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Common Questions

How do I access my Retirement Savings Plan (RSVP) account?

To access your account, go to the Retirement Savings Plan page of our website.

Am I guaranteed an annual cost–of–living increase?

No. The Board of Trustees grants cost-of-living increases at its discretion. This decision is made annually and communicated to all plan participants by mid-December. For information about cost-of-living increases for the current year, see COLA.

What is the Funding Ratio for a pension plan?

The funding ratio, which is calculated by dividing the plan’s assets by its actuarially determined liabilities, is a measure of the financial strength of a pension plan. A funding ratio of 1.00 means a plan is 100% funded because the assets are at least equal to the actuarially determined liabilities, even with the cost of the discretionary COLA factored into the actuarial assumptions.

How much of my pension benefit can I exclude as a housing allowance for tax purposes?

You may exclude from taxable income the portion of those benefits that are used for housing expenses. For details, please download:

How do I withhold state taxes from my pension benefit?

You can elect to withhold state taxes from your pension benefit by amending your payment voucher and returning it to The Church Pension Fund.

Can I choose another beneficiary if I elected the Joint & Survivor option and my spouse dies first?

  • No. This one-time election is made at the time you retire. Once made, your election is irrevocable.
  • If you marry after retirement, your new spouse is not a beneficiary of the Clergy Pension Plan. However, you may purchase a survivor's benefit for your new spouse by permanently reducing your lifetime benefits to reflect the actuarial cost your your survivor's benefit. This election is irrevocable and must be made within 180 days of your marriage.

Can I elect another beneficiary if I elected the 10- or 15-Year Certain & Continuous Option and my designated beneficiary has died?

Yes, as long as the 10- or 15-year "certain" period has not expired. For example, if you elected the 10-year Certain and Continuous Option on July 1, 2004, and your beneficiary dies on April 14, 2007, you can choose another beneficiary because the "certain" period will not expire until July 1, 2014.

Am I still eligible for the lump sum death benefit after I retire?

No. The lump sum death benefit is only available to eligible plan participants who have not retired.

If I receive a very small monthly benefit from the plan, can I cash it out and receive a lump sum payment?

No. The clergy pension plan provides you with monthly benefits for life and, if applicable, for the life of your spouse or named beneficiary.

What if I die while receiving a Disability Retirement Benefit?

If you die after earning five years of Credited Service or before age 65 while receiving a Disability Retirement Benefit, your eligible surviving spouse or other named beneficiaries will receive a pre-retirement survivor’s benefit. This pre-retirement survivor’s benefit is generally equal to 50% of the pension benefit you would have received at your normal retirement date based on your projected Credited Service to age 65 and your Highest Average Compensation.

For details on pre-retirement benefits, please visit Survivor’s Benefits Before Your Retirement (in the Active Clergy section of this website).

Can I name a trust or my estate as my beneficiary at retirement?

No. Upon retirement, you must name an individual as the beneficiary of any retirement benefit option you choose.

My claim for a retirement benefit has been denied. What are my next steps?

If you believe that you have been denied a benefit that you are due under the Clergy Pension Plan, you have the option to file an appeal.  Download information on the claims and appeals process.

What does the recent United States District Court ruling regarding clergy housing allowance mean for Episcopal clergy?

This decision has no immediate impact because it is not yet effective. The U.S. District Court specifically ruled that its decision would not be effective until all appeals are resolved. The Wisconsin court’s ruling was recently appealed and it will take some time for the Court of Appeals to reach its decision. It is also quite possible that the decision by the Court of Appeals, whether it agrees or disagrees with the Wisconsin court, would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. We will continue to monitor this case closely. In the meantime, the tax benefit enjoyed by many of our clergy remains unchanged.

As a member of The Church Alliance, a coalition of 38 church benefit programs, we plan to participate in the amicus curiae brief being prepared by the Alliance, and also will coordinate our efforts with representatives of The Episcopal Church.

The Wisconsin decision has no impact on situations where a church actually provides a rectory or similar church-owned housing for a cleric because it does not affect the ability of the cleric to continue to exclude from income the rental value of that home.

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