Board of Pensions unveils new 2014 healthcare dues structure

Dues to go down for members, but some may have to pay for optional dependent coverage

November 2, 2012


Faced with an imminent $28.6 million deficit in its healthcare plan, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Board of Pensions unveiled at its Oct. 27 meeting here a new dues structure that for the first time could result in plan members sharing the dues cost of their healthcare coverage.

The board will take a final vote on the new dues structure ―informally called “Dues Plus” by board members ― at its March 2013 meeting, with the plan going into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Under the proposal, member dues beginning in 2014 will be 19 percent of effective salary. Those mandatory dues would also cover 65 percent of dependent coverage, which would be optional. (Dues for 2013, which include family coverage, are 21 percent.)

A fixed premium/flat dollar amount would be added to cover the remaining 35 percent for dependent coverage. Members may choose from among differing levels of coverage for dependents: member plus partner, member plus child(ren), and member plus family (partner and children) . Dependent coverage would be paid by the employing organization, the plan member or a combination of the two.

John Hamm, chair of the BOP’s Healthcare Committee said, “If we maintain the status quo, it will require that we increase medical dues in 2014 to 25 percent of effective salary. We are concerned that dues at that level would be prohibitively expensive for our churches and other employing organizations.” 

Board members were pretty clear that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, with rising healthcare costs far outpacing dues increases. There was no increase in medical dues from 2007 through 2011, followed by 0.75 percent increases each year for 2012 and 2013. And with the aging PC(USA)-member population, the board concluded that the current dues system is simply untenable.

“There are ways to reduce the $28.6 million deficit,” Hamm told the board. “We can reduce benefits, increase revenue, eliminate coverage for certain benefits, implement more narrow and tightly-priced networks, increase members cost-sharing for services and enforce compliance and accountability standards to improve member health and thereby reduce costs.”

But after several months of intense study of the issues, the board decided to take a different approach, said BOP Vice-President for Benefits Patricia Haines. She acknowledged that the proposal will modify “the historically understood community nature and call neutrality of the plan.”

The community nature of the current medical plan means that higher-paying employers effectively subsidize lower-paying employers through percentage dues. Call neutrality means that all plan members and family members must be covered by employers, no matter how large the family.

Haines noted, however, that the new dues structure might actually result in a cost saving for some churches. For instance, those with a single pastor or pastor whose spouse and/or dependents have other healthcare coverage, would see their dues go down from 21 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2014.

“This new dues structure provides choice and flexibility for employers and members,” said Hamm, but “there will be blood,” as some employers pass on all or part of the cost of optional spouse and dependent coverage to plan members.

Though the board’s Healthcare Committee was unanimous in its “Dues Plus” recommendation, “this was not a pleasant discussion,” Haines said. “The choices are tough. Those who potentially get hurt are members with dependents.”

PC(USA) demographics are far different now than when the current plan was constructed, Haines said. “Churches and plan members will have to figure out what is best for them. There’s an absolute potential for added financial burden to plan members.”

Healthcare plans in which employees make no contributions (beyond deductibles and co-pays) “are increasingly rare, said BOP President Rob Maggs. “We’re taking a step that many employers took in the 1970s.”

The board will host webinars on the new plan in January, said BOP Communications Executive Susan Reimann. They will be part of a comprehensive communications effort to inform employing organizations and plan members about the changes.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved a 7 percent increase in monthly subscription dues for the Medical Continuation Program, effective in 2013.
  • Approved a 1.5 percent increase in monthly subscription dues for the Medicare Supplement Program, also affective in 2013.
  • Approved dues increases in the Optional Dental Program administered by Aetna of 9 percent for the PPO option and 5.5 percent for the DMO option.
  • Learned that the return on the BOP’s Balanced Investment Portfolio for the nine months ended Sept. 30 was 11.4%. Longer term performance was 9.8% for the three years, 8.7% for the 10 years, and 8.2% for the 20 years ended Sept. 30, 2012. The portfolio’s value as of Sept. 30 stood at $7.4 billion.
  • Approved a Christmas gift of $250 per individual or $500 per couple to all plan members who were receiving income and/or housing supplements from the board as of Nov. 1, 2012.
  • Received a report that approximately 20 covered partners have enrolled for medical coverage under the new plan provision  for domestic partners coverage. That coverage goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013.
  • Announced that, beginning Jan. 1, 2013, no new contributions will be permitted to the Retirement Savings Plan by plan members in Puerto Rico. The change, made to comply with new Puerto Rican tax laws, affects fewer than 10 plan members.
  1. Recently, we just passed our budget. Our health insurance costs for our two pastors, their families and the music director total $63,000 a year. We checked on the Illinois "Obamacare" website, and we can purchase comparable healthcare, a platinum PPO, for all our employees and their spouses and dependents for $31,000 a year. This is a savings of $32,000 a year, and we are operating with an anticipated deficit of $16,000. Not only would using the exchange erase the deficit, but we would have $16,000 to replenish or capital reserves. Why is PCUSA healthcare so expensive? And can we opt out? If PCUSA has to is operating their healthcare at a deficit, and the exchanges are much less expensive, then why not get out of the healthcare business and have churches purchase insurance on the exchanges?

    by Sophie Cue

    March 29, 2014

  2. It is especially frustrating when the BOP directors insist they deserve the highest salary of any employees in the PCUSA. They have insisted they deserve their higher salaries packages because of their unique, financial expertise. You would think they could have predicted this development decades ago.

    by Stephen Melton

    June 25, 2013

  3. We have a shared system. As deductibles are a % of effective salary, those who earn above the medium pay a greater amount in deductible to offset those earning below the medium. I, for one, am a happy to do so for those serving smaller membership churches. To pass dependent coverage onto clergy would be to request a second subsidation - one for the clergy person's family. I already have a higher deductible. If the Board were to approve a change to allow single medical coverage, be ready for clergy will be expecting the Board of Pension to remove family coverage from all those employed by the Board of Pension's offices as well. Is the Board willing to do that to make it equal? How can churches be asked to fund family medical coverage through its dues to the denominational employees while removing that same coverage from its pastors. Should this take effect the Board should expect an overture to the General Assembly requiring all Board employees be ONLY covered by single medical coverage. My question is this, has the Board even considered this or is it just assuming that it will offer family coverage while churches will not be required to do so. In a shared system, clergy cannot be asked to pay higher deductible to offset other clergy and then be asked to pay higher premium cost for their own families.

    by Aaron Nagel

    February 27, 2013

  4. Many great questions have been raised. My question for the BOP is "WHY NOW?" - Medical costs have been rising for YEARS... - - The denomination has been declining for YEARS... - - Life expectance has been increasing for DECADES... - - Fertility rate have been dropping for DECADES... - My questions are: Where was BOP's strategic leadership looking for the last many, many years? Why do this now? Why wasn't this problem addressed YEARS ago with less dramatic and controversial actions? ...It seems the disappointment directed by my colleagues here is appropriately placed at BOP leadership. Personal note: It doesn't impact me much, I'm in my late 30's, my wife & I are both pastors, & we don't have kids... ...Although no BOP official has seemed to provide any response to these questions in forum, I do want to make a comment about older married clergy coverage. This affects them too. They are married to their dependents and the cost of insurance for a older adult who may have pre-existing conditions can be very, very high on the open market--before they get Medicare. Also when I was a hospital chaplain, the hospital offered the same kind of "dues -plus" plan for all their employees. ...My biggest frustration is that this major restructuring is being proposed as necessity--"pass it or we fail"... The hand writing has been on the wall for decades... Far long enough for continual little changes to have avoided this problem.

    by BK

    February 7, 2013

  5. Very sad to see this day. But in fact benefits have been eroding for years. I was drawn to the PCUSA 30 years ago for its sense of community and sacrificial sharing. Like many ministers, I serve small churches, live very modestly; it will be a real challenge for my family to make up the difference. This decision will make it harder for smaller churches to attract qualified ministers esp. those with families, ongoing healthcare issues, and dependent on the BOP plan.

    by Moira Ahearne

    February 1, 2013

  6. This entire discussion and its potential for disaster rests on the fee that is assessed for complete coverage. I have seen it estimated as high as $5700. This would be catastrophic. Of course, if this estimate is far to high - then why isn't the actual fee schedule in print so that an informed discussion can take place. If it is that high - In our presbytery a pastor with minimum terms of call would cost the church $1875 if the 4% hike in dues went through. This verses the entire cost (the only estimate I've seen is above) left to the small church pastor to absorb. If that is the case there will be no pastors with spouses or children in small churches.

    by Kirk A. Ryckman

    January 25, 2013

  7. I have anonymously received a spreadsheet of the BOP's proposed changes with actual numbers. I also have contact information of board members. If anyone is interested in seeing that spreadsheet or writing to the board members (this does not have to be approved by GA, it's the board's decision) please email me at

    by Rev Tricia Dillon Thomas

    January 24, 2013

  8. As hard as it seems it is not much different than what the rest of society is facing. As long as the pastor can choose to contribute more to keep the dependent coverage if he/she wants to it seems fair. My family is currently paying over $720 per month for coverage.

    by Michael Lampson

    January 22, 2013

  9. There is something absurb in all this thinking we are sparing small churches - while skewering young pastors (and other office staff members of many churches who belong to the plan). I am older and in a large church - but this would crush at least two staff members in this church. Perhaps it is time to consider breaking down the wall between the Pension Plan and the Medical Benefits. The report says we had an 11.4% increase and now possess a 7.4 billion dollar portfolio. .4% wipes out the deficit - and may allow for a staged increase in dues. {There are a thousand more scenerios to use to bridge the funding gap.... Perhaps a one time movement of funds that would lend their earnings to the medical plan... since the pension plan will be worthless to young pastors in bankrupcy - which this new move encourages...} This action has more power to harm individuals than any other I have seen in the church. (And I am NOT the one being harmed - I am just a few years from retirement.)

    by Kirk A. Ryckman

    January 22, 2013

  10. As a 32 year old woman, I happily serve my congregation with a salary that began and remains at the presbytery's minimum, knowing that my healthcare plan goes a long way to make up for it. Now that we have a child, and are also paying for childcare, the proposed changes to the medical plan may put us in a position in which it makes little sense for me to work (at least for the PCUSA). I doubt that I am alone. This proposal shows a disappointing lack of vision and an inability to 'think outside the box'. BOP, please go back to the drawing board. Otherwise you may effectively undermine our denomination's efforts to draw and retain young clergy.

    by Anna Parkinson

    January 17, 2013

  11. Ministers are not highly paid, even though they must meet high expectations -- all the way from costly education to tithing their income and "leading the way" in congregational financial campaigns. For those reasons and more, it does not seem to me unrealistic to expect congregations to continue to pay all of the medical plan costs for ministers and their families -- even if those costs may mount up to 25% of effective salary. For the denomination to choose to do otherwise is surely a way to discourage future ministerial vocations, as ministers discover that they simply must find employment elsewhere -- regardless of the sincerity, depth and conviction of their call.

    by Reford Nash

    January 10, 2013

  12. This change will lead to the immediate and systematic gentrification of the denomination and is prejudicial towards young pastors. The disturbing reality of this move is that those who receive a majority of the real health care dollars spent from the plan are the older members of the plan who do not have as many (or any) dependents. Those who cost the least to the plan will be the very ones suffering from this change. I am a man in my mid 30's and I have been a member of the BoP for 8 years and never once have I spent even close to my healthcare deductible. I have been bankrolling the care of others for years and now my family, including 5 dependents will suffer financial hardship because of this move.

    by Nellfire

    November 15, 2012

  13. sell the property that the denomination has extorted from their congegations and cover the cost.....ask gradye to send another letter to congress urging a more equitable distribution of wealth and get the govt to solve your problem.....and divest of more businesses that deal with the criminal israelis...that should solve the problem...PCUSA has already sold its soul so no help there

    by charles migliori

    November 9, 2012

  14. This is some pretty "poverty striken" type of thinking as far as I can see; who (above) asked if the social justice issues were being observed OUTSIDE the Church, unmindful of the inside and very personal side. This is very sad - even maddening! Where is that guy Jesus in all this?? Love/peace, Elizabeth

    by Mrs. Elizabeth (Dudley E.) Sarfaty

    November 7, 2012

  15. Here's an alternate solution. If there are more younger clergy in active service, then health care costs will go down. The goal must become getting more young pastors into parish ministry. To achieve this, I would suggest the following 2 point plan: 1) Set mandatory retirement at 70, requiring all active pastors serving churches who are over the age of 70 to retire within 12 months. 2) Offer $200,000 (this figure is arrived at an analysis of median salary income retirement difference between retiring at age 62 to retiring at age 65) to every pastor, over the age of 62 and younger than 70, actively serving a church as a severance figure to retire within the next 12 months. The $200,000 would off set reduced retirement income, and if invested wisely would leave those who accepted this payment a retirement income roughly equivalent to their full retirement income. These two steps would open up many churches for younger pastors. The influx of younger pastors with relatively little health care needs would greatly reduce the amount the BOP has to pay out in health care, thereby reducing health care costs. I would guess that if this two point plan were implemented within the next year, there would be no need for dues increases or for changing the current plan structure.

    by David McCann

    November 6, 2012

  16. Well, what did you expect? What the PCUSA has done over the past 20 years is catching up to them. In areas where they should have mirrored culture (i.e. good business models - less staff, flatter structure - and allowing people to choose their own insurance plans and pension plans) they have thumbed their noses and said, "No, we're different." In areas where they should NOT have mirrored culture (Biblical standards and Kingdom living) they have capitulated and said, "We want to look just like the world!" That's a real problem. Furthermore, they've changed jobs. 100 years ago they were in the business of Saving Souls, now they are insurance managers and real estate brokers (Selling properties they didn't build or struggling to maintain them as churches leave.) The PCUSA was the church of my birth, salvation, marriage and baptizing all my children, and ordination, and I thank the Lord every day for rescuing me out of it. And before you think I'm just being snarky, I continue to pray for all those affected by this horrible decision by the BOP and I pray for this denomination everyday - that they will return to the Lord and the Biblical standards upon which they were founded.

    by Matt

    November 6, 2012

  17. The BOP’s proposed course of action regarding health insurance coverage for pastors and their families is just the most recent regressive action taken by our denomination. Our polity lifts up the virtues of having an educated clergy to serve our congregations. Thus, for those seeking ordination we require an undergraduate degree, an M. Div., a field education placement, and often CPE training. Yet we as a denomination have not identified a way to significantly reduce the educational debt burden of our young pastors, and now our denomination is going to ask them to pay a sizable portion their family’s health insurance! Who will be able to afford to serve in small churches?

    by Rev. Andrew Florio

    November 6, 2012

  18. Just wondering, is this the result of the continuing tipping of the denomination to a more theologically liberal direction? I suspect it is. Finally people have begun to realize that when the large evangelical churches leave the denomination, what goes with them is funding streams that helps to subsidize smaller solo-pastor churches. I think it will be unlikely that the PCUSA will be thriving in California beyond 2015. Certainly this does not offer relief to the inner-city congregation that I am serving. I suggest we disband our CPMs now and save people the hardship of dealing with the PCUSA. What church will be left for young pastors in a few years? As it is the 7 percent conference disappeared with barely a whimper.

    by Gus Wright

    November 5, 2012

  19. Instead, why not just graduate the medical dues so that members who make more money pay a higher percentage?

    by Paul Rack

    November 5, 2012

  20. I know this is disappointing and frustrating to many people out there, but believe me the PCUSA BOP is under the gun. They have to consider: they current awful economy (which isn't coming back any time soon no matter who is elected President), shrinking denominational revenues, and increasing health care costs...What else are they supposed to do? Those arguing for a "just theological basis" for the BOP are arguing the economics of God's Kingdom vs. the real world and in this case the latter wins. When Jesus returns, we'll all get that great health care/retirement plan that he'll provide but until then bills and deficits have to be paid off. THIS IS REALITY, folks.

    by William

    November 5, 2012

  21. As a 30 year old teaching elder with a wife and three month old son, I find this proposed change very distressing. All that I would add to what has been said below is that I would encourage all plan members and others affiliated with the PC(USA) to do two things: First, check out Carol Howard Merritt’s piece over at the Christian Century (and the others she links to) regarding the proposed change: Her piece succinctly sums up why this will be a detrimental change for young clergy and their families, small and rural congregations, and the future of our denomination in general. It then gives some constructive ideas that I hope the Board will consider. Second, if your conscience tells you that what the Board has proposed is wrong, don’t stop with just venting your frustrations here and on social media outlets (though I certainly would encourage both), but let your presbytery’s BOP representative know your concerns, and then sign this petition at to make sure your voice is heard:

    by Nicholas Scott Preuninger

    November 5, 2012

  22. In response to Henry Paris, and some others, the 11% return is on pension money, which cannot legally be used to fund health insurance. Federal laws are very clear on robbing pension funds for other uses. Back to these proposed changes, of course, this will be a big hit to many pastors, and not just young pastors. I'm 12 years from retirement, have two children in college, one out of college looking at graduate schools, and one 8 years away from graduating from high school. Through 27 years of ministry, my wife has been gainfully employed, often without any benefits. Currently, she is not employed outside the home, and we live in an area with over 11% unemployment, so opportunities for her are very slim. So this plan will hit a vast majority of pastors. It is clear in about 20 years, almost all of our churches will be served by CREs, and in 40 years there will no longer be a PC(USA) at our current rate of decline, so this will soon be a moot issue. In the meantime, between this decision, the rising shortage of primary care physicians in our country, and the Obamacare law driving even more primary care physicians out of medicine creating even a greater shortage, healthcare costs will skyrocket over the next several years. That means that soon, pastors and churches will not be able to afford any health insurance on pastor's families. My economics training, and what I have read from many experts point to the fact that around 2017, give or take a year, we will hit the greatest healthcare crisis this country has ever seen. So hold tight, the ride is only going to get worse.

    by David McCann

    November 5, 2012

  23. THIS IS AN ALICE IN WONDERLAND ADVENTURE guided by lawyers and accountants, not compassionate people of the Church. Labeling cutting your benefits as "opportunity to share the cost" is not fooling anyone. It is the corporate way. With the fund returning 11%, ($7 billion fund in 2011 would return $770 million/yr against an overrun on healthcare that might reach $28 million reducing net return to 10.6%.) It seems to me we are victimized by the wealthy perspective, i.e., money is to be preserved, not to be managed as a middle class mindset might say, or to be spent on love, food and relationships as a poverty mindset might say (Ruby Payne). As someone on the age spectrum closer to retirement and more dedicated to ministry than financial security compared to a young pastor with small family entering the ministry, this move will drive them out of the ministry. Why? Further, it is an egregiously cruel sin to even imply an expectation that the dependent ought to be working so they can cover their own medical care. Should teenagers be made to drop out of school to earn their share, or just spouses? Where is the line drawn? I imagine we can chose to follow Paul's example on pastoral compensation or not (as a recent senior exam touched upon), but rich pastors, administrators and board members with means to have nice cabins in the mountains of North Carolina, fine cars, and modest wine cellars ought to heed the advice of 2 Cor 8:15, or risk the label Jesus applied to religious authorities who have lost their vision. We all need consider the question that Henry Richard Niebuhr posed in 1935, "What must the church do to be saved?" You, my friends, who appear seduced by your wealth and power, come walk a mile in our shoes.


    November 4, 2012

  24. NOT a good idea!

    by John Edward Harris

    November 3, 2012

  25. This hurts my heart. To discard "the historically understood community nature and call neutrality of the plan” isn't a fiscal issue, it is a spirtual issue. What are we saying to the rest of the world when we are not of a mind or heart to take care of ALL our own?

    by Leslianne Braunstein

    November 3, 2012

  26. I find this very upsetting. When I was a single person, the dues my church paid supported families even though I had no dependents. Now I'm part of a clergy couple (which for years provided no additional benefits even though the church we co-pastored paid in full for us both) and we have a 10 year old child. After 24 years of service (18 years as an ordained minister of Word & Sacrament), I was expecting the theological underpinnings to stay the same. Please understand that I didn't go into the ministry for the money. In fact we struggle to make ends meet and my friends with similar educational training are in a much better place financially. My husband & I both pastor smaller congregations because we believe in the unique gifts & calling of these churches. This "shift" in theology will only hurt our denomination & deter growth. So many churches want & know they need young families and now we are discouraging them from calling the leadership of younger pastors with families because it will cost them more? I don't know what the answer is, but it needs to be more than going to a standard business practice based solely on economics.

    by Rev. Lonna C. Lee

    November 3, 2012

  27. This increase and change in dues structure are industry standards. After 35 years as a plan member I now serve a small congregation that cannot afford a pastor with benefits. My husband works for a healthcare provider and we pay for my coverage under his corporate plan. If we pastors do not make some changes in our expectations then the BOP plan will have to go away altogether and we will none of us have medical coverage except for Obamacare. The corporate nature of the plan is no longer self sustaining with dwindling church numbers. I understand the distress and anxiety of pastors and families with few options-I was sole provider of medical insurance for my family for 33 years but we have no further options than to close small churches. Or, we can plant new ones!

    by Kathy Vineyard

    November 3, 2012

  28. Here is the reality. The dues paid for pensions and health care are separate. So don't confuse the two. This is a crisis and a catastrophe. Health care costs continue to rise and the average church is small. The answer is a national health care single payer system. We spend 17 percent of our GDP on health care. Countries like France spend 9 percent. I know there will be people who will talk about Canada and long waiting lines but that is beyond the point. We have to do something about lowering costs, and getting to a new understanding of how to cover everyone. I really feel for the small church pastor and the young church pastor. A two thousand dollar increase in costs is crippling. I know a pastor who left the PCUSA for the ECA and the comeupppance was on the huge increase in health care costs. I have heard all the arguments about Obamacare, but we still have a real problem. Let's tone down the rhetoric about politics and death panels and socialized medicine and realize what we have now isn't working, leaves many uninsured and helpless. Most of my church members are on Medicare and are struggling to pay for medications and copays. This is not good and we need to find a solution.

    by Art Seaman

    November 3, 2012

  29. Why cannot the Board speak the whole truth rather than hide the awful consequences with language only they understand?

    by Lawrence Wood

    November 2, 2012

  30. Curious, are all Board of Pensions staff members, including the executives, required to be members of the plan as installed clergy are, or are they covered by another plan?

    by Jay Click

    November 2, 2012

  31. This move sends quite a signal to single-income pastors supporting a family with children. I pastor a small congregation. They have been very kind to us, but it's a stretch for them to have a called and installed pastor as it is.

    by John Erthein

    November 2, 2012

  32. so all that "we have to cover the children" nonsense of the bid to cover same gender partners was just that. nonsense. Now we throw all the children to the wolves.

    by anonymous

    November 2, 2012

  33. Great timing. The power's been off for days and I've been attempting to get services to my seniors. Colleagues have been evacuated from their homes. While all of this is happening, I now get to wonder if I will need to find money to pay for my spouse and child's healthcare? Nothing like feeling supported in ministry.

    by Karen Chamis

    November 2, 2012

  34. This information is distressing and, if adopted, will result in a significantly negative financial impact to my family and the congregation I serve. Wondering what the theological underpining of this projected change could be?

    by Rev. Susan Thaine

    November 2, 2012

  35. Not sure this information should have come through the news service, which could only offer enough information to alarm folks. As someone alarmed by this--my spouse and I are both teaching elders and we have two children--some better explanation is warranted. I appreciate the comments offered by my colleagues.

    by Jon Martin

    November 2, 2012

  36. This is a horrible move on the part of the BOP, why should churches call young pastors with families when they can call a older pastor with no dependents? Churches will certainly die with no new blood coming in. What's worse is other than the occasional Dr.'s appointment, my kids cost the BOP pennies as we never even reach our deductible. We give incentives for not retiring and sadly that is what is hurting churches and raising the cost of healthcare. Meanwhile we have seminaries full of folks who are better off leaving the PCUSA all together. There is a reason the PCUSA continues to decline, it is clear where the priorities fall.

    by Holly Smith

    November 2, 2012

  37. I get it. Healthcare costs continue to rise...Our denomination is aging... Baby Boomers will live longer... Something's gotta give. So we young clergy (I'm 31; my husband is 32-both pastors) and our children (mine is 2) need to be weaned from the comfort of the extraordinarily gracious plan because it's too late to wean Boomers and retirees from the benefits to which they are accustomed, and because we are young enough to find another job outside the church to pay for extra coverage. I get it. But I don't like it. Maybe our family needs to diversify income stream. Perhaps something in the healthcare industry?

    by Julie Bailey

    November 2, 2012

  38. Projected deficits of $28million. At 11% return on the portfolio last year, what over all dollar figure are we talking about? Do those returns just get reinvested back into the portfolio to growths portfolio more? Maybe we need to reevaluate how it is that the BOP is used to serve the churches of the PCUSA as they seek to live out Christ's mission in whatever locale we find ourselves?

    by Michael Foster

    November 2, 2012

  39. The proposed change (which it sounds like the BOP is assuming is a done deal) is absolutely dismaying and presented dishonestly besides. "Dues Plus" has a positive ring, but ought to be called "Dues plus more dues." "Modify the historically understood community nature and call neutrality of the plan"? No, this repudiates that commitment entirely. The notion that we don't now "share the cost" or that medical coverage is "provided for us" is a matter of semantics. Pastors and other church employees WORK to earn these benefits, and the cost of them is the biggest factor that keeps other compensation low. Not to mention deductibles and copays, which have increased even when dues (the percentage) didn't. And "there were no dues increases 2007 to 2011" is only true if you don't remember that the minimum basis went up every one of those years... meaning that dues DID increase for all the lowest paid members during those years. And to say this change could "potentially" hurt members with dependents skirts the truth by a wide margin - it's a virtual certainty that it will. And as others have said, those whose spouse is also a clergy member and those who are single with dependents are going to be put in in an untenable position. An awful lot of pastors in small churches (and some in bigger churches in expensive communities) already struggle to make ends meet. How many will agree to a call that provides no family coverage, simply because that's all a church will offer? I suppose that if they then can't afford to pay for the family coverage themselves, this could become another "reason to give" to the Christmas Joy Offering, so the Board of Pensions can provide generous charity to assist our "poor pastors' children" who don't have health care.

    by Janet Duggins

    November 2, 2012

  40. My wife and I (who are parents of a 2-year old and a 2-month old) received this news with great disappointment yesterday. It seems certain to make both our (already tight) church and family budgets even tighter. It would be helpful to have concrete numbers as to what these dues might be as soon as possible. Also, if I understand things correctly, members would be paying dues on 35% of the cost to cover dependents. Does the Board envision this as the beginning of phased transition towards members paying for the whole of that coverage? Will we see 40% in 2015, 50% in 2016, 60% in 2017 and so on?

    by Emile Harley

    November 2, 2012

  41. Sad. A denomination that has billions of dollars in assets can't afford to take care of their clergy's children's healthcare. I guess the fight for social justice is only outside of our church doors. Don't look inside though.

    by Brian Merritt

    November 1, 2012

  42. Fran Lane-Lawrence - while I appreciate the sentiment, the Form of Government does not allow anyone to withdraw from the BOP plan. The PC(USA) has only two doctrinal mandates: 1) You pay your dues, and 2) they own the property.

    by Michael Neubert

    November 1, 2012

  43. Is this not a set up for a Sophie's choice regarding the a la carte dependant coverage menue? Is it not the Pastor's spouse who is most vulnerable? If we truly want the majority of our pastors to be tent makers and CRE's (an idea I affirm ), this is agood step. I would just rather that it be done in a way that actually supports and affirms such forms of Pastoral leadership rather than railroading us into it.

    by Zach Sasser

    November 1, 2012

  44. As a single mother of a young child, this is very bad news indeed. It's hard enough for a single woman to find a "good" (ie. well-paying) call; now a church will have even less reason to call someone in my position (without a second family income; sole supporter of a dependant child). As it is now, I serve as a solo pastor of a 150 member church, and my parents subsidize my daycare payments because I can't afford them on my current salary. "At least I don't need to worry about my child's healthcare coverage" I always thought. Now I'll have that expense thrown into the mix? I don't see how this is going to work, at least not in my current call.

    by Beth Appel

    November 1, 2012

  45. What a discouraging position for the BOP to take... this new position will only harm the greater church by discouraging folks with families from serving our churches. It is a slap in the face to young pastors with families and the churches they serve.

    by Paul Sink

    November 1, 2012

  46. What is the prohibitive factor of 21 to 25% increase? and who is it that is raising this alarm?? for a pastor at minimum's - ($46+/-) the increase of 4% signifies a difference of $1800 - where the real difference can be seen - is in those called and installed who are given Call Packages three times that of the minimum: an increase of $6k. likewise - let's look at dropping the rate to 19% - net decrease of 2% - minimum salaried call: - $920 - were this rolled over into salary, is this enough to purchase insurance for one's dependents? I don't know. salary 3x min: this same decrease - represents - $3,000 - - were this rolled over into salary, would these dollars better position a pastor to be able to purchase insurance coverage for their dependants? probably a much better chance than <$1000. I just need to share that a minimum salaried call does not indicate any less of a pastor, any less skilled preacher, less skilled administrator (though it's not one of my gifts ;) a minimum salaried call does not indicate that the congregation offering it is any less of a congregation, any less faithful and as such deserving less of a pastor, leader, orator. I've been proud of the PC(USA) stance regarding the benefits packages, that those to much has been given, much is expected, in such a way that balance of sufficiency, of fairness, of justness is sought so that there is greater parity in how all of the congregations and congregational leaders are cared for - I welcome input sharing how this is not a devaluation of small church ministry, which actually encompasses a majority, significant majority of PC(USA) congregations. Thank you for listening; I hope I can return the grace. Mike

    by Michael Foster

    November 1, 2012

  47. I was led to bellieve that the implementation of "Obamacare" would lower insurance prices beginning in 2014 for everyone in the country. What did I miss?

    by Margaret Fren ch

    November 1, 2012

  48. I am upset to hear about this change. It is not only the churches who are unable to afford dues. Churches who are economically distressed are paying their pastors at minimum and sometimes lower. The pastors serving those churches can barely afford to live now. I know a lot of gifted pastors who will no longer be able to afford to serve in parish ministry. They will have to choose between serving a church and making a wage that enables them to have even a moderate life style if they are also required to help pay for health insurance. With 4 children still under 26 and a spouse who is also a pastor this is devastating news. I will explore with my congregation alternative health insurance option which may be more affordable. I have always been supportive of the BOP participation because of the theology behind it. Since that theology is no longer the underpinning I feel free to encourage the congregation to look at other options - I will not be able to afford this option.

    by Fran Lane-Lawrence

    November 1, 2012

  49. It appears that who gets hurts the most in this new structure are young pastors with families serving small rural churches, while older, more established pastors, those without dependents at home, and those serving wealthy churches will be largely unaffected and may, in fact, get a break. What a slap in the face.

    by Anonymous

    November 1, 2012

  50. As a mother of young children, (currently at home with them) this change would make returning to full time ministry much less appealing or feasible for me AND for a calling congregation. My family and I would be even more reliant on what my spouse makes and his company benefits, making it difficult for us to consider a call that would move him any time in the future.. I know this benefit is a perk many people don't have (and I am incredibly grateful this is a perk my husband's employer does have).. But let's be honest: my college classmates with similar levels of professional training make more money than I do. That's fine. I knew what I was signing on for. But this will make a difference in how I will be able to serve in the future. Ministry is a calling for me. But it's also a skill and a profession (and that is good Reformational theology).

    by Erica

    November 1, 2012

  51. If I understand this correctly then it will become more expensive for a church to call a younger pastor with a spouse and kids, thus making pastors with spouses and children a little less desirable in an already tough job market. It also appears that the new increased dues make up the stated deficit *and* goes towards reducing the dues of pastors who opt for sole coverage.

    by Shawn Coons

    November 1, 2012

  52. This change is quite distressing as to how it adversely affects younger pastors' ability to seek calls. Congregations are now being specifically encouraged to call pastors who are older (i.e. cannot have children) and who will not have a trailing spouse. Other denominations have dues that only cover the pastor, and not the pastors family, and what often ensues is a favoritism for calling those who have no children, fewer children, or specifically those who have spouses who can "support the family" so the church does not have to. I am sad to see that our theology of "to those who have received much, much will be expected" is no longer central to asking calls that can pay pastors 6 figure salaries to help support the healthcare of those pastors serving congregations at their presbytery minimum.

    by Lindsay Woods Wong

    November 1, 2012