Frequently Asked Questions
We often receive questions on our governance, operations, initiatives, and services. We plan to share answers to such questions in Perspective. One recent question was the following:
How did The Church Pension Fund (CPF) get its start, and why was it set up the way it was?
The history of CPF began over a century ago. The reality of a large population of clergy with inadequate resources to support a dignified retirement had long been a concern of the Church. In 1910, Bishop William Lawrence advocated for, and the General Convention approved, the creation of the Joint Commission on the Support of Clergy to study the feasibility of a mandatory pension system for Episcopal clergy.
In response to the recommendation of the commission, the General Convention of 1913 authorized the commission members to take the necessary steps to establish a clergy pension fund. The General Convention of 1916 also enacted a canon (now Title I, Canon 8) of the Constitution and Canons of the Church to give CPF the authority to administer pensions and other benefits for Episcopal clergy and to collect assessments to fund such benefits.
In 1914 CPF was incorporated in the State of New York, which was selected because of its comprehensive fiscal oversight by state regulators, as well as its being home to the country’s principal financial markets. CPF’s charter, the official founding document, gave the original trustees the authority to adopt a constitution that, among other things, would prescribe the number and qualification of trustees. The constitution of CPF, adopted in its current form by the trustees almost 50 years ago, provided that there would be 25 trustees, 24 of whom are to be elected by General Convention, upon nomination of a joint nominating committee, and one of whom is to be the president of CPF.
The pension fund required seed money in the form of donations to begin its work, and Bishop Lawrence led a multi-year fundraising effort. Although his original goal was to raise $5 million, he ultimately raised $8.5 million from more than 47,000 donors across the Church.
With a legal framework and initial funding in place, CPF opened its doors in 1917 and sent out its first pension check. Thus, our mission of serving the Church by providing retirement and other employee benefits to its clergy, and eventually lay employees, commenced.
Our structure, with a separate corporate entity but with 24 trustees elected by General Convention, has ensured that CPF is closely aligned with the Church while at the same time its assets are protected for the benefit of its participants. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to faithfully serve the Church over the past 100 years and to have honored our commitment to provide peace of mind and financial security to our participants.