Decision Number 133
The Effective Date of Retirement in the Case of Voluntary Retirement of Ministers
The effective date of the retirement of a minister who voluntarily retires is the date of the adjournment of the Annual Conference which approved his retirement.
Statement of Facts
At the 1956 session of the Minnesota Annual Conference of The Methodist Church at Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 6 to 10, 1956, Paragraph 6 of the Standing Order No. 10 of the Conference was adopted as follows:
"When recommending the voluntary retirement of any minister to the Annual Conference, the Committee on Conference Relations should indicate after consultation with the minister concerned the effective date of retirement, such as June 30, or December 31. (This is subject to the declaratory decision of the Judicial Council.)"
Pursuant to the adoption of the foregoing order, the secretary of the Minnesota Annual Conference of The Methodist Church transmitted to the Judicial Council a request for a declaratory decision on whether or not the action of the Minnesota Annual Conference quoted above is in keeping with the law of the Church.
This question here presented comes before the Judicial Council in keeping with the provisions of Paragraph 914 (8) of the 1952 Discipline and we, therefore, assume jurisdiction.
Analysis and Rationale
The Annual Conference is the basic body of The Methodist Church (The Constitution of The Methodist Church, Division Two, Section VII, Article II, Paragraph 22 of the 1952 Discipline) and as such there is reserved to it "all matters relating to the character and conference relations of its ministerial members."
A Methodist minister in full connection is a member of an Annual Conference. At every session of his Annual Conference the relationship of a minister to that Annual Conference is fixed for the ensuing year.
It will be noted that it has become the policy of The Methodist Church, based upon long standing custom, if not by positive legislation of the Church, that the establishment of the relationships of the ministers of the Conference is fixed on an annual basis. The very term "Annual" Conference indicates that the work of the Church and of the ministers proceeds upon an annual basis.
Furthermore, as required by Paragraph 647 of the 1952 Discipline, the Committee on Conference Relations every year examines into the reports to the Annual Conference "regarding the standing of all ministers in the Conference" and upon this report when acted upon, the Conference fixes and establishes the relationships of its ministerial members for the ensuing year.
In cases where a minister seeks voluntary retirement, the Committee on Conference Relations receives his request, makes its report to the Conference and when Question No. 38 is called, as provided for in Paragraph 651 of the 1952 Discipline, the Conference acts upon such request and if the minister's request for retirement is acted upon favorably, it is so noted and the relationship of the minister for the ensuing year is thus determined. (See Paragraphs 367, 368, 369 and 370 of the 1952 Discipline.)
The Conference year of an Annual Conference ends upon the adjournment of the Annual Conference and the new year of that Conference begins immediately following adjournment. It should be noted that the Conference has no further opportunity to inquire into the character and Conference relations of its ministerial members until the next session of the Annual Conference is held and therefore has no opportunity to change the relationship of the individual ministers to the Conference until the next session of the Annual Conference.
Therefore the relationship of every minister to his Annual Conference is fixed and determined by the annual session of said Conference and the effective date of his relationship to the Annual Conference for the ensuing year is the date of the adjournment of his Conference.
The effective date of the retirement of a minister who seeks voluntary retirement from active service in his Annual Conference is the date of the adjournment of that session of his Annual Conference at which his request for retirement is approved and the Annual Conference can fix no other date.
It necessarily follows that the action taken by the 1956 session of the Minnesota Annual Conference and referred to above is not in keeping with the law of The Methodist Church.