Decision Number 401
Ruling of Bishop Jack M. Tuell in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Regarding the Reporting of Pensions and Benefits in the Conference Journal and the Designating of Payments Within Ministerial Support.
Separate columns for reporting the amounts apportioned and paid for pensions and benefit purposes by each local church shall be provided in the conference statistical tables and the amounts recorded.
Further, the Discipline does not provide for a local church to designate its giving within the ministerial support items.
Statement of Facts
During the 1975 Session of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Elam J. Anderson, a ministerial member, in behalf of his local church at Emmett, Idaho, presented to the presiding bishop the following written request for a ruling:
"Therefore we respectfully request: that the chair rule the present collection policy out of order and insist either that the A/C comply with Discipline Par. 1260.6c or that provision be made for designated giving to the penalty-linked pension portion within the total Ministerial Support Apportionment."
In response to the request in writing Bishop Jack M. Tuell ruled as follows:
"1. I find that in regard to Paragraph 1260.6c that the annual conference is not in compliance. The conference statistical tables do provide a column for reporting pension and benefit purposes, but the amount paid thereon is not reported in that column, but only as a part of the entire ministerial support apportioned and paid. In order to comply with the Discipline, the figure apportioned for pensions and benefits and the amount paid for that purpose by each local church should be reported in appropriate columns.
"2. I find in response to the second request for a local church to be able to designate its giving within the ministerial support items that the Discipline does not allow such a practice. Paragraphs 859 and 889, among others make it clear that as the Judicial Council quoted from Bishop Short's book on its Decision No. 390, 'all the ministry of United Methodism is one ministry forever intimately related.' This historic concept, found to be constitutional in Decision 390, is a cornerstone of our connectional ministry and polity."
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Paragraph 1512 of the 1972 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
As the presiding bishop noted in his ruling, the request submitted by the ministerial member had two parts: 1. that the Annual Conference comply with Paragraph 1260.6c, and 2. that provision be made for designated giving by local churches within the total ministerial support apportionment.
In consideration of the first part, Paragraph 1260.6 reads:
"c) The conference statistical tables shall provide separate columns for reporting the amount apportioned to each pastoral charge for pension and benefit purposes and the amount paid thereon."
An examination of the Journals of several Annual Conferences reveals a variation in the statistical forms used by the Annual Conferences. The requirement of 1260.6c is sometimes ignored. As in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, the amounts apportioned and paid for pension and benefit purposes are combined with total ministerial support or other items.
Paragraph 1260.6c is a part of the "Proportional Payment" emphasis on pension and benefit programs. The purpose of a separate column for reporting is seen in the following Paragraph 1260.6d:
"On retirement, the amount that a pastor is in default shall be subject to deduction from the pastor's pension, in accordance with rules and regulations of the specific program or programs under which the pension is provided."
Bishop Tuell correctly ruled that only the amounts apportioned and paid for pension and benefit purposes should be reported in the appropriate columns.
Pensions and benefit programs are a part of total ministerial support. The petitioner noted, in presenting the second part of the request, however, that it was the only part with a penalty clause for non-payment, and raised the question of whether or not churches could designate giving to this "penalty-linked portion within the total ministerial support apportionment."
Proportional payments are required, however, by the Discipline for all the items of ministerial support, as the petitioner noted. Paragraph 889 reads:
"When the apportionments for bishops, district superintendents, conference claimants, and the Equitable Salary Fund for the several districts and charges have been determined, payments made to the same in each pastoral charge shall be exactly proportional to the amount paid on the ministerial salary or salaries (Par. 859). The treasurer or treasurers of each pastoral charge shall accordingly make proportional distribution of the funds raised in that charge for the support of the ministry and shall remit, monthly if practicable and quarterly at the latest, the items for bishops, district superintendents, conference claimants, and the Equitable Salary Fund to the proper treasurer or treasurers."
Further this obligation has been upheld by the Judicial Council in several decisions, including Judicial Council Decisions Nos. 250, 306, 320 and 390.
"The whole tradition of the traveling ministry of Methodism, supported by numerous paragraphs in the 1968 Discipline of The United Methodist Church gives an undeniable priority to ministerial support in the Church." Judicial Council Decision No. 306
Bishop Tuell was correct in ruling that the Discipline does not provide for a local church to designate its giving within the ministerial support items.
Separate columns for reporting the amounts apportioned and paid for pensions and benefit purposes by each local church shall be provided in the conference statistical tables and the amounts recorded thereon.
The Discipline does not provide for a local church to designate its giving within the ministerial support items.
The ruling of Bishop Jack M. Tuell is affirmed.