THE AUTHORITY OF PRESIDING PRELATES: MISSIONARIES AND FIELD WORKERS' SALARY ADMINISTRATION IN NEWLY ESTABLISHED OVERSEAS CONFERENCES

THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF

THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

IN THE MATTER OF

THE PETITION OF BISHOP CHUKA EKEMAM, SR.

DECISION No. 2010-025

This case comes before the Council by a petition for declaratory judgment filed by Bishop S. Chuka Ekemam, Sr., Presiding Prelate of Eastern West Africa Episcopal District, a Bishop in The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

 

According to the petition and the testimony of the petitioner, the Chairmen of the Board of Overseas Missions usurped, what was thought, the sole prerogative of the Presiding Prelate and the Executive Board of the Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society to direct the recruitment and salary administration of Field Workers.  Consequentially the Chair’s actions were gleaned by the petitioner as impeding his ability to carry forth the missionary mandate to expand the work.

 

The petitioner invokes a declaratory judgment as to (1) the general practice of.  compensating with denominational funds duly appointed Missionaries of various vocations, including Field Workers, solely on the basis of a bishop’s appointment, and (2) the Presiding Prelate’s authorization to direct said funds to compensate appointed Missionaries and Field Workers in newly established (overseas) Conferences that have yet to be seated at the General Conference

 

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

 

1.   Whether a missionary duly and properly appointed by a Presiding Prelate to serve as Presiding Elder, Pastor, Field Worker or School Head is entitled to salary, stipend or any remuneration based on the bishop’s appointment.

 

2.  Whether personnel serving in a newly organized overseas conference that has not been seated at the General Conference is barred from receiving salaries, stipends or remuneration for the work done in that conference.

 

DECISION

 

[1]       Due to the complexities of administering two distinct, yet intricately related, entities: such as the Board of Overseas Missions and Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society (hereinafter, “W. H. & O. M. Society”), with overlapping authority to grow and support the Church’s overseas work in cooperation with Presiding Prelates and Missionary Supervisors, The Discipline of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: 2008 (hereinafter “The Discipline”) provides some guidance to the orderly administration of the Church’s overseas endeavors.

 

Although the W. H. & O. M. Society is an auxiliary of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church with its own Constitution and By-Laws, the Board of Overseas Missions of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is the “point of official contact and relationship” between the former and the General Church (The Discipline Part I, Article III, §1, (page 230)).  Furthermore, the Executive Board members of the W. H. & O. M. Society are by law members of the Executive Board of the Overseas Mission Board (The Discipline, ¶618, (page 226)), as members they have both the ability to shape and be shaped by the policies of the Overseas Mission Board.

 

Moreover, pursuant to §621 (page 226): “The [Overseas Mission] Board shall have the right to change or discontinue any Mission station and the service of any Missionary, when it deems either one unprofitable.” [Emphasis added].

 

Notwithstanding duly appointed overseas Missionaries and Field Workers by a Presiding Prelate are entitled to salary, stipend or remuneration based on the bishop’s appointment, in accordance with the following provisos.

 

The Discipline distinguishes between the salary administration and placement of Missionaries and Field Workers.  It states that:

 

            The Overseas Mission Board shall have the power to employ Ministers, Physicians and Teachers as Missionaries from any of our Conferences who are willing to labor in Mission fields with the consent of the Bishop of said Conference and determine the amount of support necessary to sustain each one in his/her station.  The Discipline at §620 (page 226). Additionally,

 

Persons selected to serve as Field Workers in the Overseas Mission program under the auspices of the Executive Board of the Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society and the Board of Bishops of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church…. A Field Worker will be selected by the Presiding Bishops and Missionary Supervisors of the Overseas Conferences.

 

The Discipline at Article III, §1.I, (page 270).  Furthermore pursuant to Article III, §1.g.2 (page 269): “Only one (1) Field Worker per Overseas Conference shall be on salary.”

 

Accordingly, the Presiding Prelate of an Overseas Conference in consultation with the Overseas Mission Board, respecting Missionaries, and the Executive Board of the W.H.& O.M. Society and Board of Bishops, regarding Field Workers, has the authority to select said personnel and to determine the appropriate salary for each one in his/her station. 

 

The aforementioned provisions evidence an orderly administration of salary and placement of both missionaries and Field Workers.  The hiring and placing of salaried missionaries in various vocations, however, appear broader than the more restrictive employing of Field workers.  The number of salaried missionaries employed and their placement in the overseas Mission field of an Episcopal District is not restricted according to church law.  Given that The Discipline does not specify the boundaries of nor what it means exactly by, the Overseas Mission Board’s term: “Mission field,” it could rightfully be conceived by the Wesleyan notion that “The whole world is my parish.”  Accordingly, the Mission field would be inclusive of Overseas Conferences, newly established (overseas) Conferences, and virgin overseas mission fields either within or on the periphery of an Episcopal District.  Thus salaried missionaries could be employed to penetrate new overseas mission fields in accordance with the aforementioned provisions in law, while Field Workers are restricted to the confines of an Overseas Conference. 

 

Thus The Discipline, regarding these matters, makes provisions for both the strengthening of Overseas Conferences and the developing of new mission fields.

 

[2]       The question before the Judicial Council is whether personnel serving in a newly organized overseas conference that has not been seated at the General Conference is barred from receiving salaries, stipends or remuneration for the work done in that conference. The question is novel and one of first appearance.  To address this question, we must first look at the establishment rule for conferences within The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.  The rule for newly established conferences is to seat delegates at the supreme governing body .The Discipline, ¶112, (page 35) states that “The General Conference is the supreme body of the A.M.E. Zion Church.”  It is composed of ministerial and lay delegates elected from the Annual Conferences.  The establishment of an annual conference is in the purview of the Presiding Prelate, however, according to ¶113.4 (page 35), “Newly established annual conferences shall have been approved by the Board of Bishops and the Connectional Council and shall have been in existence at least two years prior to the regular opening session of the General Conference.”  The rule for newly established conferences is to seat delegates at the supreme governing body; that is to enjoy the privilege of at least ministerial and one lay delegate.  It further provides that:

 

In order for newly established annual conferences to enjoy the privilege of at one ministerial delegate, said annual conference shall have been in existence with an active membership for at least two years prior to the regular opening session of the General Conference and shall have received the approval of the Board of Bishops and the Connectional Council.

 

The Discipline at ¶113.5 (page 36).  In that Field Workers are a part of the constructed program for Overseas Missions for the W.H. & O.M. Society, the issue at hand addresses a Field Worker that is a member of an Overseas Conference that has not been seated at the General Conference.  The only requirement for a Field Worker is to be an active member of the A.M.E. Zion Church in good standing for two (2) years and selected by the Presiding Bishop and Missionary Supervisor of the Overseas Conference.  It is arguable that the two-year good standing requirement for the Field Worker is consistent with the two year requirement for a Conference to be in existence prior to the regular opening session of the General Conference.  However, the Annual Conference must be an established one.

 

We turn now to what constitutes an “established conference.”  The Discipline, ¶112, supra, sets for the condition for a newly established conference to enjoy the privilege of having delegates at the General Conference.  In stating the obvious, the rule presupposes an established conference that would be granted this privilege must (1) be in existence for at least two years before the opening session, (2) be approved by the Board of Bishops, and (3) be approved by the Connectional Council.  If all of these elements are present, then the conference organized by the Presiding Prelate is an “Annual Conference.” 

 

In the instant case, the newly organized conference has been in existence for two years, approved by the Board of Bishops and the Connectional Council but has not yet been seated at the General Conference.  We therefore conclude that since the three elements are in existence, then the newly established conference, although not seated at the General Conference, is an “Overseas Conference” for the purpose of recruiting and employing personnel and one (1) salaried Field Worker.  The fact that the Conference has not been seated by the General Conference will not serve as a bar to said personnel from receiving salaries, stipends or remuneration for the work done in that conference. Of course, if the conference has not achieved all of the three required elements, it is not a newly established conference, therefore, a Field Worker cannot receive a salary.  The Presiding Bishop, the Board of Overseas Missions and the W.H. & O.M. Society operating consistent with this decision would be within the guidelines of the The Discipline. There is nothing however, within this opinion or the laws of the The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church that preclude some form of support that the W.H. & O.M. Society may in its sole discretion desire to give. 

 

BY ORDER OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL, THIS 20th DAY OF May, 2010.

All concurring.

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