From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:56:55


                          by Jane Dennis 
                  United Methodist News Service 
                     and Jerry L. Van Marter 
LITTLE ROCK--As pastors across the nation await a ruling on a case that 
ultimately may determine their profession's tax filing status, Sen. David 
Pryor (D-Ark.) has gone to bat for men and women of the cloth. 
     An appeal is pending in U.S. Tax Court in the case of Weber v. 
Commissioner regarding the employment status of members of the clergy.  In 
August 1994, the court held that an ordained minister of the United 
Methodist Church was an employee of the church.   
     That decision has since been appealed by the taxpayer, Michael Weber, 
a United Methodist pastor from Stonewall, N.C.  He contends, as many other 
clergy do, that he is self-employed and should be allowed to file as a 
self-employed taxpayer. 
     The Presbyterian News Service reported on the case in September, 
though it involved a Methodist minister, because Presbyterian Church 
(U.S.A.) general counsel Carolyn Shain said the impact of the ruling would 
eventually reach the PC (USA). 
     "This is a live issue for us," said the Rev. William F. Henning, Jr., 
executive presbyter for Arkansas Presbytery and a member of the PC(USA)'s 
Board of Pensions.  "Our whole pension system is predicated on the 
self-employment principle." 
     Pryor, a Presbyterian (and brother of a deceased Presbyterian 
minister) who serves on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the 
IRS, earlier this year requested and received confirmation from IRS 
commissioner Peggy Richardson that all pending audits of United Methodist 
clergy would be suspended until the Weber appeal is decided. 
     "But for Senator Pryor's efforts, I don't think we would have such a 
positive letter from Peggy Richardson promising the IRS would suspend all 
pending audits of clergy," Mary Logan, general counsel for the United 
Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration in Evanston, Ill., 
said in a telephone interview with the "Arkansas United Methodist" 
     "Senator Pryor has told us he is still getting letters from Methodist 
ministers in Arkansas asking him to please do something," Logan continued. 
"So the Methodist ministers need to know he has.  And they can be real 
proud that he represents them in Congress." 
     Henning said he and other Arkansas religious leaders met in Little 
Rock with Pryor a couple months ago about the case.  "We played ĎAin't It 
Awful' and he led the charge," said Henning. 
     After studying the case and hearing from a number of Arkansas clergy 
concerned about the outcome of the Weber case, Pryor requested the 
suspension of similar audits, according to Steve Glaze, tax counsel in 
Pryor's Washington office. 
     "We want to make sure that while this case was being decided in North 
Carolina ... the IRS wasn't picking out individual ministers and making 
their lives miserable while the Weber case is being decided," Glaze said. 
     Pryor hopes his action "might provoke some solace," at least 
temporarily, Glaze remarked. 
     Logan, who said she is hopeful the issue can be resolved by midyear, 
praised Pryor for his "hard work on behalf of the denomination," and added 
that "he is very supportive of ministers on the self-employment issue and 
continues to offer his help in our effort to resolve the matter with the 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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