IS “A FUTURE WITH HOPE, INC.” A UNITED METHODIST AGENCY?
If you feel like you’ve seen the largest part of the text of this decision before, it is because everything down to the analysis is verbatim from JCD 1259. It was copied to give this decision its full background and identification of the question being ruled upon.
This docket item comes back to the Council from the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference from the fall session where the Council said it needed to see the incorporation papers in order to see if the emergency agency set up to help meet the challenges of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is an agency of the conference and therefore a conference liability.
The Council got the papers and ruled that while related to the conference by virtue of its officers and the funding being from the conference, the corporation was not otherwise organically related. Legally, the funds and officers could be from anywhere according to the by-laws. While the goals of the corporation and the conference are the same, the corporation arose to meet emergency needs of the conference. It was time-saving to set up the administrative “costs of office space, accounting, and support services to be underwritten” by the conference. While that makes the corporation seem like it “looks, walks, and quacks like a duck,” in fact the two bodies are legally separate. There was no vote by the conference to be a guarantor of the corporation, which is the bishop’s key argument. The Council upheld the bishop’s ruling. The corporation does not fit the Book of Discipline’s definition of an “agency.” While the corporation could seek funding from the conference beyond the administrative aid already promised, one fourth of funds raised would remain in the local church, and the conference could vote down such a request.
The Council warns that the relationship is so close that the boundaries between the corporation and the conference will have to be carefully monitored on both sides so that liability is not intermingled. This is especially true because of the emergency nature of the establishment of the corporation.
See the concluding thughts below for further remarks.