Special Circumstances

Although uncommon, there are special circumstances in which clergy may earn years of Credited Service while not actively working in the diaconate or priesthood.

Upon Ordination to the Diaconate

Clergy may earn up to one year of Credited Service for the period between ordination to the diaconate and ordination to the priesthood by paying assessments themselves, if they are not employed.

  • These assessments are calculated based on the Clergy Pension Plan’s hypothetical minimum compensation .
  • During this time, clergy are eligible for the following benefits:
    • The Disability Retirement Benefit
    • The Lump Sum Death Benefit
    • The survivor’s benefit
  • This coverage continues for up to six months after the cleric stops paying assessments.

Upon Reception

Upon reception into the Church, clergy may earn up to one year of Credited Service by paying assessments on their actual compensation for the year of service or the hypothetical minimum, if higher.

Between Jobs in the Church

If a cleric has been ordained to the diaconate or priesthood and is between jobs:

  • He or she can earn one year of Credited Service by paying personal assessments directly to The Church Pension Fund.
  • The assessments are based on whichever is lower:
  • Although a cleric can only earn one year of Credited Service, he or she can be covered by benefits provided through the pension plan (such as life insurance and survivor's benefits) for a total of 18 months.
  • Coverage includes the Disability Retirement Benefit, Lump Sum Death Benefit, and the survivor benefit.

Accruing Full–time or Part–Time Credited Service

Clerics can earn full-time credited service:

  • If the cleric earns $18,2001 or more per year.  He or she will be credited with the actual salary earned, provided assessments are fully paid.
  • By establishing a make-up account and paying assessments on the difference between $18,200 and the cleric's actual salary earned during the year,2 if the cleric earns less than $18,200.  Assessments must be paid on the earned income.

If the cleric's income is less than $18,200 and he or she does not elect to pay the additional assessment, he or she will be credited with part-time service based on his or her actual salary as a percentage of $18,200.  For example, if the cleric earns $9,100, he or she will be credited with a half-year of credited service.

1This amount is known as the Hypothetical Minimum Compensation.  It is subject to change by the CPF Board.
2If no salary is earned, a different rule applies.  See the Guide to the Clergy Pension Plan.

Change in Ecclesiastical Status

If a cleric has been inhibited or suspended, he or she may pay assessments personally during the period of inhibition or suspension, or for up to one year or through the date of deposition (whichever is less).

  • Assessments are based on the lower of the cleric's:
    • Last full-time total assessable compensation, or
    • Highest Average Compensation.
  • If a cleric is deposed or removed, he or she may no longer actively participate in the Clergy Pension Plan. However, any vested retirement benefits earned through the date of  deposition or removal will be available on retirement.

Extension of Ministry

If clergy are in good standing and exercise their ministry in an organization that is not affiliated with the Episcopal Church, they may continue to participate in the Clergy Pension Plan if they meet the following criteria:

  • The Extension of Ministry is approved by:
    • The cleric's canonical bishop
    • The Church Pension Fund  (CPF)
  • The position includes educational and/or social work with a 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.
  • To earn full-time Credited Service, either the cleric and his or her employer, or both the cleric and employer, can pay assessments on the total assessable compensation or the Hypothetical Minimum Compensation,1 whichever is higher. The cleric may also earn part-time Credited Service. See the rules about accruing full time service.
  • If assessments are not paid, a cleric's records will be held in abeyance and he or she may lose your fully covered status and some benefits.
  • A cleric's extension of ministry must be approved by CPF.

1 The Hypothetical Minimum Compensation is $18,200.

Graduate Study

If clergy attend graduate school in a course of study to strengthen their ministry, assessments may be waived. In such cases, clergy may earn up to three years of Credited Service based on the hypothetical minimum compensation if:

  • Their canonical bishop recommends waiver of assessments.
  • They have already earned at least three years of Credited Service in the Clergy Pension Plan.
  • The Church Pension Fund (CPF) approves the waiver.
  • They earn additional years of Credited Service between the end of their studies and retirement, equal to the time for which 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 during a 12-month period by 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 such care, along with a letter from your employer.

Overseas Missionaries

For clergy appointed by the Episcopal Church Center to serve overseas: 

  • Assessments will be based on the past year’s national median clergy compensation.
  • This assessment base is subject to annual review and adjustment based upon median compensation figures.

For details, please download Retirement Benefits and Savings Options - International.

Military Service

The Church Pension Fund has a special agreement with the Office of the Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies, and details regarding the agreement can be obtained by contacting Client Services at (855) 215-5990.

  • The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides benefits for all Reserve and National Guard members on active duty and requires employers to:
    • Maintain pension coverage during eligible active deployment
    • Guarantee equivalent employment after release from eligible federal service

Other Anglican Communions

If part of a cleric's service takes place in another part of the Anglican Communion:

  • The cleric may still be vested in the Clergy Pension Plan if he or she has earned a total of five years of combined Credited Service.
    • At least two of your five years Credited Service must be based on participation in the Clergy Pension Plan.
    • Retirement benefits from the Clergy Pension Plan will be based exclusively on the compensation and Credited Service earned 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 or contact Client Services at (866) 802-6333, Monday – Friday, 8:30AM – 8:00PM ET (excluding holidays).

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