ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA -- The Church Pension Group is about to announce the first adjustment to the way it calculates pension benefits in more than 20 years, Dennis Sullivan, the fund president told the annual meeting of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes February 24.
A detailed announcement will be made soon, but Sullivan said the change means a “meaningful across-the-board increases” in benefits. Clergy with a history of very low compensation will see the biggest increases, averaging 18 percent. Those with the highest earning history will have an average 12 percent increase.
Sullivan said the decision is one of many the pension fund has made in recent months in response to its excellent financial picture. As of the end of 2005, Sullivan said, the fund had an all-time high of $7.6 billion available for pension benefits plus sizable additional reserves.
This bottom line is unlike that of the top 100 pension funds in the United States. Most of those funds have liabilities that far outstrip their assets and the federal government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation says the U.S. faces a $450 billion such gap, Sullivan said.
Saying that the fund is “not in the business of amassing assets just for the sake of amassing assets,” Sullivan said the board’s recent decisions are putting the money to work. They include
+ “meaningful enhancements” to benefits in Province IX and otheroverseas dioceses,
+ a cost-of-living increase for the 27th year in a row,
+ the annual Christmas benefit, known as the “13th check” and
+ the “14th check,” a one-time supplement in January to help offsethigher energy costs.
The January check taught the staff two things about recipients. “One, our beneficiaries do not read their mail and, two, that they are wonderful people,” Sullivan said.
Despite enclosing an announcement of the impending 14th check with monthly checks in the fall, “the phones lit up” in January when the supplement arrived in people’s mailboxes. “And most of those people were calling to give the money back,” he said, insisting that there had been a mistake.