Decision Number 81
Pension Claim of Walter L. French
A retired minister whose pension payments from the Annual Conference were reduced during the quadrennium 1944-48 in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 1630, Section 1, Discipline of 1944, has no right to claim from the Board of Conference Claimants the amount of such reductions.
Statement of Facts
Walter L. French took the retired relationship in the Wyoming State Conference at the Session in June, 1944. According to the record he moved to California and took work as a Methodist Supply Pastor. During the quadrennium 1944 to 1948 his pension was reduced according to the provision of the 1944 Discipline, Paragraph 1630, Section 1. He protested to the Board every year and asked that the money withheld be paid to him. He has not at any time alleged any miscalculation, but has always protested that the legislation was unjust and invalid, and now he states that the General Conference of 1948 recognized it as such and therefore removed the provision (Paragraph 1630, Section 1) from the law of the Church.
Walter L. French asked the Board of Conference Claimants of the Wyoming State Conference to pay him all moneys withheld from his pension during the quadrennium 1944 to 1948 under the provision of Paragraph 1630, Section 1, Discipline of 1944.
The Board, in session at the Conference on June 15, 1951, adopted an action refusing the request. The Board directed the Secretary to report the entire matter on the floor of the Conference, and to request the ruling of the presiding Bishop, Glenn R. Phillips, on the legality of the action by the Board. Such ruling was made in open conference and is properly before the Judicial Council for review.
Ruling of the Bishop
"Ruling on the case of Walter L. French, a retired member of the Wyoming State Conference who appeals for special consideration in connection with his annuity claim for the years 1944-48, it is my ruling that, according to Paragraph 1630, Section 1, of the 1944 Discipline of The Methodist Church, the Board of Conference Claimants of the Wyoming State Conference is legally justified in refusing to grant the request of Walter L. French for a distribution to him which would necessarily be made without reference to the qualifying provisions concerning said years."
The appellant in this case seems to base his claim, not on the ground that the legislation of the General Conference of 1944, Paragraph 1630, Section 1, was unconstitutional, but that it was unjust. The Judicial Council has no jurisdiction to pass upon the wisdom of any General Conference legislation, nor whether it may perhaps work hardship as alleged in this case. The Judicial Council can only determine whether such legislation comes within the Constitutional power of the General Conference. Furthermore, the repeal of any legislation is not of itself an admission of any Constitutional error. In this case it merely indicates that the General Conference adopted a different method in handling this very controversial subject, for a period after 1948.
While the provisions of Paragraph 1630, Section 1 of the 1944 Discipline were in effect, the Board of Conference Claimants had no alternative but to carry out its terms. We must not overlook the grant of power to the Annual Conference (See 1948 Discipline, Paragraph 1616, and previous Disciplines) to be the sole judge of the advisability and validity of annuity claims. The basic right of a retired minister is only a right to make an annuity claim. He has no contractual rights "unless and until provision shall have been made therefor on an actuarial reserve basis" (Paragraph 1615 of the 1948 Discipline). It is the Annual Conference, under the provisions of the Discipline, that decides what shall be granted on the claim.
Accordingly, the decision of the Judicial Council must be that the Bishop was correct in upholding the action of the Board of Conference Claimants in this case, and therefore the ruling of the Bishop is hereby affirmed.