Neither the Annual Conference nor the General Board of Pensions has authority to change or modify that Plan.
Any Annual Conference electing to be the collecting agency for pension funds under Section 4.2(g) of the Ministerial Pension Plan must abide by all provisions of that section, and is responsible for the full amount due under the formula specified in the Plan document.
Failure of the Annual Conference to collect the full amount required by the computation formula shall not relieve that Annual Conference of its responsibility to remit to the Plan the "full amount so required" by that formula.