226th General Assembly (2024)

The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The Board of Pensions is an agency of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We serve the Church with comprehensive benefits and programming through the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Reverend David Black

Our work to support the changing Church

For 2025, we have redesigned the Benefits Plan to meet the needs of the changing Church. The new Benefits Plan, effective Jan. 1, 2025, provides flexibility and choice for congregations to structure a benefits package that best serves their particular context of ministry. It includes enhanced income protection benefits, two new dues packages — the Covenant Package and the Congregational Pastors Package — and a transitional option for ministers in Pastor’s Participation as of Dec. 31, 2024.

The new plan is the outcome of the season of rebuilding initiative we launched in 2023. We gathered input throughout the Church from more than 1,000 leaders, in face-to-face meetings and in Virtual Town Halls. Through these conversations with the broader Church, and with our Board of Directors’ guidance, we developed plan changes to enable more congregations to support their pastoral leadership through the Benefits Plan. We then reviewed details of the plan changes with over 300 mid council leaders at events in Philadelphia and Denver in April-May 2024.

Learn more about the 2025 Benefits Plan.

Read more about the Board’s role and purpose.

An overture to the 226th General Assembly (2024) asks that General Assembly work with the Board of Pensions to adjust the dues structure for 2026 and beyond to ensure affordability of medical coverage for ministers needing family coverage. Read the Board’s response.

Our relationship with General Assembly

As one of six national agencies of the General Assembly, the Board of Pensions appears as a General Assembly-related corporate body in the Organization for Mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (VII A). The General Assembly Nominating Committee nominates members of our Board of Directors, who must then be elected by the General Assembly. Our Board of Directors elects our President, and the General Assembly must confirm the election.

The Board of Pensions is a not-for-profit corporation under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The agency and its Directors and Officers, as trustees of the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), hold the fiduciary duties of loyalty and care. They must make decisions solely and exclusively for the benefit of plan members, active and retired, and their survivors.

Our responsibilities and legal obligations

The origin of Board of Pensions responsibilities lies in the denominational reunion of 1983. Article 11 of the Articles of Agreement Between the Presbyterian Church in the United States and the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, found in the Book of Order, states that the new, unified pension, benefits, and assistance programs

“… shall be administered by a legally responsible corporate body established under a civil charter and having no responsibilities other than to administer these plans and programs and to assume the responsibilities of the former Board of Annuities and Relief of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and the former Board of Pensions of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.” (11.3)

Article 11 also defines our legal obligation to make independent decisions about the investment of funds held in trust for tens of thousands of Benefits Plan members — some of whom are receiving retirement benefits today and some who will not receive them for decades:

“Each of the annuity and pension funds shall be administered on an actuarially sound basis for the sole and exclusive use of its members, active and retired, and their survivors, with a view to the final distribution of all assets occurring simultaneously with the fulfillment of all contractual commitments consistent with all legal requirements.” (11.4)

Our approach to MRTI

The General Assembly has charged Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) with ensuring that Church investments align with the PC(USA) social and environmental policies. MRTI implements these policies on socially responsible investing (also called faith-based investing) by engaging corporations in which the Church owns stock.

The Board of Pensions supports the work of MRTI, and two members designated by our Board of Directors serve on MRTI. We follow our Policy on Prohibited Securities when we act on prohibitions of individual securities that the General Assembly approves and MRTI implements. We don’t act on nonspecific prohibitions or on categorical prohibitions of an industry sector.

We distribute a prohibited securities list to our investment managers, who must agree not to invest in securities of prohibited corporations and to divest existing holdings as soon as prudently possible. In this way, the investments under our stewardship reflect the collective will of the Church.

globe in a pair of hands

Our collaboration with the Church and other faith groups

Scripture speaks to the need to work together. “A threefold cord is not quickly broken,” as the teacher in Ecclesiastes says (4:12). Collaboration and a shared sense of mission are key themes in our Presbyterian and reformed identity, and the Board of Pensions collaborates within our denomination as well as ecumenically.

In 2018, we began collaborating with the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) on the annual Mid Council Leaders Gathering, which replaced our two Regional Benefits Consultations and OGA’s Polity Conference — yielding savings totaling about $400,000. In 2020, the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) joined the collaboration, and in 2023, the meeting became the Polity, Benefits, and Mission Conference.

Collaboration with PMA is growing. Together, we engaged People Joy’s EdAssist to help Church ministers and employees navigate a federal opportunity for education-debt relief. More recently, we joined the team launched by PMA’s Committee on Theological Education to pursue research into thriving congregations and their pastoral leadership. This work dovetails with an all-agency effort to align our production of data so we have comprehensive facts and statistics on the challenges facing the Church and can better meet them.

We have a longstanding relationship with the Presbyterian Foundation, including on funds development. Significantly, in 2015, we collaborated on grant applications to the Lilly Endowment, with each agency receiving $1 million to address pastors’ financial challenges and an additional $1 million to take the programs to scale. The result was approximately $10 million in grants to ministers and education for over 4,000 elders on the financial challenges facing ministers. The Foundation and the Board also collaborate on the annual Well-Being Retreat and have worked together on the Stewardship Kaleidoscope Conference.

More broadly, our Church Consultants provide personalized, local support to congregations, mid councils, ministers, and church-related employees. That support expanded in 2022, when the Reverend Dr. Jerry L. Cannon joined the Board. Dr. Cannon, who also serves on the denomination’s Diverse Voices Table, is extending the reach of our services and existing programs, such as dues incentives, to communities of color.

Collaboration beyond the denomination enhances our service to Benefits Plan members. The Board is a leader in the Church Benefits Association (CBA), which represents 55 church pension boards, religious orders, and denominational benefits programs for clergy and church professionals. The CBA shares best practices in the design and implementation of benefits plans and forms benefits-buying coalitions, which gives us negotiating clout. For example, with CBA, we are Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield’s largest single customer.

Further, the Board of Pensions advocates for benefits for clergy, lay workers, and their families as part of the Church Alliance. The Alliance is a diverse network of nearly 35 church benefits CEOs that engages governmental agencies in the legislative, regulatory, and judicial processes on behalf of its member organizations. The President of the Board of Pensions serves as one of six permanent members of the Church Alliance Steering Committee. The Church Alliance was a powerful advocate during the coronavirus crisis, working directly with U.S. Sen. James Langford, R-OK, to include congregations in the Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness. PC(USA) congregations, mid councils, and agencies received $50 million to $90 million in direct support to retain employees.

Our commitment to retired members

The Board of Pensions is committed to member health and well-being at every stage of life. As part of that commitment, we provide a variety of benefits and programs to support the wholeness of retired members, many of whom dedicated their life to serving the Church.

We transitioned from the Medicare Supplement Plan to the new Humana Group Medicare Advantage PPO plan Jan. 1, 2024. The Medicare Supplement Plan was serving less than a third of our retired members and operating at a loss. The rates had increased 24% in 2023, and were forecast to top $400 per person in 2024. We urgently responded to better serve our retired members.

With the new passive PPO plan, retirees receive the coverage they were accustomed to with the Medicare Supplement Plan and more — including dental, vision, and hearing aid benefits and programs such as SilverSneakers — all for a $0 premium. This change saves our retired members $40 million annually. In 2024, pensioners who had been in the Medicare Supplement Plan will realize at least $400 more in their monthly checks and enhanced medical coverage.

As faithful stewards of the resources entrusted to us, we provide benefits to support financial well-being in retirement. Participants enrolled in the Defined Benefit Pension Plan receive a monthly income throughout retirement, funded through employer dues and investment earnings. Experience apportionments, granted by our Board of Directors, are periodic, permanent increases to the pension benefits of all participants to maintain generational equity. Our Board of Directors granted the 12th consecutive apportionment, effective July 1, 2024, which yields a cumulative increase of 46.6% since 2013.

All members, including retired members and their spouses or surviving spouses, have access to the Assistance Program, which provides financial support to those who qualify. Retired members may be eligible for assistance with adoption, emergency, transition-to college, and certain medical expenses, as well as for housing and income supplements. Additionally, members can access in-person and online education programs that can help them plan for and live into retirement, including THRIVE and Retirement Conversations.