We are often asked how we make decisions about pension and other benefits policy. It is a long, thorough process that involves a lot of listening, research, financial analysis, and discussion internally and externally. All benefits policy decisions are vetted by a committee of The Church Pension Fund Board of Trustees (CPF Board) as well as by the CPF Board itself. We thought it would be useful to share some of their thoughts on how these decisions are made.
Canon Kathryn Weathersby McCormick, CPF Board member, offered the following insights: “The beneficiaries of CPF are quite diverse in their different ministries of serving the Church. Each decision made by the CPF Board has been thoroughly researched, tested, and discussed. By the time an issue is presented to the appropriate committee (Benefits Policy, Finance, etc.), CPG has researched the issue from every different angle, has performed financial testing, and has considered unexpected consequences. All issues are thoroughly vetted by the Benefits Policy Committee of the CPF Board, and many times issues are sent back for further work from the management team. Once the Benefits Policy Committee is ready to make a recommendation to the entire CPF Board, it is a solid recommendation. The entire CPF Board, of course, has the opportunity to discuss, and a decision is made from there. The diversity of the CPF Board matches the diversity of the beneficiaries so that thoughtful and financially responsible decisions can be made by the CPF Board with the support of CPG.”
Canon Anne M. Vickers, CFA, CPF Board member, also remarked on the diligence that goes into our decision-making process, saying: “I appreciate the extensive work done by CPG’s management and other employees to prepare for the board meetings. The CPF Board is well informed with relevant background information offered well before the meetings. CPF Board decisions are facilitated with great intention and spread over a careful schedule so that everyone is engaged and ultimately satisfied with their ability to meet their fiduciary duty with care. Of course, CPF Board discussions are robust and interactive. We come to conclusions knowing we have an attentive team of professionals ready to execute the steps and move us forward. This is where the work of the Church meets the best practices of a nondenominational financial services corporation—a unique combination. I am honored to experience how the CPF Board and CPG manage this unique responsibility with great passion and diligence.”
Finally, the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, CPF Board member and Chair of the Benefits Policy Committee, offered the following reflection: “I have served on the CPF Board since 2009, serving as Chair of the Benefits Policy for the past five years. During that time, we have made great strides in equity and parity for the clergy and lay employees of the Episcopal Church. For instance, in 2011, we expanded benefits to include same sex spouses; it was a momentous decision, marking CPG’s commitment to the full inclusion of the LGBT community.
“Over the last triennium, we have worked on the revision of The Church Pension Fund Clergy Pension Plan, with a focus on our values of consistency, flexibility, simplicity, and good stewardship. I am particularly pleased with the way in which we were able to support part-time and bi-vocational clergy, as well as those whose service is interrupted for a period of time. I think that changing the definition of Highest Average Compensation, which is used in the pension formula, to reflect the average of a cleric’s seven highest-earning years rather than seven ‘consecutive’ years, will make a significant difference for many participants and their beneficiaries. We have made changes to the disability plans that relieve some financial burden and worry from clergy at a time when they are most vulnerable. We have also made pension policies clearer and less exposed to inappropriate interpretation, favoritism, and bias.
“Identifying client needs and devising appropriate benefits policy is at the core of what we do. We lean heavily on our relationships around the Church to stay on top of emerging needs. We generate ideas about the best ways to address those needs and invest resources to make sure we thoroughly understand the impacts and implications of various options. Nothing goes to the CPF Board without a great deal of due diligence by the professionals at CPG, and the CPF Board approves policy changes only after vigorous discussion of ideas and impacts. The healthy exchange of thoughts, opinions, and ideas happens regularly at CPG, especially when we are making benefits policy decisions. Please know that every decision we make has the best interest of our participants and their beneficiaries in mind, which we determine only after deep study and thorough discussion.”