By Susan Sneed
The support of clergy can be a complicated matter, but Rev. Nate Berneking, director of Conference Finance and Administration, Tom Ventura, June Deweese, and Rev. Steve Pinnell, chair of the Clergy Support Team gave a report that explained things well. “Clergy support” includes salary standards, continuing education, professional reimbursement, death benefits, disability, health insurance, parsonages and housing allowances, moving costs and pensions. Pinnell lifted up the expertise and care of the team and conference staff, and commended them for their hard work on behalf of the clergy.
“The most significant changes this year are in the area of equitable compensation,” said Pinnell. The entire set of guidelines has been replaced with expanded and more comprehensive guidelines. Equitable compensation is a valuable resource of congregations who struggle financially to properly compensate clergy. Congregations may apply for financial assistance but must meet specific criteria in type of community served, ability to pay a 65 percent of the minimum salary requirement, and evidence of “a clear desire to meet the missional needs of their communities, as well as the missional desires of the Annual Conference, including the payment of the Conference and District apportionments. Congregations experiencing an increase in attendance that requires a move from a part-time to a full-time pastorate, but are still struggling financially will be given a higher priority consideration.
The Clergy Retirement Security Plan (CRSP), billed directly to the churches, will see an increase in what churches are responsible for equal to 12.22 percent of a full time clergy’s compensations.
At the same time, the Comprehensive Protection Plan (CPP), another piece of clergy pension, will also be billed directly to the churches in 2015, and increased to 3 percent of compensation. Clergy need to contribute 1 percent of their compensation to be eligible for the 1 percent matching UMPIP account. Currently 83 percent of clergy participate.
The most significant change in housing is the new policy impacting the sale of a parsonage when there is a full time pastorate. This most often occurs when it is agreed by the charge and pastor that a housing allowance will be paid out. The funds from the parsonage sale will be used to establish a restricted fund for the purpose of buying a new parsonage in the future. This fund should be no less than 20 percent of what a home of conference standards would cost in the church’s community. This fund must be maintained for at least 10 years, if the charge remains full time. In cases of a sale for a less than full time charge, the proceeds must be used per the Discipline.
Healthflex is the health insurance of choice and covers medical, dental and optical. Deweese was met with applause when she announced a 0 percent increase in 2015. There is a wellness incentive program that actually earns participants money, and all are encouraged to participate. A part of the Incentive program requires completion of the HealthQuotient. This will save families and individuals considerable surcharges on deductibles. The allowance for supplemental insurance paid to retired clergy has been increased in 2015.
Pinnell moved that the increase of the annuity service rate for 2015 be increased to $570/year, an increase of $17 per year over 2014. The motion passed. Motions to accept the sections encompassing minimum pay levels and the new parsonage sale policy were put forth. These motions passed, as well as the motion to accept the report of the Clergy Support Team as a whole.
Pinnell stressed the importance of reading the full clergy support team report in the Conference handbook.