Decision Number 9
Compensation of Retired Minister Serving as Supply Pastor
A general rule by action of an Annual Conference as to retired ministers receiving a pension and also receiving pay as supply pastor is in conflict with the provisions of Paragraph 1329, Discipline 1940, as to disallowance of claims in whole or in part, as it denies the claimant the right to make an oral or written statement to the Board of Conference Claimants, and denies him the protection of the two-thirds vote of the Conference prescribed in said Paragraph.
Statement of Facts
The New England Conference in session at Westfield, May 17, 1940, adopted the reports of Conference Claimants of the New England Conference containing Section 8, which reads as follows:
That retired men who take supply charges in or out of the Conference, shall not receive in pension and salary more than the minimum salary of the Conference for ministers in the effective relation, and that the Board of Conference Claimants be authorized and instructed to administer pension funds accordingly.
REQUEST FOR RULING
At the same session of the Conference Rev. C. Oscar Ford requested in writing from the presiding Bishop, G. Bromley Oxnam, a ruling upon the legality of the above quoted report, and cited certain Paragraphs of the Discipline, particularly Paragraph 1329, Subsections (1) , (2) and (3) as to the Disciplinary manner of disallowing annuities, and also part of Paragraph 1337 under the heading "Judicial Decisions " which-reads as follows:
A retired minister's annuity claim is not invalidated by service as a Supply Pastor. A retired minister should have the privilege of serving as a Supply Pastor, especially when the annuity is insufficient to afford him "comfortable support."
The foregoing Request for Ruling, and the Ruling of the Bishop thereon are recorded in the minutes of the New England Conference, session 1940, page 25 et seq.
RULING OF THE BISHOP Paragraph 1317 of the Discipline reads:
The Annual Conference shall be the sole judge of the admissibility and validity of annuity claims, and shall be fully competent to determine all payments, disallowances and deductions thereunder, subject to the specific regulations relating thereto contained in the Discipline. There is no question relative to the right of the Annual Conference to determine disallowances of and deductions from annuity claims. The method of determining such disallowances or deductions is subject to the provisions contained in the Discipline.
Paragraph 1329, Section 1 of the Discipline reads:
Upon recommendation of the Board of Conference Claimants, after opportunity has been given for either a written or oral statement by the Claimant, any "Annuity Claim" may be disallowed, in whole or in part, for any cause cited by the Board of Conference Claimants, provided that in case of disallowance for such cause, approval shall be given of two thirds of the members of the Annual Conference present and voting.
Paragraph 1329 defines the method. The individual claimant is entitled to present a written or oral statement relative to his claim. Note the phrase "by the Claimant." Such disallowance, namely that of the individual, must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Conference. The rule adopted by the New England Conference is intended to operate as an automatic denial of at least a part of the claim under certain circumstances, and is intended to deny the individual claimant the right to make a written or oral statement in opposition thereto, as well as to deny him the protection that lies in the two-thirds vote of the Conference approving said denial.
The rule is therefore declared illegal because it contravenes the method of disallowing or deducting from annuity claims established by the Discipline.
No reference was made in the above ruling to the citation of Judicial Decision, Paragraph 1337, by the Rev. C. Oscar Ford, for two reasons. First, these Decisions are at present before the Judicial Council for consideration and may or may not be operative. Secondly, the question of the right of a retired minister to serve as a Supply Pastor is not involved in the rule of the New England Conference under consideration.
The New England Conference, by adopting this rule, expressed its judgment relative to the wisdom of allowing retired men to accept supply appointments, and from the combined income from annuity claim and salary receive a greater income than that of the minimum salary established by the Conference. It would appear that the Conference would be within its rights to adopt certain grounds for the disallowance of or deduction from annuity claims to guide its Board of Conference Claimants in determining the admissibility and validity of annuity claims. The Board, under such instructions, would no doubt deny claims the Conference desires denied. The individual claimant would then be privileged to make his written or oral statement, and the denial would come before the Conference in the individual case for approval by the necessary two-thirds vote.
The ruling in the above case being regularly before the Judicial Council for review, the Council affirms the same, and adopts as its opinion in said case the foregoing statement and Ruling of the Bishop.
Attention should be called, however, to the reference in said statement to "Judicial Decisions," Paragraph 1337 of the Discipline, followed by this sentence, "These Decisions are at present before the Judicial Council for consideration and may or may not be operative." The portions of the Discipline which appeared as Paragraphs 1337 and 1341 of the 1939 Discipline are interpretations of law by what were the authentic judicial bodies prior to 1939. These provisions were re-enacted by the General Conference of 1940, but with the direction that the Judicial Council review and edit the same for publication. The Council did review and edit the same and so reported as to Paragraph 1337, so that Discipline of 1940 contains the provisions correctly as enacted and approved. Accordingly these provisions have the force of law until and unless declared unconstitutional by the Judicial Council on appeal, or until repealed or amended by later action of the General Conference.