Decision Number 306
An Appeal Taken in the Holston Annual Conference from the Ruling of Bishop H. E. Finger, Jr., That a Provision Granting Priority Claim to Items of Ministerial Support in a Conference Budget which includes All General Church and Conference Causes, and for the Support of Which a Single Apportionment Is Sent to Local Churches, Is in Conformity to the Discipline.
The Discipline recognizes the Church's obligation for the support of all of its ministers who have joined the "traveling connection," and gives all the items of ministerial support a priority status in the Church. Therefore, when an Annual Conference adopts a unified budget with a single figure apportionment, a provision granting priority claim to ministerial support is in conformity to the Discipline.
Statement of Facts
The Secretary of the Holston Annual Conference, R. Kyle Tomlinson, informed the Judicial Council of the following facts.
At the session of the Holston Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska, N. C., on May 31, 1968, Report No. 1 of the Conference Committee on Financial Structure was presented. In order to simplify the financial structure of the conference the Report established a single figure fair share formula for arriving at a single figure apportionment for each local church for the support of the total conference budget which would include all general church and conference causes. Each item in this conference budget was to be listed separately and its percentage of the total budget given.
Paragraph 6 of the Report read as follows: "Local church payments may bemade in a single amount designated for single figure apportionments and the money will be distributed by the Conference Treasurer to all causes according to the percentage allocated. Payments may be made for single or specific causes by making proper entry on the remittance blank sent to the Treasurer."
Dr. William S. Steele moved to amend this paragraph by adding to the first sentence these words: ". . . provided ministerial support shall have priorityclaim and be deducted in full before other items have their percentage distribution, the priority for ministerial support to begin at the end of the third quarter of the conference year." The amendment and the report were adopted.
Bishop H. E. Finger, Jr., was asked to rule on whether or not the amendment was in conformity to the Discipline. He ruled that it was. Dr. Robert H. Duncan then appealed from this ruling and his appeal was sustained by the Conference.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1711 of the 1968 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
It needs to be noted here that changes in the structures of local church and particularly of Annual Conference budgets in the interest of simplification may make more difficult the carrying out of Disciplinary provisions concerning proportional payment of ministerial support and concerning world service and Annual Conference benevolence apportionments. If simplified and unified budgets are adopted, greater care needs to be taken to obey the provisions of the Discipline.
The Discipline grants the Annual Conference authority to establish its own rules of procedure within the provisions of the Discipline, and specifically to determine its own plan for the apportioning and distributing of items of ministerial support and of world service and Annual Conference benevolences. (Pars. 37, 662.1, 907, 910, 920)
Paragraph 910 requires an Annual Conference Treasurer to divide each month the total amount received by him from local churches for world service and conference benevolences, "setting aside the proper amount for world service and the proper amount for conference benevolences, according to the ratio of each established by the Annual Conference in the total world service and conference benevolence budget" and to "make monthly remittances of the share received by him for conference benevolences to the treasurers of the several agencies for conference work according to the rightful share and proportion of each." This is a requirement of the Annual Conference Treasurer.
Paragraph 921 states that when apportionments for ministerial support (bishops, district superintendents, conference claimants, minimum salary fund) have been determined "payments made to the same in each pastoral charge shall be exactly proportional to the amount paid on the ministerial salary or salaries." This is a requirement of the local treasurer and minister.
When items of ministerial support and items of world service and conference benevolences are combined in one budget and in a single figure apportionment, difficulties of procedure may arise.
Dr. Duncan in a brief in support of his appeal assumed that all of these items should have the same status in an Annual Conference budget and that, therefore, all should be paid in the same proportion. He felt that the amendment in question which gave priority to items of ministerial support was contrary to the Discipline because it would require the payment of 100 per cent of ministerial support even when other causes such as world service, conference benevolences, general administration fund, etc., were not paid in full.
Items of ministerial support, however, do not have the same status in the Church as other budgetary items. Paragraph 919 recognizes that the Church has an unusual obligation to its ministers in the "traveling connection." No other items, administrative or benevolent, are required to be paid in exact proportion of pastoral salaries. The whole tradition of the traveling ministry of Methodism, supported by numerous paragraphs in the 1968 Discipline of The United Methodist Church gives an undeniable priority to ministerial support in the Church.
The basic ruling of Bishop H. E. Finger, Jr., is therefore correct. If an Annual Conference is to have one budget which includes all items of administration and benevolence, and a single apportionment to the local churches, a rule establishing priority for the items of ministerial support is in conformity to the Discipline.
The second part of the amendment in question, however, is not. The Discipline in Paragraph 921 requires the local church treasurer to pay to the Annual Conference treasurer the items of ministerial support in exact proportion to the amount paid on the ministerial salary or salaries on a monthly, if practicable, or a quarterly basis at the latest. The Discipline also requires the Annual Conference treasurer to pay certain ministerial support items on a monthly basis. (Pars. 908, 911) Furthermore, behind the Annual Conference procedure which establishes one total budget with a single figure apportionment and a priority for ministerial support is the assumption that all local churches in the Annual Conference are paying their share of the conference items of ministerial support in full from their own ministerial support budgets. This would require the Annual Conference treasurer to obey ministerial support priorities on a monthly or at latest a quarterly basis and not wait until the end of the third quarter of the year.
The ruling of Bishop H. E. Finger, Jr., is generally affirmed. The amendment to the Report of the Committee on Financial Structure in the Holston Annual Conference establishing a priority for ministerial support in the conference budget is in conformity to the Discipline. The provision in that amendment which postpones such priority distribution until the end of the third quarter of the year, however, is not in such conformity.