Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed on April 23, members of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church and the Church Pension Fund (CPF) Board of Trustees will hold at least four consultations between the 80th and 81st General Conventions (2022 and 2024, respectively). These gatherings will address mutual policy concerns posed by changing demographics, changing understandings of church in society, and changing expectations of and for clergy—including current and retired lay employees of The Episcopal Church.
CPF is the sponsor and administrator of pension and other benefit plans for The Episcopal Church, and the meetings will constitute a continuation of discussions between representatives of the two organizations that have occurred since 2018 when the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church formed a task force to make recommendations for “improving, clarifying, or effecting changes in the relationship.”
“This is a milestone that will help assure that the mutual concerns of the elected church leadership and the CPF Board of Trustees are regularly discussed—with appropriate consultation undertaken for the benefit of spreading the gospel and caring for those who serve the church,” said Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Under the terms of the MOU, five to seven council members, and an equal number of pension fund trustees, “will share information, insights, and ideas” to help each organization plan for the future. The group will discuss a wide range of issues, including the impact of pension and benefit costs on the recruitment of clergy and lay employees, and on diocesan and congregational sustainability; inequalities in the church’s current pension system; and the “feasibility, costs, and obstacles” to paid family leave proposals.
“General Convention elects the pension fund’s trustees, and I am glad we have been able to agree on a context in which they will have an opportunity to collaborate more closely with the elected leaders of the church,” said President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings.
In its report to Executive Council, which was filed in August of 2020, the Task Force to Study the Church’s Pension System noted the management of the church and the pension fund involve “a variety of disciplines and contexts that are not easily assimilated, and that even best efforts at such integration are susceptible to questions of authority, accountability, credibility, and trust.”
“It behooves the church to be working with the CPF Board of Trustees on our shared mission and ministry, and previously there was no reliable mechanism for this,” said Canon Jane Cisluycis, chair of the Executive Council Joint Committee on Governance and Operations and member of the task force. “This memorandum is an intentional plan to have regular consultation on issues affecting the church. It is not just about communication; it is an attempt to create a culture of partnership.”