AUTHORITY FOR ANNUAL CONFERENCE BUDGET

THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF

THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

IN THE MATTER OF

THE PETITION OF ALEXANDER ERWIN

DECISION No. 1992-008

This matter comes before the Council by letter which has been determined by the Council to the petitions for Declaratory Judgment by Alexander Erwin, Margie T. Hardin, Harold A. Thornton, James Smith, James Kendall, and Leacy Mae Flake, members in Good Standings of the A.M.E. Zion Church.

 

ARTICLE II - THE JURISDICTION[1]

 

            B.  The Judicial Council shall (not) have original jurisdiction, and since decisions are declaratory and final in the interim of the General Conference.

 

ARTICLE III - DUTIES[2]

 

            2.         To hear and make declaratory judgment and petition to do so when any law is subject to more than one interpretation or any paragraph in the Book of Discipline is of doubtful meaning.  Any person in good and regular standing in the A.M.E. Zion Church can petition the Judicial Council for such a judgment.  The Council’s decision is final unless revised or reversed by the General Connection.

 

 

QUESTIONS CONSIDERED

  1.  Authority for the Annual Conference budget

  2. The form of submission of the budget to the Annual Conference

  3. The Constitution of Makeup of the Annual Conference budget

  4. The change of the date and time of the Annual Conference

  5. Collection and Distribution of the funds in the Annual Conference or check-up meeting

 

A.    Authority for the Annual Conference budget

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

 

The Petitioner presented the following questions to the Council:

 

  1. Is it proper for the Bishop of a Conference to call for, and the Budget or Finance Committee to collect funds when the Annual Conference has not approved a budget?

  2.  Is it proper for a Bishop, Budget or Finance Committee to collect funds from the Annual Conference when the Bishop has not called a session of the Annual Conference for the purpose of adoption and ratification of the Budget?

 

Decision 

 

The Book of Discipline (1988) clearly defines the makeup of the Annual Conference body in Paragraph 98, and prescribes its authority for construction and adoption of a budget.  The process for formulating and approving of a budget is also defined in Paragraphs 357, 357.1 and 357.2.  The Board/Committee is elected by the Annual Conference and should be composed of the Presiding Bishop, the Presiding Elders, three ministers, and a number of lay members equal to the number of presiding elders and ministers.

 

The Board/Committee draws up the budget at the beginning of each quadrennium and presents it to the Annual Conference for ratification.  Paragraph 357.3 restricts the Bishop from requiring any funds from the Annual Conference other than what is in its budget.

 

The Book of Discipline does not specify what process to take place in the interim prior to the calling of the Annual Conference for the purpose of adoption of a budget.  But under normal circumstances, a Conference presumably would operate on the budget of the previous quadrennium until such time as the budget for the new quadrennium is adopted.

 

The questions presented involve six paragraphs of the Discipline.  The paragraphs involved are Paragraphs 98, Page 43, Paragraph 348.2, Page 156, Paragraph 357, Page 168, Paragraph 357.1, Page 168, Paragraph 357.2, Page 168, and Paragraph 357.3, Page 168. (Book of Discipline, 1988).

 

 

B.     The Form for Submission of the Budget

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

 

      The petitioners presented a question to the Council: Does the budget have to be submitted in writing or is an oral budget sufficient under Church law? The question presented involves several sections of the Discipline:

 

Paragraph 105, Page 44

“That the proceedings of the Annual Conference may be properly recorded, the Statistics accurately reported, and the Connectional Budget duly accounted for, let the following rules be observed:”

Paragraph 105.3, Page 44

That in order to insure accountability, each Annual Conference shall develop a budget for Annual Conference operations.  Within 60 days of the close of each Annual Conference, the Annual Conference Audit Committee shall be required to inspect the records of the Budget Committee, Finance Committee, and the Treasurer.  The above Mentioned Committee’s records shall include all financial transactions for the entire conference year.”

 

Paragraph 105.4, Page 45

The Audit Committee of the Annual Conference shall be required to certify all Annual Conference fiscal records and provide certified copy to the Finance Department of the A.M.E. Zion Church, and a copy to the General Secretary-Auditor.  This shall be done within 90 days of the close of Annual Conference.  The Financial Secretary of the A.M.E. Zion Church shall include in her/his report to the Connectional Council the audited and certified reports for each Annual Conference.

 

These sections do not specify particularly the forum in which the budget must be presented to the Annual Conference, but it is obvious from the requirements of record keeping, accountability and auditing that the budget must be in written form.

 

C.    Constitution or Make-up of the Annual Conference Budget

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

 

The petitioners present the following questions to the Council:

1.      By what authority within the Discipline can a Bishop require churches to pay money in excess of the amount [The $10,000 for Episcopal Assistance included under Connectional Claims”] especially when Paragraph 74, Page 34, appears to prohibit such action?

 

2.     By what authority may a Bishop include in an Annual Conference Budget an amount for "Ecumenical expenses" in excess of those specified by the General Conference, especially when Page  34, Paragraph 74 appears to prohibit such action?

 

3.      Does the General Claims for each Church in the Conference include a proportional sum to be paid for "Ecumenical Memberships" and "Ecumenical Representation"?  If so, by what authority can a Bishop include additional sums for Ecumenical expense in an Annual Conference budget?

 

4.   By what authority may a Bishop increase his Episcopal Assistance or raise funds for Episcopal Travel beyond the amounts specified in the Connectional Budget by the General Conference?

 

Decision

 

      The questions presented involve several sections of the Discipline:

 

Paragraph 327, Page 147, Paragraph 328, Page 148,

 

Paragraph 357, Page 168, Paragraph 357.1, Page 168,

 

Paragraph 357.2, Page 168, Paragraph 357.3 Page 168,

 

Paragraph 348.2, Sub-Paragraph 2, Page156

A Bishop shall receive no funds of any kind from an Annual Conference over which he presides.  There shall be only two exceptions to this rule: (1) That the Annual Conference shall provide through its budget for the Presiding Bishop's travel only what he is required to eulogize a member of the Annual Conference (Clergy or Lay).  The Bishop shall provide a voucher/receipt for air fare and lodging and the Annual Conference shall provide only the actual cost.   (2) An Annual Conference shall have the privilege to give, at the end of a Quadrennium, a testimonial banquet or other observance for the Presiding Bishop.  At which time an honorarium, not to exceed an amount representing 7% of one year’s connectional  assessment of the Annual Conference.  (Discipline at 148, Par. 328).

 

      The Book of Discipline does not limit the make-up of the Annual Conference Budget.  Each Annual Conference is left with the freedom to include in its budget the funds necessary for the operation of the Conference according to its needs and requirements.

      The monies for Bishops' "Episcopal Assistance," "Ecumenical expenses," Ecumenical Membership," and "Ecumenical Representation" are all included in the connectional budget as approved by the General Conference and apportioned among the Churches.

 

      Each Annual Conference is apportioned a certain amount as its share of the Connection Budget which may be placed as a line item in the Annual Conference Budget.  It does not relate in any other way to the items in the connectional budget.

 

      Bishops are restricted from collecting any other connectional monies except apportioned amounts for the Connectional Budget.

 

      However, an Annual Conference is not restricted from including in its budget certain funds for local and state "ecumenical expenses," "ecumenical membership," "ecumenical representation" as it deems necessary to meet its obligations and commitments at that level.

 

      Bishops are restricted from requiring Churches or Annual Conferences to pay money for "Episcopal Assistance" or Episcopal Travel."  Paragraph 328 gives two exceptions to this prescription whereby travel to eulogize members of the Annual Conference, and a limited amount for the quadrennial honorarium is permitted to be included in the Annual Conference Budget.

 

      Any other funds for Episcopal Assistance or travel would  be left at the discretion of the Annual Conference and its budgetary provisions, not at the demand of the Episcopal leader.

 

      D.  Change of the Date and Time of the Annual Conference

 

FACT OF THE CASE

 

      The petitions presented a question to the Council: By what authority can a Bishop change the time of an Annual Conference, if written consent has not been given by a majority of the ministers of the Conference?

 

Decisions

 

      The question presented involves one section of the Discipline.

 

Paragraph 100, Page 43

 

The Annual Conference shall appoint the time and place of its own sitting.  But should it become necessary to change the time or place of its setting, after it has been fixed, the Bishop can, after obtaining written consent of a majority of the Ministers in the Conference, change either the time or place.

It is clearly stated by the Discipline that the Bishop can change the place or time of the setting of the Annual Conference with the Consent of a majority of the Ministers of the Conference.

 

E.  Collection and Distribution of Funds in the Annual Conference or Check-up Meeting.

 

FACT OF THE CASE

 

      Petitioners presented the following questions to the Council:

 

1.      Excluding the two cited exceptions, what is the interpretation of the sentence, Paragraph 328, Page 148: "A Bishop shall receive no funds of any kind from an Annual Conference over which he presides.”?

 

2.     What is the interpretation  of the section of the Discipline, Paragraph 328.1 Page 148:

 

"There shall be no other provisions for the Presiding Bishop of an Annual Conference to receive funds for Check-up Meeting, Workshops, Institute, or any other meeting of the Annual Conference or Local District Conference."

 

3.     Can a Bishop require churches of the Conference to pay a registration fee for Check-up Meeting?  If so, what distribution can be made of the funds collected?

 

4.     Can a Bishop require churches in the Conference to pay a registration fee for “leadership training" when Paragraph 328.1, Page 148, stated that no such fund shall be received by the Bishop for "Workshops and Institute"?  If so, what disposition can be made of such funds by said Bishop?

 

Decision

 

      The questions presented involve two sections of the Discipline.

 

Paragraph 328, page 148

A Bishop shall receive no funds of any kind from an Annual Conference over which he presides.  There shall be only two exceptions to this rule: (1) That the Annual Conference shall provide through its budget for the Presiding Bishop's travel only what he is required to eulogize a member of the Annual Conference (Clergy or Lay).  The Bishop shall provide a voucher/receipt for air fare and lodging and the Annual Conference shall provide only the actual cost.   (2) An Annual Conference shall have the privilege to give, at the end of a Quadrennium, a testimonial banquet or other observance for the Presiding Bishop.  At which time an honorarium, not to exceed an amount representing 7% of one year’s connectional  assessment of the Annual Conference. (Discipline at 148, Par. 328).

 

Paragraph 328.1, Page 148

 

“There shall be no other provisions for the Presiding Bishop of an Annual Conference to receive funds for Check-up Meetings, Workshops, Institutions, or any other special meetings of the Annual Conference or Local District Conference.”  The Discipline clearly states that the Bishop shall receive no funds of any kind from and Annual Conference over which he presides, except in the two exceptions provided.

 

Also it is clearly stated that no provisions, other than the exceptions given, may be made for the Presiding Bishop of an Annual Conference to receive funds for Check-up Meetings, Workshops, Institutions, or any other special meetings of the Annual Conference or Local District Conference.

 

However, the Annual Conference is not restricted to these directives from including in its budget line items and apportionment as for the conductance of meetings, workshops, institutions, etc., as necessary for the life and development of the Conference.  The Conference is left free to make its own decisions about collection of these necessary funds through registration fees, etc.  The restriction is that the Bishop may not receive such funds for his personal use or expenses.

 

BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL THIS 31st DAY OF MARCH, 1993.

ALL Concurring

Mozella G. Mitchell, for the Judicial Council

St. Louis, MO 31106

March 10, 1993

Received by STAR OF ZION

(4/28/93)

 

Star of Zion May 13, 1993 page 6 - 7

 

[1] Originally cited incorrectly as Article I.

[2] Originally cited incorrectly as Article VI.

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