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Our History

Our History

The Church Pension Fund (CPF)

The seed for CPF was planted by the Rt. Rev. William Lawrence of Massachusetts when, in 1910, he brought before the General Convention of The Episcopal Church a resolution to create a Joint Commission on the Support of Clergy because he was appalled by the "suffering and poverty of the aged servants of the Church." The commission started its work that same year.

In 1913, the General Convention voted to establish CPF to provide retirement and disability benefits to eligible clergy. An affiliate of the Church, CPF was incorporated in 1914 by a special act of the New York State Legislature.

Initial funding for CPF was raised by a committee working with Bishop Lawrence that was led by J.P. Morgan, Adolph Ochs (owner and publisher of the New York Times), and Newcomb Carlton (president of Western Union Telegraph). More than $8.5 million was collected by March 1, 1917.

CPF paid its first benefit in March 1917. Since then, CPF has paid out nearly $6 billion in benefits to eligible retiree participants in The Church Pension Fund Clergy Pension Plan and their eligible dependents as of December 31, 2016.

The Church Pension Group (CPG)

Since then our charter has expanded to include other products and services, and to cover lay employees who are critical to the Church’s ability to fulfill its mission. 

Key milestones

1918: Church Publishing Incorporated was founded as the official publisher of worship materials and resources for the Church.

1922: Church Life Insurance Corporation began providing essential life insurance protection, disability insurance, and retirement savings products (annuities and IRAs) to the Church's clergy, lay employees, and families.

1929: Church Fire Insurance Company (later The Church Insurance Companies1) began offering the broadest property and casualty insurance available to Episcopal churches and institutions. Today, we also provide risk management services, and the Safeguarding training programs for preventing sexual abuse and harassment.

1971: A series of retirement planning conferences were begun that have been expanded into a series of wellness conferences that today include Planning For Wellness conferences and Enriching Your Retirement conferences.

1978: The Episcopal Church Clergy and Employees' Benefit Trust, and The Episcopal Church Medical Trust (Medical Trust), were formed to provide health benefits to eligible clergy and lay employees.

1980: The Episcopal Church Lay Employees’ Retirement Plan, a defined benefit pension plan, was established. It is available to eligible lay employees if their employer offers it, and is funded solely via employer assessments.

1992: The Episcopal Church Lay Employees’ Defined Contribution Retirement Plan was established. It provides individual retirement savings accounts for eligible lay employees if their employer offers it, and is funded by regular contributions made by employers and/or employees.

1996: The Episcopal Church Retirement Savings Plan (RSVP) was established. This defined contribution retirement savings plan allows eligible clergy to save for retirement through tax-deferred contributions, if their employer offers it.

2000: CREDO Institute, Inc. was established to provide a holistic approach to wellness – spiritual, vocational, financial, and physical. Since then, CREDO conferences have been expanded and have become part of CPG’s robust wellness and education offerings.

2009: The Lay Employee Pension System (LPS) was established by General Convention Resolution A138 and its associated Canon. Under the resolution, all eligible lay employees are required to be enrolled in a pension plan that is either administered or authorized by CPF, and the LPS is to be administered by CPF.

2009: The Denominational Health Plan (DHP) was established by General Convention Resolution A177 and its associated Canon. Under the resolution, eligible clergy and lay employees are required to be provided with equal access to and funding for healthcare benefits, the DHP is to be administrated by CPF, and healthcare benefits are to be provided through the Medical Trust.

2017: CPF announced revisions to the pension plans and related products that CPF administers to create more modern plans that honor the commitments we have made in the past and that respond to the emerging needs of those we serve. 

As we observe a century of service...

A century later, Bishop Lawrence’s intention lives on in our vision, which is to provide our clients with the highest possible level of financial security in retirement consistent with exemplary financial stewardship on our part and with the evolving needs of the Church. Through wars, periods of economic uncertainty, civil unrest, and constant change, we have remained passionate about our purpose, addressing the financial-security needs of our clients with professionalism and compassion.

A lot has changed since CPF issued its first pension check in 1917. While clergy pensions continue to be at the core of what we do, changing times, demographics, ministries, and acts of General Convention have broadened our focus to include benefits, products, services, and other intentional support for lay employees, as well as savings programs that can help clergy prepare for retirement. We also have focused our attention on benefits policies that better recognize the service of part-time or lower-paid clergy.

As the world, the Church, and participants’ needs continue to evolve, we will continue to explore relevant ways to deliver high-quality, mission-appropriate benefits, products, and services to those who serve the Church. We will seek to anticipate the needs of the changing Church and provide assistance within the scope of our mission. We will continue to serve as a fiduciary with responsibility for protecting and building the financial strength of CPF so it can continue to fund benefits in the century ahead.

CPG is here to support the clergy, lay employees, churches, and institutions over the long term. So we will continue to take the long view on everything we do as we look ahead to the next 100 years of service.

1Collectively, The Church Insurance Company, The Church Insurance Company of New York, The Church Insurance Company of Vermont, and The Church Insurance Agency Corporation

Did you know?

  • The value of the $8.5 million raised to start the fund is over $159 million in today's dollars.
  • The first benefit was paid on March 1 to the Rt. Rev. Edward William Osborne, retired Bishop of Springfield.
  • Bishop Lawrence's granddaughter Mary R. Shepard was the first female member of CPF's Board of Trustees. She was elected in 1970.

Recognizing a century of service