Decision Number 579
Constitutionality of Certain Provisions of Equitable Salary System Plan Adopted by the South Carolina Annual Conference.
An Annual Conference must establish a basic minimum salary for members of the conference. The conference may not make rules which would deprive any member in good standing in the conference of basic minimum salary.
Statement of Facts
The South Carolina Annual Conference, in session June 4, 1986, voted to ask the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the constitutionality and legality of certain portions of its Conference Report #2 Equitable Salary Guidelines.
Specifically, they requested that sections C, J, K, T and U be reviewed in relationship to 1984 Discipline Par. 722.9.
At an oral hearing April 23, 1987 at Scarritt College, Harry Kent and the Rev. T. N. Brittain appeared for the South Carolina Annual Conference.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Discipline Par. 2615.
Analysis and Rationale
The Report of the South Carolina Annual Conference Commission on Equitable Salaries Contains these sections which have been referred to the Judicial Council.
C. The Annual Conference through its Equitable Salary Funds shall not pay in excess of thirty-five percent (35%) of the above amounts. The local charge shall be encouraged to pay the other sixty-five percent (65%). Exception will be allowed under the following conditions ....
J. The District Superintendent shall recommend the adjusted amounts which must be approved by the Commission on Equitable Salaries before payment can be made. This recommendation from the District Superintendent shall be accompanied by a form provided by the Equitable Salaries Commission and completed by the pastor, the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee and the District Superintendent indicating income from all sources. If the pastor does not return the signed application, no equitable salary supplement will be paid.
K. Six years is the normal number of years that a charge may receive equitable salary assistance. To receive equitable salary assistance beyond six years there must be a re-evaluation of the charge by the Cabinet and the Equitable Salaries Commission.
T. The Commission of Equitable Salaries recommends that the following not be eligible for equitable support:
1. Retired supplies 2. Part-time local pastors 3. Pastors on leave of absence except as provided in continuing Resolution 201. 4. Pastors not living within the bounds of his/her parish or who are not giving full-time service to that charge except: a. Students pursuing ministerial credentials. b. Pastors serving charges that provide no parsonages. c. A member of a clergy couple living with his or her spouse in one of the parsonages provided. 5. Special Appointments categories A, B, C as defined in Par. 443 of the 1984 Discipline: "Various special appointments within the itineracy of the United Methodist Church."
U. In accordance with Decision No. 492, the Judicial Council, a minister or member in good standing of the Annual Conference who is left without an appointment be entitled to full minimum salary and that this provision be subject to a six year limit.
Discipline Par. 442 reads in part:
. . . places upon the Church a counter obligation to provide adequate support for the entire ministry of the Church (Par. 717). The Church shall provide and the minister is entitled to receive not less than the equitable salary established by the Annual Conference for ministerial members according to provisions of Par. 722.3.
Discipline Par. 722.3 states:
The commission shall carefully study the needs for additional ministerial support within the conference and the sources of income, and shall recommend annually to the conference for its action a schedule of minimum salaries for all full-time pastors, subject to such rules and regulations as the conference may adopt.
Once a minimum salary is established for the conference it becomes binding on the conference to guarantee that each full member in good standing of the conference receive that minimum salary, subject to the provisions of less than full-time service under Par. 436.
Each of the sections referred for Judicial Council consideration contains some device by which persons in full connection could be denied their total minimum salary.
It is the duty of the Annual Conference to establish its own guidelines for payment of equitable salaries but these guidelines cannot establish a minimum salary and then provide the means by which that conference can avoid paying that minimum to persons in full connection.
The South Carolina Annual Conference states that the basis for this appeal is found "in the uncertainties we believe to be implicit in Judicial Council Decision Number 492."
We see no uncertainty in Decision 492. Discipline Par. 435 grants the right to an appointment. Decision 492 says that if the minister in good standing was left without an appointment that minister was entitled to basic minimum salary. Therefore every minister in good standing is entitled to the basic minimum salary as established by the annual conference.
The sections in the South Carolina Annual Conference Guidelines for equitable salaries C, F, K, T, and U which if implemented would result in a full member in good standing of the Annual Conference receiving less than the established minimum salary are null and void.