Decision Number 386
Petition of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference Seeking Clarification of Its Authority to Make Pension Service Credit Adjustments under Paragraph 1259 of the Discipline.
Full time service does not permit holding substantial employment in non pastoral work. An Annual Conference acts within the provisions of the Discipline when it makes adjustments in the pension credit record of a minister.
Statement of Facts
At the regular session of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference on May 29, 1974 the conference Board of Pensions recommended, and the Annual Conference approved the recommendation, that the pension credit record of Mr. Reynolds Ellisor be adjusted down from 18 years to 8 1/2 years because he had been teaching school in a full time capacity for the past ten years. He was dissatisfied with this adjustment indicating that he had given time equivalent to full time service in the pastoral work of the churches he served and raised the question of what the phrase full time service means as it is used in Paragraph 1259 of the Discipline and whether or not the conference had authority to make such an adjustment under such circumstances. His District Superintendent then moved, supported by Mr. Ellisor, that the matter, of whether in taking such action the conference was acting within the authority granted to it by the Discipline, be referred to the Judicial Council. This motion was passed by the conference.
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1515.2 of the Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
The Discipline gives an Annual Conference broad powers and responsibilities in regard to the pension credits of its members. (See Judicial Council Decision No. 81.) Paragraph 1259.1 states:
The Annual Conference, on recommendation of the conference Board of Pensions, shall determine the admissibility and validity of service approved for pension credit..., subject to the provisions of the Discipline and the rules and regulations of the pension funds, plans and programs of The United Methodist Church.
Paragraph 1259.4 a) and b) states:
4. The following provisions shall apply in determining approval for pension credit, eligibility for pension, and allocation of responsibility: a) Full-time service of a ministerial member or a lay pastor shall be required as a normal condition for pension credit; provided, however, that such credit may be granted for part-time service by a three-fourths vote of those present and voting in the Annual Conference, on recommendation of the conference Board of Pensions.
b) Full-time service shall mean that full time is devoted to the work of a pastor by one who has not attained the age of mandatory retirement for a conference member, who is not attending school as a regular student, who is not substantially employed in nonpastoral work, and whose cash support per annum from all church sources is not less than the minimum salary established by the conference for those in this person's classification.
Paragraph 1259.6 states that The Annual Conference, on recommendation of the conference Board of Pensions, shall have the power to revise, correct, or adjust a minister's service record . . . It was in the exercise of this power that the conference adjusted the pension credit. The conference considered that a full time school teacher was substantially employed in nonpastoral work and therefore not eligible for pension credit for the years so employed.
The statement of the Discipline regarding the meaning of full time service is quite clear and the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference acted within its disciplinary responsibility and authority when it made this adjustment.
Full time service does not permit holding substantial employment in non pastoral work. Further, an Annual Conference has authority to revise, correct or adjust a minister's service record according to its own evaluation of that service.