Decision Number 634
Legality of Annual Conference Policy Requiring Approval by Bishop and Cabinet of Clergy Housing Arrangement.
An Annual Conference has the power under the Constitution to establish parsonage standards which may include approval by the bishop and cabinet.
Statement of Facts
The North Arkansas Annual Conference adopted Parsonage Standards in 1987 which authorized the use of a housing allowance or use of rental property as an option to a church-owned parsonage. The option required the approval of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, the District Superintendent; the Board of Trustees and Pastor.
On June 13, 1990, the Annual Conference amended that provision by requiring the additional approval of the bishop and cabinet. At that session, the Annual Conference requested a declaratory decision to determine whether the amended version conflicts with 2528.1, 2528.2, 2541 and 256.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2615.
Analysis and Rationale
Par. 256.3(f) authorizes the Administrative Board to review the recommendations of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee with regards to clergy housing. That provision does not confer unbridled discretion on the Administrative Board because it is bound by the Annual Conference standards.
In Decision No. 432, we ruled that "in the absence of specific General Conference legislation, the Annual Conference has the power under the Constitution to establish policies and guidelines concerning rental or ownership of parsonages or provision of housing allowance."
The Discipline has not conferred any absolute or superior authority on the district superintendent to determine the type of clergy housing. Here, the district superintendent has been given a vote on this issue by the Annual Conference; the question of continued enfranchisement or dilution of the vote is totally within the legislative prerogatives of the Annual Conference. Par. 36.
The difficulty in reaching an agreement under the amended legislation does not present an issue for Judicial review. Any redress for the "weakness" of the law must be obtained through the legislative process of the Annual Conference. Paragraphs 2528.1, 2528.2 and 2541 relate to the grant of authority by the charge conference to the local church Board of the Board of Trustees. Under these provisions, the Board of Trustees has the authority to acquire, build, repair, remodel, maintain and dispose of property.
The Annual Conference provides for the connectional relationship to the local church. The local church is also mandated to ensure that relationship by carrying out the programs of the Annual Conference.
The grant of authority contained in 2528.1, 2528.2 and 2541 does not impose a superior right on the charge conference which would permit the Board of Trustees to negate or ignore Annual Conference legislation.
An Annual Conference has the authority under the Constitution to establish parsonage standards which may include approval by the bishop and cabinet before the local church can utilize an optional clergy housing arrangement.