Mark Harris received a letter last week from the Church Pension Fund. (Updated: the letter is now online.) Mark writes:
In June the Church Pension Fund Trustees voted that the Pension Fund would begin providing “parity of benefits for legally-married same-gender spouses,” to come into effect July 1, 2011. The CPF sent out a letter to that effect this last week.
The letter speaks specifically of marriage, there is no mention of civil unions. It says, “under the laws of the State of New York, employers subject to New York State law must recognize same-gender marriages that are validly solemnized within or outside the State of New York for the purposes of providing benefits to employees.” What then happens to those in a civil union, the purpose of which is to provide all the benefits of marriage?
Well, it will have to be worked out.
The Church Pension Fund has done a good thing by extending benefit parity to same-gender spouses. But as is its wont, it has done so very quietly. Maybe too quietly.
There are, as Mark notes, a number of issues that need to be worked out, some of which might benefit from a public conversation, but such conversations can’t occur if very few people know that the policy has been changed.
And very few people do know because CPG hasn’t put out a media release. It did send around a release about its new website–which looks very good, except for the fact that it has no identifiable news section.
I have no sense that anything is amiss at the Pension Fund. I admire many of its directors, and count some as friends. I respect the good work CPG does through the many organizations it sponsors such as CREDO, Church Publishing and others. But, as we noted in May, CPG sits on the biggest pile of money in the church–money that many parishes strain to send its way. Its leadership regularly makes decisions that affect large numbers of Episcopalians directly or indirectly. Yet it releases precious little information to the people who donate the money it invests, and little of what is released gets out there in what nowadays would be considered a timely fashion.
At a time when money is tight, increasing numbers of parishes can’t afford clergy, and almost everyone is nervous about a) their retirement and b) the future of various programs and ministries within the church, an organization that behaves in this fashion eventually undermines public trust.
CPG ought to consider opening up a little bit.