Decision Number 383


April 18, 1974

Petition from the Baltimore Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Meaning, Application and Effect of Paragraph 892, Equitable Salaries, and Paragraph 893, Basic Salary Plan, in the 1972 Discipline.


Any comprehensive, basic or total salary program, by whatever name it may be called, if it is to be adopted by an Annual Conference, must be approved by at least a two-thirds vote of the Annual Conference and by a majority vote of three-fourths of the Charge Conferences in accordance with Paragraph 893 of the Discipline.

Minimum Salary Plans are not affected by this decision.

Statement of Facts

In 1968 the Baltimore Annual Conference created a Committee to Study Deployment and Salaries of Ministers. This committee made a progress report to each Annual Conference session during that quadrennium. The committee found that there is a close interrelationship between the deployment of ministers and ministers' salaries. In 1970 in his report to the Annual Conference the committee chairman stated:

"How well the Conference can, in fact, place ministers in situations for which they are best qualified is determined essentially by the ministerial salary system. The two elements, deployment and salaries, are inextricably linked with the practicality of salaries largely controlling the idealism of deployment."

The Annual Conference in its 1970 session adopted "Deployment Guidelines" presented by the committee but not its salary proposals.

The committee, working with the 1968 Discipline, found two paragraphs-924 Minimum Salaries and 925 Basic Salary Plan-which were related to the salary phase of its work. After considerable study the committee concluded that neither of these paragraphs was entirely suitable for its purposes. It wanted a plan that included much more than simply a "minimum" salary. But it wanted to retain in each individual charge the primary responsibility for the minister's salary rather than the salary centralization provided for under the Basic Salary Plan. In short it wanted something in between these two paragraphs: something which would allow for some flexibility of design to meet specific conference needs.

This is the context in which the 1971 session of the Baltimore Annual Conference authorized the committee to "petition the General Conference in 1972 to replace the Basic Salary Plan and the Minimum Salary Plan with a flexible provision that will enable an Annual Conference to achieve equity of salaries for all." A resolution to accomplish this purpose, setting out the language desired by the committee, was prepared and submitted to the General Conference. The legislation adopted by the General Conference has replaced the Minimum Salaries paragraph 924 in the 1968 Discipline and appears under the caption "Equitable Salaries" as Paragraph 892 in the 1972 Discipline. However, what was Paragraph 925, Basic Salary Plan, in the 1968 Discipline was neither replaced nor altered and appears as Paragraph 893 in the 1972 Discipline.

Following the 1972 General Conference the Baltimore Annual Conference continued the activities of its committee under its new Commission on Equitable Salaries. The commission prepared a proposed plan for "Equitable Salaries" for the conference which was included in the pre-conference reports for the delegates to the 1973 Annual Conference. The commission recommended that "for 1973 the first step in the scale be guaranteed to all, plus sums of $200-$1,000 per minister per year, depending on the years of service, in five year intervals, after five years of service." The commission stated: "This is the first step in 'phasing in' the system-within the limits of presently available funds, additional steps are planned for succeeding years until the system is fully in force."

When the matter came before the 1973 session of the Annual Conference, the conference, by motion, asked its presiding bishop, Bishop James K. Mathews, for his judgment as to the propriety of the proposal. He stated to the conference that it was his opinion that the report and recommendation of the commission was not appropriate under Paragraph 892. He gave his reasons orally. The Judicial Council considers this to be a bishop's decision on a question of law.

The conference discussed the Equitable Salaries Plan as presented to it by the commission, made some amendments to the plans as originally presented, and approved the amended report. Then, in the light of the opinion by Bishop Mathews, the conference voted to petition the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision. The Judicial Council considers this to be an appeal from the bishop's decision.

After the Annual Conference had adjourned, the petition for a declaratory decision relative to the meaning, application and effect of Paragraph 892 pertaining to Equitable Salaries and Paragraph 893 pertaining to Basic Salary Plan, signed by the bishop and the secretary of the conference, was forwarded to the Judicial Council. With the petition Bishop Mathews also sent a statement of his reasons for the opinion that the matter was not appropriate under Paragraph 892. This statement was prepared from his notes made at the time of the Annual Conference and is not verbatim as presented to the conference session. The reasons as stated by the bishop are:

"1. This proposal would limit the right of a Charge Conference's prerogative of setting the salary in discussion with the District Superintendent (see Paragraphs 145.9, 151.2, 890, and 892.7).

"2. The meaning of 'Equitable' is itself unprecise and possibly ambiguous.

"3. The proposal of an elaborate equitable salary plan stresses tenure and training, not qualification and evaluation of performance of minister. "4. For the annual conference to adopt this proposed Equitable Salary Plan without broad consultation and involvement of Charge Conferences, as implied by the Basic Salary Plan, restricts lay involvement.

"5. The cost and scope of the plan had not been adequately examined.

"6. In a word, the Equitable Salary scheme of Paragraph 892 is not merely a verbal change from the old Minimum Salary plan but it incorporates a number of the aspects of the Basic Salary Plan. Thus the real issue is that Paragraph 892 allows for the possibility of 'Basic Salary Plan' being approved by a simple majority vote of an annual conference, and thus negates the safeguard implicit in the Basic Salary Plan (see Paragraph 893) requiring a 2/3 vote of the Annual Conference and a 3/4 ratification by the Charge Conferences. It was for this reason fundamentally that I gave the opinion that the Equitable Salary scheme as originally proposed (Exhibit A) would not be in order."


The petition from the Baltimore Annual Conference is properly before the Judicial Council as a request for a declaratory decision under Paragraph 1515 of the 1972 Discipline. However, for reasons already stated and because the motion made in the Annual Conference was reduced to writing in the minutes, the Judicial Council also accepts this request, under Paragraph 1511, as an appeal from a bishop's decision on a question of law.

Analysis and Rationale

The Baltimore Annual Conference, through its Committee to Study Deployment and Salaries of Ministers and since 1972 through its Commission on Equitable Salaries, has worked diligently over a period of years to develop an Equitable Salary Plan which would aid in the most effective deployment of ministers and be in conformity with the Discipline. When, under the provision of the 1968 Discipline, the committee found it difficult to attain its goal, the Annual Conference petitioned the General Conference for disciplinary changes. It sought to have one new paragraph, under the heading of Equitable Salary, replace two paragraphs of the 1968 Discipline, Paragraphs 924 and 925 which dealt with Minimum Salary and Basic Salary Plan respectively. The General Conference passed legislation creating a new paragraph entitled Equitable Salary which is now Paragraph 892 of the 1972 Discipline. This paragraph replaces the paragraph on Minimum Salary. However, the General Conference did not eliminate or change the paragraph on Basic Salary Plan. That paragraph is continued as Paragraph 893 of the 1972 Discipline. Thus an ambiguity has been created.

The Baltimore Annual Conference through its Commission on Equitable Salary filed a brief and at a hearing made a statement to the Judicial Council. The brief recognizes an ambiguity between the two paragraphs of the Discipline, but holds primarily that such ambiguity does not result in conflict or contradiction or, if so, that the legislative doctrine of "recency" would require that Paragraph 892 would prevail.

It is necessary to analyze the General Conference action in the light of its legislative intent. A review of the debate in the Journal of the General Conference makes it clear that the proponents of the legislation intended to propose permissive legislation to allow greater flexibility.

The question then is whether that intent was carried out by the General Conference.

A reading of Paragraphs 892 and 893 together reveals that the problem stated in the debate still exists in the Discipline.

Paragraph 892 does incorporate a number of aspects of Paragraph 893, and the end result is, regardless of the intention of the proponents of 892, that a Basic Salary Plan can be approved by a simple majority vote of an Annual Conference under 892 negating the safeguards in Paragraphs 893, according to the petitioners. This is not correct.

It should be further pointed out that, as written, 892 is not permissive legislation and while the establishment of a Basic Salary Plan under 893 is permissive, the methodology is mandatory.

A careful examination of the debate reveals no intent by the General Conference to repeal Paragraph 893. An examination of the debate reveals rather that action was taken in haste, without sufficient debate, and without sufficient explanation and certainly without the achievement of finding of distinctions between the two paragraphs.

Under the 1968 disciplinary provisions the Minimum Salary paragraph could be implemented in an Annual Conference by a simple majority vote of the conference. The 1972 paragraph on Equitable Salary which replaces it does not require more than this. However, the paragraph on Basic Salary Plan requires for implementation a two-thirds vote of the Annual Conference and a majority vote in three-fourths of all the Charge Conferences.

We recognize that many Annual Conferences have instituted Minimum Salary Plans under the provision of the Minimum Salary Plan which is no longer a part of the Discipline. All such Minimum Salary Plans may be continued.

In the case before us, however, we have a proposed salary plan for an Annual Conference which is far more than a Minimum Salary Plan. By whatever name it may be called it is in fact a basic, comprehensive, total salary plan for the conference. It has been suggested that the first step which it proposed to implement at this time is not more than a Minimum Salary Plan. This is irrelevant because this first step is an integral part of the total plan all of which is intended to be implemented.

This plan is clearly a basic, comprehensive one and Paragraph 893 makes the provisions for adopting such a plan. If the procedures outlined in this paragraph were followed in adopting it, there is nothing in the Discipline that would be in conflict with it. Therefore, if such a plan is to be adopted while Paragraph 893 remains in the Discipline, it must be adopted under the procedures required by that paragraph. Decision

A comprehensive salary plan for an Annual Conference which is in effect a basic salary plan for that conference, by whatever name it may be called, may be adopted only by meeting the voting requirements of Paragraph 893. The ruling of Bishop Mathews is affirmed.


A comprehensive salary plan for an Annual Conference which is in effect a basic salary plan for that conference, by whatever name it may be called, may be adopted only by meeting the voting requirements of Paragraph 893. The ruling of Bishop Mathews is affirmed.

April 19, 1974

(Charles Copher was absent)

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