Decision Number 255
Petition from the Central Kansas Annual Conference for the Determination of any Claim of Dean W. Dryden to Participation in the Benefits of the Chaplains Pension Fund.
Matters concerning the personal relationship of an individual minister of an Annual Conference, on the one hand, and a General Conference Board of Body, on the other, do not relate to "Annual Conferences or the work therein" within the meaning of Paragraph 914 of the Discipline.
Accordingly, the Judicial Council determines that it is without jurisdiction.
Statement of Facts
The Judicial Council received from the Secretary of the Central Kansas Annual Conference the following Resolution and Petition:
"RESOLUTION AND PETITION
"The Board of Pensions of the Central Kansas Annual Conference hereby requests the Central Kansas Annual Conference to approve the following petition to the Judicial Council of the Methodist Church:
"The Central Kansas Annual Conference respectfully requests the Judicial Council of The Methodist Church to rule in the matter of interpretation of Paragraph #1618, Section 3 (a) on behalf of the Reverend Dean W. Dryden, a retired member and claimant of the Central Kansas Annual Conference of The Methodist Church with respect to his claim for annuity as a Chaplain under the provisions of said paragraph, for his years of service from Jan. 1, 1947 to Jan. 29, 1958."
We are informed by Orson F. Evans, Secretary of the Central Kansas Annual Conference, that the foregoing is a true and exact copy of the Resolution and Petition which was adopted by the Central Kansas Annual Conference and shown on Page 1009 of the 1967 Journal of that Annual Conference.
The facts show that Dean W. Dryden, a minister in full connection in the Central Kansas Annual Conference, entered the military service on Extended Active Duty on April 3, 1943, and remained in that status until January 29, 1958, when his military service was ended for reasons of physical disability. The Central Kansas Annual Conference granted his annuity claim for the service years April 3, 1943, to December 31, 1946. The question involved is Dean W. Dryden's right to make a claim on the Chaplains Pension Fund for the years January 1, 1947 to January 29, 1958 (Paragraph 1618.2(h) of the Discipline). He was retired from the Army for reasons of physical disability as of January 29, 1958, and granted benefits based upon the percentage of his disability and the number of his years in the military service.
We are advised that the Commission on Chaplains of The Methodist Church has interpreted the Rules and Regulations of the Chaplains Pension Fund to mean that such benefits constitute "a pension, or other benefits in lieu thereof" covering Dean W. Dryden's years of military service and that he has no right, therefore, to claim upon the Fund for the same years of service. With this interpretation Dean W. Dryden and the Board of Pensions of the Central Kansas Annual Conference are in disagreement.
While Paragraph 914 of the Discipline empowers us to render a declaratory decision concerning the meaning and interpretation of a paragraph of the Discipline thought to be of doubtful meaning, this jurisdiction may be invoked by Annual Conferences only "on matters relating to Annual Conferences or the work therein."
On oral argument, representatives of the Central Kansas Annual Conference acknowledged that the only matters sought to be raised by the petition concern the possible rights of Dean W. Dryden to receive pension benefits from the Chaplains Pension Fund, under the provisions of Paragraph 1618.2(h), by reason of his years of service as a Chaplain after December 31, 1946. It was also acknowledged that Paragraph 1618.3(a) relating to annuity claims against Annual Conferences cited in the petition is irrelevant, since the Central Kansas Annual Conference would have no pension liability for the years in question while Dean W. Dryden served as a Chaplain.
The personal rights, if any, of Dean W. Dryden to receive payments from the Chaplains Pension Fund are in no substantial sense matters related to the Central Kansas Annual Conference or the work therein within the meaning of Paragraph 914 of the Discipline. For us to view this matter otherwise would require a sharp departure from our long established policy of construing our jurisdiction strictly and with restraint.
We therefore hold that the Judicial Council is without jurisdiction.