Decision Number 682
IN RE: Various Petitions for Reconsideration of Judicial Council Decision No. 674 and for a Declaratory Decision as to the Legality and Constitutionality of General Conference UMCare Legislation.
The General Conference legislation entitled "UMCare" is unconstitutional because it provides for the unauthorized delegation of legislative authority.
Statement of Facts
On May 15, 1992 the General Conference adopted, by a vote of 512 to 421, the UMCare Plan as amended, which had been proposed by the General Board of Pensions. The Plan called for mandatory participation of all Annual Conferences, excluding the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. After approval of the Plan, Charles Lippse of the Holston Conference moved that the Judicial Council be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the mandatory participation provision of the Plan. The General Conference supported his motion for judicial review.
This Council made the following ruling:
The General Conference possesses the authority to adopt a health care plan which mandates participation by various members of Annual, Provisional and Missionary Conferences and others employed by United Methodist salary-paying units.
Subsequently, several Annual Conferences petitioned this Council to reconsider that decision. The Judicial Council granted rehearing and held oral arguments on UMCare on Thursday, October 29, 1992 in the Law School Auditorium at Boston University.
Charles Lippse, Holston Annual Conference, David Hardesty, Jr., West Virginia Annual Conference, Renard J. Kolasa, Detroit Annual Conference, Carl R. Mowery, General Board of Pensions, Dale Owens, Gloria Kauls, Delos Corderman, Stanley F. Seat, James F. Parker, and Robert W. Stevens, respondents, and Craig R. Hoskins, General Council on Finance and Administration appeared in person before the council in open hearings.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615 of the 1988 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The text of the UMCare plan delegates to the General Board of Pensions certain responsibilities, including establishing the type and amount of the Plan benefits that will be available to the participants, deductible amounts, copayment insurance levels, other benefits limits, penalties, funding mechanism and development of rules and regulations governing the health care program. Section 17.09 of the UMCare states:
... Any and all specific Program options may be created, amended, or terminated by the Board in its sole discretion.
In Judicial Council Decision 481 the Council stated:
Only the General Conference has authority to create, establish, revise, amend, terminate or continue for such time and in such manner as it deems reasonably necessary the various pension plans of The United Methodist Church.
The same principle applies also to the health care plans. Clearly, the delegation of authority as set forth in UMCare, is an unconstitutional delegation of authority.
It is also noted that the UMCare Legislation is not in accordance with Par. 2509 of the Discipline which states:
2509. Financial Obligations. No conference, council, board, agency, local church, or other unit can financially obligate the denomination or, without prior specific consent, any other organizational unit thereof.
The General Conference legislation entitled "UmCare" is unconstitutional because it provides for the unauthorized delegation of legislative authority.
We agree with the Judicial Council decision, but additionally find the approval of UMCare as unconstitutional because it is not a matter "distinctively connectional" and therefore it cannot be mandated by General Conference.
In arriving at this conclusion, note is made to Section VII, Par. 36, Article II of The Constitution which states, "the Annual Conference is the basic body in the Church and as such shall have reserved to it ... such other matters as have not been delegated to the General Conference under The Constitution . . ."
Further, Section II, Par. 15, Article IV states: "the General Conference shall have full legislative powers over all matters distinctively connectional, and in the exercise of this power shall have authority as follows:
15. To enact such other legislation as may be necessary, subject to the limitations and restrictions of the Constitution of the Church.
In Decision No. 232 this Council said:
Whether a matter is "distinctively connectional" is a question of fact which can only be determined in the light of the facts and circumstances of each particular situation.
Matters of tradition and historic style, as well as statements in our Discipline , help in defining the nature of our connection. Section VI, Par. 112.3 states:
Let us state the connectional principle and its essential ingredients:
The United Methodist connectional principal, born out of our historical tradition, many biblical
roots, and accepted theological ideas, is the basic form of our policy, the way in which we carry out God's mission as a people.
It is in essence a network of interdependent relationships among persons and groups throughout the life of the whole denomination.
It declares that our identify is in our wholeness together in Christ, that each part is vital to the whole, that our mission is more effectively carried out by a connectional life which incorporates Wesleyan zeal into the life of the people.
UMCare does not have these essential ingredients.
The General Conference's authority is also determined by the matters which have been constitutionally and historically related to the Annual Conferences.
In Decision No. 481, where this Council was considering the constitutionality of a proposed pension plan, this Council declared:
The enactment of provisions relating to pensions which apply uniformly to all ministers, or to lay people of constituent units of The United Methodist Church, is a distinctively connectional matter.
The decision also gave the historical rationale for this conclusion, and delineated some powers which traditionally had been reserved to the Annual Conferences. It stated:
We note that the Constitution reserves to Annual Conferences specific rights relating to its ministerial members and ". . . such other rights as have not been delegated to the General Conference . . ."
One of the rights which historically has been reserved to the Annual Conference, through the Charge Conference, (Par. 247.13) is the right to set compensation for its ministers (Par. 247.13). It can be argued that the provision of health care for ministers and their families is compensation. Indeed, many Annual Conferences include in the "compensation package" of a pastor the cost of health insurance which is supplied by the local church or Annual Conference and the minister is required to count this "compensation" as income, on which he/she must pay income tax.
Therefore, we believe that General Conference acted beyond its authority in mandating an area which is under the jurisdiction of the Annual Conferences.
Evelynn S. Caterson
John G. Corry