Decision Number 50
Ruling of Bishop C. C. Selecman in the North Texas Annual Conference Relating to Assessment of the Conference for Conference Claimants, Under Pars. 1618, 1623, and 1624 of the Discipline
None of the provisions of the Pension Code, with particular reference to Paragraphs 1618, 1623 and 1624, Discipline 1944, limit an Annual Conference, in making an apportionment for Conference Claimants, to an amount exactly necessary to meet the disbursements for that particular year; but under the provisions of Paragraph 1613 any excess amount raised by such an apportionment may be used to create a reserve fund for future years.
Statement of Facts
The Journal of the North Texas Annual Conference held at Dallas, Texas, June 4 to 8, 1947, Page 49, contains the following:
A letter was read by the Bishop which had been given to him by George C. French, relative to an Episcopal decision is as follows:
Dear Bishop Selecman:
As provided for in our 1944 Discipline, Paragraph 40, I am herewith asking for your official ruling on a matter growing out of the action taken by the North Texas Annual Conference (over which you are presiding) in this session Saturday afternoon, June 7, 1947.
The following provisions are found in our 1944 Discipline:
Paragraph 1618, Article 5, Section 5-"The annuity rate shall mean the sum determined annually by the Annual Conference, payable as an annuity, for each approved service year of a retired minister, rendered in The Methodist Church. The annuity rate shall be determined by the Annual Conference without restriction . . . . . ."
Paragraph 1623, Article 10, Section l-"After the annuity rate payable has been determined by the Annual Conference on recommendation of the Board of Conference Claimants, the said Board shall compute the amount necessary to meet the prospective annuity, according to the annuity rate determined, and said amount shall be apportioned to the pastoral charges, either as a percentage of the pastor's cash salary or on the basis of a graduate scale, to be determined by the Conference."
Paragraph 1624, Article 11, Section l-'The amount payable by any pastoral charge, on the apportionment for Conference Claimants shall be directly proportionate to the amount of cash received by the pastor or pastors, on his salary. The apportionment for Conference Claimants being stated as a percentage on the pastor's salary, an amount equivalent to the percentage shall be paid to the Board of Conference Claimants on the basis of the payments made to the pastors." And from Section 2-"The amount apportioned to each pastoral charge for the support of Conference Claimants shall be paid to the Conference Treasurer monthly or quarterly, and the Conference Treasurer shall remit monthly to the treasurer of the Board of Conference Claimants all amounts received from the pastoral charge for the support of conference claimants."
The North Texas Annual Conference by its actions yesterday did the following:
1. It fixed the annuity rate at sixteen dollars.
2. It ordered that sums be apportioned to the pastoral charges and to be paid by them during the conference year 1947-48 for the support of Conference Claimants to the amount of 12 1/22% of the amount paid on the pastors' salaries.
3. It also ordered that none of the increased incomes resulting from the payment of that 12 1/22% shall be used for the benefit of any Conference Claimant during the Conference year 1947-48, but shall be held for the benefit of such Claimants during the Conference year 1948-49.
I claim that the provisions in the Discipline as cited above clearly require that such increases of income for the Board of Conference Claimants resulting from the payment by pastoral charges on the basis of 12 1/22% of the pastor's salary when so apportioned, and so paid to the Annual Conference Claimants, should be used by that Board for the benefit of Conference Claimants during the Conference year 1947-48, and not held for the support of Conference Claimants during the Conference year 1948-49.
I am asking your official ruling on this point; when payments are made by pastoral charges on apportionments for the support of the Conference Claimants as above cited and provided for by the Annual Conference result in an increased amount being paid for the support of the Claimants, has the Annual Conference the right to deprive the Conference Claimants of the year 1947-48 the benefit of such an increase, and order that it be held for the benefit of the Conference Claimants of the Conference year 1948-49.
GEO. C. FRENCH.
RULING OF THE BISHOP
"The North Texas Annual Conference acted within its rights as defined in the Discipline in this instance."
CHARLES C. SELECMAN.
The decision of Bishop Selecman, as therein set forth, is properly before the Judicial Council for review.
The report of the Board of Conference Claimants, as set out on pages 86 and 87 of the Journal, contains the following provisions:
1. That the annuity rate for the ensuing Conference year, beginning July 1, 1947, be set at $16.00 per service year for the retired preachers and a proportionate amount for the widows.
2. That the Churches be assessed an amount equal to 12 1/22 of the salary of the pastor and his assistant pastors in the hope that at the next Annual Conference we may be able to set the annuity rate at $20.00 per service year.
The report was adopted by the Annual Conference.
Paragraph 1616 of the 1944 Discipline of The Methodist Church reads as follows:
"Paragraph 1616, Article 3, Approval of Claim. The Annual Conference shall be the sole judge of the admissibility and validity of the annuity claims and shall be fully competent to determine all payments, disallowances, and deductions thereunder, subject to the specific regulations relating thereto contained in the Discipline."
We find no specific regulation in the Discipline prohibiting the Annual Conference from making an assessment in excess of the apportionments for the pending year. The claim of each retired minister is not based on the assessment. It is based on a specific formula set out in Par. 1619 of the Discipline, namely:
"The annuity claim of a retired minister shall be for an amount equivalent to the total years of approved service multiplied by the annuity rate as defined above," etc.
Paragraph 1623, Article 10, requires that an apportionment be made to the pastoral charges in "the amount necessary to meet the prospective annuity disbursement according to the annuity rate determined." It is true that this particular provision does not specifically authorize an apportionment in excess of the amount necessary to meet the prospective annuity disbursement for that particular year. On the other hand it does not specifically prohibit such excess apportionment.
However, under the provisions of subdivision 10, of Paragraph 1613, the Conference Board of Claimants and the Annual Conference had ample authority for doing what they did in this instance. That provision reads as follows:
"Paragraph 1613, Article 10. When it is deemed expedient, the Board of Conference Claimants may build up a reserve fund from the income for Conference Claimants in order to stabilize the annuity rate payable in the Conference. Such reserve fund should be, at least, the equivalent of twenty-five per cent of the annual income of the Board of Conference Claimants for all purposes for the five years immediately preceding. Such reserve fund shall be held as the Annual Conference shall direct."
This reserve is to be built up "from the income from Conference Claimants." The payments made by charges on the apportionments for Conference Claimants constitute the major portion of the "income for Conference Claimants." How could a surplus be built up from such income unless the apportionments are made to exceed the prospective annuity disbursements of a particular year?
It appears in this instance that the Board of Conference Claimants and the North Texas Annual Conference were undertaking to stabilize the annuity rate on a higher level than that previously existing in that Conference and were wholly within their rights in taking an action now under consideration.
The ruling of Bishop Selecman, as set forth, is hereby affirmed.