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Previous General Conference References (81575-FA-NonDis-$)

Report No. 13

    This report contains responses to two matters referred to the General Council on Administration (GCFA) by the 2004 General Conference and a continuation of work on a referral from the 2000 General Conference.
1.    The 2004 General Conference received a report on the use of income from the Methodist Corporation Trust Fund as a part of a joint report with the General Council on Ministries (GCOM).  The report directed GCFA to identify alternative uses of the income generated by this Fund that were consistent with the vision articulated by the 1976 General Conference.  The following is the direction provided by the 1976 General Conference:
   “Upon the liquidation of the assets of The Methodist Corporation, the resulting fund, after the payment and satisfaction of all debts, shall be conveyed, assigned, and transferred by the General Council on Finance and Administration to such religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational organization or organizations as the General Conference of The United Methodist Church shall direct.”
    The liquidated assets of the Corporation were distributed in four parts.  The first part, totaling $ 913,882.24, was returned to the annual conferences in proportion to their contributions towards the purchase of a headquarters property in Washington, D.C.  The second part, totaling $ 1,438,912.00, was returned to the General Administration Fund that had provided additional funding for the purchase of this property.  The third part, which was to be accumulated to an amount totaling $ 2,000,000, went to establish a trust fund to be known as The Methodist Corporation Scholarship Fund.
    Originally, this scholarship fund was under the custody and control of GCFA, with the income from the investment of this fund to be made available annually to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) to grant scholarships to students enrolled in United Methodist-related colleges and universities.  This scholarship program was to be evaluated by GCFA and GBHEM, with a recommendation to the 1988 General Conference for continuance or modification.
    The recommendation to the 1988 General Conference was to continue The Methodist Corporation Scholarship Fund as a permanent fund.  It was further recommended that custody and control of those funds be transferred to GBHEM at such time and under such conditions as were mutually agreeable to the two agencies.  The transfer of those funds, totaling $ 2,093,679, was completed on June 30, 1989, with GBHEM to receive a share of any additional liquidation proceeds.  The final proceeds from the liquidation of assets were received in 1991 and GCFA took action to dissolve The Methodist Corporation on December 6, 1991.
    The fourth part of the 1976 distribution of assets from The Methodist Corporation was a recommendation to establish a trust fund to be known as The Methodist Corporation Fund.  Funds were to be accumulated to the principal amount of the remaining proceeds totaling $ 973,195.76 more or less, with the fund to be under the custody and control of GCFA.  The income from the investment of this fund up to $50,000 annually was initially to be made available to The Churches’ Center for Theology and Public Policy, a new ecumenical, interdisciplinary research organization devoted to the development and fostering of theological bases addressed to public policy decision-makers.
    This use of the income was to be reevaluated by GCFA and the General Council on Ministries (GCOM), with a recommendation to be submitted by these councils to the 1980 General Conference.  That reevaluation resulted in a recommendation to continue distributing $ 50,000 of the income to The Churches Center on an annual basis with another evaluation and a recommendation by GCFA and GCOM to the 1984 General Conference.  This pattern of recommendations to continue funding to The Churches’ Center with subsequent evaluation and recommendation continued until the 2004 General Conference.
    From 1976 through 2004, the joint review committees had repeatedly encouraged The Churches’ Center to seek funding from its ecumenical partners with little success.  There were some small contributions from other communions, but the overwhelming bulk of the funding was from the income on the Methodist Corporation Trust Fund.  After some intensive dialogue with the staff of The Churches’ Center and work with a consultant that was not fully productive, the joint committee recommended and the 2004 General Conference voted to discontinue funding The Churches’ Center from this source.  The GCFA and GCOM were to make a recommendation to the 2008 General Conference for future use of the income from this fund.
    The General Council on Finance and Administration has evaluated alternative uses of this income and has determined that the following uses of the income from this Fund are consistent with the expressed intent of the 1976 General Conference.  
    The 2004 General Conference approved legislation that requested the Council of Bishops (COB) to update or revise the In Defense of Creation document and study guide, with funding of $132,000 for this update/revision to come from the income on the Methodist Corporation Trust Fund.  The COB Task Force that was assigned responsibility for managing this project has determined that it will require an additional $290,000 to fully complete the project.  GCFA recommends that the additional $290,000 be sourced from the accumulated income on this Fund.
    The Permanent Fund (¶ 807.3) was created to contain donations, bequests or gifts to The United Methodist Church where no designated use was specified.  The fund is administered by GCFA as directed by the General Conference.  The income from this fund has been designated to be distributed to support the general agencies receiving support from the World Service Fund.  Since the work of those general agencies encompasses areas of a “religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational”  
nature as directed by the 1976 General Conference, GCFA recommends that the principal and accumulated interest, after setting aside the additional amount for the above COB project, be added to the Permanent Fund, with income continuing to be allocated for support of the work of the general program agencies through the World Service Fund.

2.    The 2004 General Conference referred Petition Number 41167 (page 1187 in the ADCA), Calendar Number 895 (page 1737 in the DCA) to the General Council on Finance and Administration for its consideration and review.  That petition requested the amendment of ¶ 355 in The 2000 Book of Discipline (¶ 358 in The Book of Discipline 2004) by changing the name of “incapacity leave” resulting from health matters and disabling conditions to “extended medical leave.”  
    This proposed name change has been reviewed with staff of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, as well as our agency’s legal staff.  The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits has expressed concerns that this name change could heighten the fear conference benefits personnel already have of crossing HIPAA and Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) boundaries in dealing with potential disability cases.  While the wording change itself may have no legal ramifications, it could lead to more concern and misunderstanding, and could further diminish the significance of the Joint Committees on Incapacity.  The term “Extended Medical Leave” would be more likely than “Incapacity Leave” to be confused with similar terminology that might appear in health plans, FMLA provisions, or similar plans or policies.  The proposed change would also presumably result in organizations and structures at all levels of the Church needing to revise forms, documents, and publications to incorporate the new terminology, the third name change within this decade.
    Due to these concerns, GCFA recommends that the petition for this name change not be approved by the 2008 General Conference.

3.    The 2000 General Conference approved a petition recommending an Immigration Task Force be created to examine certain legal immigration issues.  (Resolution 338, 2000 Book of Resolutions).  This task force was continued by the 2004 General Conference. (Resolution 365, 2004 Book of Resolutions).  The focus of this task force was on compliance with the various federal immigration laws and regulations affecting United Methodist clergy under appointment.
    The task force met several times by conference call and discussed numerous issues related to legal compliance for our clergy, especially in the context of the heightened enforcement environment following September 11.  In the course of these conversations several key compliance problems were identified that will need continued attention in the future.  However, these compliance issues can probably be addressed more directly and efficiently by general agency staff working together on an ad-hoc basis.
    For this reason, GCFA recommends General Conference discontinue this Immigration Task Force but encourage general agency staff to cooperate in continuing the work on these important issues facing the Church.
    [Note: The Immigration Task Force discussed above is distinct from and has a different mission and focus than the other immigration related task force created by the 2000 General Conference (Resolution 107, 2000 Book of Resolutions), and continued by the 2004 General Conference (Resolution 118, 2004 Book of Resolutions).]