Lay Pension Parity: A Collaboration with General Convention
Parity between clergy and lay pensions was a topic on the minds of many who tuned in to our recent CPG Through the Numbers conversations with Church Pension Group senior leaders this past November and January.
We fielded questions about differences between clergy and lay defined benefit pension plan assets and the gap in retirement benefits between lay and ordained Church employees. These are real concerns. For a variety of reasons, participants in The Church Pension Fund Clergy Pension Plan (Clergy Pension Plan) are projected to receive retirement income that is a somewhat higher percentage of their final compensation than participants in our lay defined benefit and lay defined contribution plans. The differences between the two pension programs are historical and complicated, including the impact of compensation disparities and varying levels of pension contributions required from parishes.
That’s why we were pleased that the 79th General Convention asked The Church Pension Fund (CPF) to study pension disparity between clergy and lay employees and to describe potential steps for providing pension equity—defined in Resolution 2018-D045 as “equal projected financial benefits for clergy and lay employees, given equivalent compensation.”
Over the past triennium, we did a lot of research, crunched the data, and surveyed other pension systems.
Our findings are presented in two reports* that will be shared with the 80th General Convention in July 2022. Our responses to Resolutions 2018-D045 and 2018-A237 outline possible steps to improve parity and the impacts on the Church of taking those steps.
For example, the considerations described in our response to Resolution 2018-D045 include encouraging employers to increase their base and matching contributions to our lay defined contribution plans and enhancing our lay defined benefit plan provisions to more closely mirror pension benefits under the Clergy Pension Plan.
CPF is not recommending one option over the other in our reports. Rather, we have described potential adjustments that are available to the Church to lessen the pension disparities between clergy and lay employees over time.
Stronger Together: Exclusively for Lay Employees
Later this year, our Education & Wellness team plans to launch Stronger Together, a program primarily focused on enhancing financial literacy, to address financial planning gaps and concerns that lay employees have shared about their readiness for retirement. Stay tuned!
Comments? Questions? Concerns? CPG is listening. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Resolution 2018-D045 asked CPF to study necessary steps for providing pension equity for clergy and lay employees, to compare possible plans with pension benefits offered by comparable nonchurch organizations, and to report its findings. It focuses specifically on disparities in compensation and benefits between lay and clergy employees of the Church.
Resolution 2018-A237 urged CPF to report on the current state of parity between the pensions of lay and ordained Church employees, domestic and non-domestic Church employees, and Church employees of disparate incomes, with a particular focus on how income disparities are manifested across gender and racial or ethnic lines, understanding that working income directly affects pension benefits.
It also asked CPF to consider supplemental models for the pension system that would benefit lay and clergy employees while the Church works toward true parity in wages and employment practices. Our report on this work will build upon the information presented to respond to Resolution 2018-D045.