Decision Number 213
Request of the Nebraska Annual Conference for a Declaratory Decision as to the Legality of a Resolution of its Board of Pensions
The action of an Annual Conference designating a percentage of the total support of its pastors as "travel and expense fund" is illegal.
Statement of Facts
The following letter, dated March 16, 1964, was received by the Secretary of the Judicial Council:
"At the last session of the Nebraska Annual Conference in June, 1963, the Conference Board of Pensions submitted a recommendation which was adopted by a majority vote of the Conference (page 965, 1963 Nebraska Conference Journal). A question was later asked as to its validity and it was suggested that we seek a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council. It is planned that the matter be reviewed at our 1964 Annual Conference.
"The Conference Board of Pensions has reviewed this matter and have instructed me to request such a decision from your Council. The recommendation which was presented to the Conference is as follows:
'That the Annual Conference adopt a resolution, instructing the Conference Statistician to designate, in the statistical table of the Conference Minutes, an amount equal to 20% of the total pastor's support as 'travel and expense fund.' The 20% of the total support to be put in column 50c 'paid pastor's travel and expense fund.' The other 80% of the total pastor's support to be put in column 49a 'paid pastor and associates.'
"The intended purpose of this recommendation is to establish a more accurate and realistic statistical record for the Conference in the area of ministerial support. All local pastors are required to spend considerable portions of their time in visitation and other duties outside of their church building. Yet many churches do not report in the Conference records that their ministers are allowed remuneration for travel expenses. The comparison of salary support of a minister whose travel expenses are not paid with that of a minister whose travel expenses are paid, is very much out of proportion.
"The inequities of the present system of reporting statistics is a burden to the Conference in the area of the pension program. The average salary, as computed by the General Board of Pensions for all Conferences, is based on the salaries as published in the statistical report of the Conference, not taking into consideration any travel allowances. "The Conference Board of Pensions contends that the motion as stated above which was adopted by the Nebraska Annual Conference on its presentation, is permissible and desirable. Referring to Judicial Council decision #51 on page 660 of the 1960 Discipline, it is determined 'An allowance for "travel expense" to pastors is not to be regarded as supplementary compensation tending to defeat proportional payment under the terms of 1624, provided always that such item represents an actual expense for the purpose stated and is not a cover up for additional salary paid to the pastor. May 4, 1948.' Considerable study revealed that in Nebraska the identity of 20% of the total pastor's support for travel purposes is realistic.
"Question: Can the Annual Conference adopt the resolution as presented?
"Your consideration and acknowledgment will be appreciated.
Yours very truly, (s) John H. Frey John H. Frey"
Appended thereto was the following certification of the Secretary of the Nebraska Annual Conference:
"CERTIFICATION OF THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE NEBRASKA ANNUAL CONFERENCE SESSION - 1963
"I, Homer L. Dickerson, Secretary of the Nebraska Annual Conference of The Methodist Church, a Corporation, hereby certify that the following resolution is a true and accurate copy of the resolution adopted by the 1963 session of the Annual Conference of the Nebraska Annual Conference of The Methodist Church held in Lincoln, Nebraska, on June 6, 1963. This resolution was adopted on Thursday afternoon, June 6, 1963, during that session and is recorded in the Official Minutes of the said corporation on page 878. I hereby further certify that all Official Minutes and records of Conference action are held in my possession as Conference Secretary.
" 'Report of Conference Board of Pensions. John H. Frey (Lincoln) moved to reconsider section II. Motion carried.'
"'John H. Frey (Lincoln) moved that the recommendation regarding the statistical records for recording pastor's salary and expense allowances be set aside for one year and that judicial decision be requested on the question, with a report and further recommendation to be presented to the 1964 session of the Annual Conference. Seconded by Walter L. Jewett and carried.'
March 31, 1964
(s) Homer L. Dickerson Homer L. Dickerson, Secretary The Nebraska Annual Conference of The Methodist Church, a Corporation."
Analysis and Rationale
It appears from the facts as presented that the Nebraska Annual Conference in its session on June 6, 1963, adopted a recommendation of its Board of Pensions that the Conference designate for statistical purposes 20% of the total support of every pastor as "travel and expense fund" and that the conference statistician be instructed to record the support of pastors in the statistical tables of the conference according to this formula.
While the language of the petition of the Nebraska Annual Conference makes no reference to any paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline which are alleged to be in conflict with the above quoted resolution of its Board of Pensions, the accompanying statement of the Conference Business Manager does make reference to Judicial Council decision No. 51, which is concerned with the application of paragraph 1624, Article II, Section 4, of the 1944 Discipline, the language of which is identical with the provision of Paragraph 1624.6 of the 1960 Discipline.
The Judicial Council believes that, on the basis of the statement of the Conference Business Manager quoted above, the concern of the Nebraska Annual Conference is with the possibility that the resolution in question may be in conflict with the provisions of Paragraph 1624.6 of the 1960 Discipline. The more specific question propounded in the letter of the Conference Business Manager which the Judicial Council presumes to be a part of the petition of the Annual Conference is "Can the Annual Conference adopt the resolution as presented?"
Paragraph 634 of the 1960 Discipline states: "The Annual Conference may make rules to govern its own procedure; provided that no Annual Conference shall make any rule contrary to the Constitution or to the powers granted it by the General Conference......
Paragraph 148 of the 1960 Discipline provides: "The Quarterly Conferences hall fix the salary and other remuneration of the pastor or pastors, after the following procedure: At the session of the Quarterly Conference next preceding the regular session of the Annual Conference, on recommendation of the Official Board or Boards and after consultation with the pastor, the conference shall set the minimum salary of the pastor for the ensuing conference year. . . ."
Under Paragraph 352.28 of the 1960 Discipline the pastor is required "to make report to the Annual Conference of all items required for the statistics of the conference. . . .
Paragraph 829 of the 1960 Discipline states: "The total of all travel, automobile and other expenses allowed and paid to a pastor in addition to his salary shall be reported for insertion in the Journal of the Annual Conference in a separate column from that of the pastor's salary and adjacent thereto. . . ."
Paragraph 662 of the 1960 Discipline requires that "all records of secretaries, statisticians, and treasurers shall be kept according to the forms prescribed by the laws of the church."
The Judicial Council holds that under the legislation cited above the authority to fix the salary and other compensation of the pastor rests solely with the Quarterly Conference. It is the duty of the pastor to report this and other information required by the Annual Conference "for insertion in the Journal of the Annual Conference." It is the duty of the statistician of the Annual Conference to record and tabulate those items as submitted to him "according to the forms prescribed by the laws of the church."
It seems clear that the Annual Conference has authority to make its own procedural rules but in doing so may not invade the authority granted to other bodies by the Constitution or by the legislation of the General Conference. The Judicial Council holds that the adoption by the Nebraska Annual Conference of the resolution in question would have the effect of nullifying the right of the Quarterly Conference to "fix the salary and other remuneration of the pastor or pastors" by substituting an arbitrary division of the total support of the pastors on a percentage basis. Further we believe that the resolution in question is in violation of the implied directive to the statistician that it is his duty to record the information provided by the pastor for insertion in the Journal of the Annual Conference.
We therefore hold that the Nebraska Annual Conference acted beyond its disciplinary authority in adopting the resolution of its Board of Pensions which is under question.
In view of this decision that the action of the conference is in conflict with the Discipline, it is not necessary to consider whether or not the action is in any way related to or in conflict with Paragraph 1624.6 of the 1960 Discipline.
It is the decision of the Judicial Council that the adoption by the Nebraska Annual Conference of the report of its Board of Pensions designating 20% of the total support of the pastors of the conference as "travel and expense fund" is illegal and therefore void.