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A Corp Board discusses changes to the Board of Pensions’ Benefits Plan

It’s difficult to produce a unified budget proposal two years in advance without knowing more about potential impacts, A Corp President Kathy Lueckert tells the board

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Matt Bennett via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — On Friday, the second of its two days of meeting online and at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation Board had a discussion on what a number of people in the denomination are talking about: recently announced changes to the Board of Pensions’ Benefits Plan.

The redesigned plan, announced on April 3, introduced two new dues packages: the Covenant Package and the Congregational Pastors Package. Pastors and others have taken to social media to voice concerns over some of the plan changes and their potential higher costs for medical coverage for churches with younger clergy and their dependents.

“This whole Benefits Plan change is a wildcard in our budget process,” said A Corp President Kathy Lueckert, who along with her counterparts in the Presbyterian Mission Agency and Office of the General Assembly, as well as church finance staff, have been working hard in recent weeks to produce unified budget proposals for 2025 and 2026 for the Unification Commission.

What’s unknown is the impact changes to the Benefits Plan will have on congregational giving, including per capita and Special Offerings, Lueckert told board members. “It may take years before that full impact is realized,” she said. “Congregations are reassessing their budgets and how they are choosing to fund things.”

“The Board of Pensions changes will impact all of us,” Lueckert said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a lot of conversation at General Assembly, because there is a lot of frustration and anxiety about these changes.”

“We can’t solve any of this,” Lueckert told board members, “but I wanted to place it on your radar screen. These are unintended consequences as churches make decisions.”

The Rev. Bill Teng, an A Corp Board member as well as a member of the Unification Commission who serves as transitional pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Florida, part of Peace River Presbytery, said a Board of Pensions regional representative recently spent time with the presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. Of the presbytery’s 32 churches, half will see an increase in what they pay for their clergyperson’s Benefits Plan, and half will see a decrease.

“I know there is a lot of misinformation out there on social media, and I am concerned about it,” Teng said. “Once you hear their rationale and plan, you might change your mind. It’s going to help smaller churches. I think we need to keep an open mind and see where it’s going to land.”

Financial reports

Financial reports for the year ending Dec. 31, 2023, were included in board members’ packets.

At nearly $126 million, the year’s total income was about $56 million more than budget, primarily due to year-to-date unrealized market gains. Contributions were about $9 million over budget, but congregational giving decreased by about $700,000. Gifts, bequests and grants increased by nearly $5 million.

Gifts to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance were up by almost $7 million due to giving related to international disasters and refugees, which includes aid for Ukraine and the Turkey/Syria earthquakes. Hawaii wildfire receipts were $1.4 million.

Compared to the budget, investment returns were almost $48 million greater than the budget because of unrealized gains on investment.

Expenses were almost $16 million less than the budget but almost $6 million more than last year’s expenses. Salaries and benefits were $3.6 million less than budget due to position vacancies. Administration expenses were $4.7 million less than the budget — $1.8 million in the PMA, $1.6 million in the OGA and $1.3 million in the Administrative Services Group.

Board members voted unanimously to give a two-year term as board co-chair to Carol Winkler. Winkler will succeed Bridget-Anne Hampden and will begin her service on July 4, the final day of the 226th General Assembly.

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