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Special Circumstances

In recognition of the special situations that may occur during your ministry, the Clergy Pension Plan provides certain exceptions to Plan rules that waive assessments for a specified period, or permit you to pay assessments directly. 

If you are approved for a special circumstance exception, you may be eligible for the following:

  • Disability retirement benefit
  • Life insurance benefit
  • Lump sum death benefit
  • Survivor's benefit

The benefits will continue for up to six months after you stop paying assessments or the period during which payment of assessments has been waived.

Does a special circumstance apply to you?

Newly Ordained and Job Hunting

If you have been ordained to the diaconate but do not have a compensated position in the Episcopal Church, you may earn up to one year of Credited Service (CS) by personally paying your assessments. The amount of the assessment is based on the Clergy Pension Plan’s Hypothetical Minimum Compensation.

Upon Reception

Upon reception into the Episcopal Church, you may earn up to one year of Credited Service (CS) for services performed for an Episcopal employer prior to your reception by paying assessments on the Hypothetical Minimum Compensation or your actual compensation for that period of service, if higher.

Between Jobs in the Church

If you've been ordained to the diaconate and you're between cures:

  • You can earn one year of Credited Service (CS) by paying personal assessments directly to the Church Pension Plan.
  • The assessments you pay are calculated based on whichever is lower:

Accruing Full-Time or Part-Time Credited Service

You can earn full-time credited service:

  • If you earn $18,2001 or more per year and are working the full year for pay. You will be credited with the actual salary earned, provided your assessments are fully paid.
  • By establishing a make-up account and paying assessments on the difference between $18,200 and your actual salary earned during the year2, if you earn less than $18,200. Assessments must be paid on the income you earned.

If your income is less than $18,200 and you do not elect to pay the additional assessment, you will be credited with part-time service based on your actual salary as a percentage of $18,200. For example, if you earn $9,100, you will be credited with a half-year of credited service.

This amount is known as the Hypothetical Minimum Compensation. It is subject to change by the CPF Board.
If no salary is earned, a different rule applies. See the Guide to the Clergy Pension Plan.

Changes in Ecclesiastical Status

If you have been suspended, you may pay your assessments during your suspension period or for a maximum of one year, whichever is less.

  • Your assessments are calculated based on your last full-time total assessable compensation or your Highest Average Compensation (HAC), whichever is lower.
  • If you are deposed or removed, you may no longer actively participate in the Clergy Pension Plan. However, any vested retirement benefits you have earned through the date of your deposition or removal will be available to you when you retire.

Extension of Ministry

If you are starting a new position at an organization that does not participate in the Clergy Pension Plan, you may have the option to participate in the Clergy Pension Plan. Extension of Ministry allows you to continue to accrue Credited Service (CS) toward your retirement benefit and protect the other benefits available to you as a participant in the Clergy Pension Plan, provided assessments are paid on your compensation.

To qualify for an Extension of Ministry exception:

  • You must be in good standing
  • Your position includes educational and/or social work with a significant pastoral aspect, chaplaincy, or other religious duties that advance the mission of the Episcopal Church and do not violate the Constitutions and Canons of the Church. Strictly secular work is not included.
  • The Clergy Plan administrator and your canonical bishop must approve the exception.

To apply for an Extension of Ministry:

  • You, your canonical bishop, and the bishop of the diocese where you will be working must complete and submit the Extension of Ministry application to:

    Benefits Policy
    The Church Pension Fund
    19 East 34th Street
    New York, NY 10016

  • The application requires:
    • A description of your duties
    • A letter from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese you are canonically resident providing an explanation of how your work meets the criteria detailed above
    • Compensation information and an indication whether you or your employer (or both) will be responsible for payment of your assessments for the Pension Plan. Assessments must be paid during your Extension of Ministry for you to accrue CS and be eligible for the benefits available to participants in the Clergy Pension Plan.
The Pension Plan administrator will notify you if your application has been approved. Your Extension of Ministry will be approved for a period no longer than two years, and you and your canonical bishop must request a renewal at least three months before the approved period expires. There is no limit on the total number of renewals that may be granted.

Graduate Study

If you attend graduate school in a course of study to strengthen your ministry, your assessments may be waived. You may earn up to three years of Credited Service (CS) based on the hypothetical minimum compensation, provided that:

  • You are in good standing
  • Your canonical bishop recommends waiver of assessments
  • You have earned at least three (3) years of CS in the Clergy Pension Plan before beginning your graduate study
  • The Pension Plan administrator approves the waiver
  • You earn additional years of CS between the end of your studies and retirement, equal to the time for which your assessments were waived

Family and Medical Leave

If you take an unpaid leave of absence to care for a new child (either newly born or newly adopted) or spouse, partner, child, or parent during the family member’s serious illness, you can earn up to 12 weeks of Credited Service (CS) during a 12-month period by personally paying assessments during your leave. These assessments are based on either your total assessable compensation immediately prior to your leave or the Clergy Pension Plan’s Hypothetical Minimum Compensation.

  • Leave to care for a new child must occur within one year of the child’s birth or adoption.
  • Leave to care for an immediate family member must be supported by a statement from the family member’s physician regarding the nature of the illness and the need for the care.

Overseas Missionaries

If you are an appointed missionary through the Episcopal Church Center to serve overseas:

  • Your assessment will be based on the past year’s national median clergy compensation. The assessment base is subject to annual review and adjustment based upon median compensation figures.
  • The assessment will be paid for you.
For details, please download Retirement Benefits and Savings Options - International.

Military Service

The Church Pension Fund has special agreements with the Office of the Bishop Suffragan for Armed Services and Federal Ministries covering clergy who serve as chaplains in active military service. If you are called to active duty, contact Client Services for more information at (866) 802-6333, Monday - Friday, 8:30AM - 8:00PM ET (excluding holidays).

If you are Reserve or National Guard member called to active duty, The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires employers to:

  • Maintain pension coverage during eligible active deployment
  • Guarantee equivalent employment after release from eligible federal service
Under USERRA, the Clergy Pension Plan requires that assessments for clergy called to active service in the military be paid in full while you are on active duty. The Office of the Bishop Suffragan for Armed Services and Federal Ministries and CPF can offer assistance to employers providing the support required by the law (“Special Mobilization Support Plan”).

Other Anglican Communions

If part of your service takes place in another part of the Anglican Communion:

  • You may still be vested in the Clergy Pension Plan if you have earned a total of five (5) years of combined Credited Service (CS).
    • At least two (2) of your five (5) years of Credited Service must be based on participation in the Clergy Pension Plan.
    • Your retirement benefits from the Clergy Pension Plan will be based exclusively on the compensation and Credited Service you earn as an active participant in the Clergy Pension Plan.

Special rules apply to clergy in certain religious orders.

For more information about these special circumstances, please review the Guide to Benefits Under the Clergy Pension Plan or contact Client Services at (855) 215-6333, Monday - Friday, 8:30AM ‐ 8:00PM ET.

Pensions Disclaimer

Right Rail

Clergy Pension Plan Revisions

The Church Pension Fund has announced revisions to the Clergy Pension Plan and related benefits expected to be effective January 1, 2018.

Learn more

If you are planning on retiring in 2017 or 2018, contact CPG to schedule a retirement discussion at
(866) 802-6333
Monday - Friday
8:30AM - 8:00PM ET
(excluding holidays).