The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is committed to mutual care and wholeness. We believe that we live in caring community with one another. That belief guides us. When employers partner with us, their ministers and employees receive support in key areas of well-being: spiritual, health, financial, and vocational.
The Board of Pensions is one of six national agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We administer the Benefits Plan of the PC(USA) and support plan members through our Assistance Program and education programs.
We partner with PC(USA) churches, agencies, and mid councils and PC(USA)-affiliated employers to offer plan benefits to their ministers and employees. The affiliated employers include educational institutions, camps and conference centers, retirement and senior housing communities, and human services organizations.
Approximately 65,000 individuals receive benefits through the plan, including family members, retirees, and the surviving spouses of plan members. Plan membership includes access to our financial assistance and Board University. Everything that is available through the agency is designed to support well-being.
Our care for those who serve has grown through the years, lending strength and stability in times of challenge for the Church community. Still today, we are expanding benefits and our financial assistance and education programs — as well as access to them — in support of the Church reformed, always reforming.
Our commitment to mutual care and wholeness drives us to serve more, serve better, and serve the Church. We continue to add benefits and programs and expand eligibility to meet the needs of all who serve the Church and its affiliated organizations, and to reach under-represented communities.
Dues-incentive programs build congregational ministry for the future — more than 100 new calls have resulted from Pathways to Renewal and Benefits Grants for Organizing Pastors and Evangelists. Pathways is for ministers under 40, and calls are going as often to women as men. Organizing Pastors grants are supporting alternative worshiping communities.
Other programs have fostered financial wholeness so ministers can better devote their gifts to serving the Church. Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations provided financial education to more than 4,000 congregational leaders and more than 800 pastors, who received grants totaling more than $8 million. Grants through Minister Educational Debt Assistance total $1.4 million, illustrating the need, so this year, we introduced a second program, Minister Debt Relief.
Even ministers who are secure in their call and not burdened by debt need well-being care. We provide Sabbath Sabbatical Support so they can step away for personal and professional renewal.
When the Reverend David Black was ready to seek his first call as a pastor, he felt called to serve an urban area, but — with a higher cost of living in those areas and the burden of debt he had accumulated from his undergraduate and seminary education — his options felt limited. Then Rev. Black learned about Minister Educational Debt Assistance through the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions.
Because of this assistance, Rev. Black's opportunities expanded, and he found a home at The First Presbyterian Church of Chicago, a small congregation on the South Side of the city. He began serving as pastor of the congregation in September 2020. And while nothing could have prepared him for serving a church during a global pandemic, Rev. Black describes his call at First Presbyterian as "an incredible fit."
"It felt like everything that I had done in my life had prepared me for this role," Rev. Black said. "And, honestly, it wouldn't have been possible financially except that the Board of Pensions is taking off the stress of paying those student loans. I'm just so grateful that I can do this ministry. I can serve this church in this community without that stress."
The Reverend Dr. T. Janel Dixon has served Philadelphia-based Cedar Park Presbyterian Church since 2013, when she became the congregation's first female pastor. Along with her responsibilities at Cedar Park, Rev. Dixon served as the primary caregiver for her mother from the time she accepted the call at Cedar Park until her mother's death in March 2021.
"Caring for [my mom] and the congregation took a lot out of me," Rev. Dixon said. By early 2020, she began to recognize signs of burnout: She felt her energy and creativity start to wane, and she didn't feel as sharp as she normally does.
Having served the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as a full-time installed pastor for more than 20 years, Rev. Dixon had never taken a sabbatical before, assuming she couldn't afford it. Then she learned about Sabbath Sabbatical Support through the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions.
Rev. Dixon embarked on her first sabbatical in July 2020. In addition to receiving the Sabbath Sabbatical Support grant, she also received financial support from the Presbytery of Philadelphia's Commission on Resources and Communications and from her congregation's session. "These three sources together helped me to fund a very life-changing and meaningful time of Sabbath that I could not have dreamed of before that," she said.
After two months of sabbatical time, she returned to her congregation restored and rejuvenated. "I am so grateful and indebted to the Board for their care of us as clergy. It means so much when you know you are supported," Rev. Dixon said. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart for really saving my life … because now I feel a sense of sustainability. Praise God."
The Board of Pensions shares the PC(USA) commitment to dismantling structural racism. Our Board of Directors has laid out guidance for the agency's journey toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our staff-run Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Council (DEILC) advocates for inclusive practices internally. And our President has joined leaders of various industries nationwide in signing the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge to advance workplace diversity and inclusion.
In 2021, we initiated regular conversations with the PC(USA) caucuses of color. These conversations are helping us to improve service to historically marginalized groups. We began tracking information on our Board University registrants to better know who's benefiting from our education programs. Expansion of Korean and Spanish translations continued, and we have presented an African American CREDO program as well as one in Spanish.
We track the DEI policies and practices of our national vendor partners and, for regional and local contracting, track the minority- and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) percentages. Our vendor contracts include an explicit commitment to diversity.
We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to dismantling structural racism.
Board of Pensions President the Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge — a leadership-driven commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This pledge is part of our formal commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to dismantling structural racism.
The Board of Pensions actively participates in PC(USA) efforts to combat climate change and move the world toward meeting the standards of the Paris climate accord. It brought together representatives of all six church agencies in 2014 to consider the PC(USA) response to God's imperative to care for the Earth. The result was the Collaborative Agenda on Environmental Stewardship, adopted by the 222nd General Assembly (2016).
The Board proposed the expansion of the Office of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The staff went from one to two professionals, with the second devoted to corporate engagement, including on climate change. The Board contributes up to $180,000 annually; the Presbyterian Foundation agency, $30,000. The expansion enabled the committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), an arm of the office, to track progress by individual companies on shrinking their carbon footprint.
The agency also promotes sustainable investing. A portion of the Board of Pensions Balanced Investment Portfolio is invested with Impax in its Leaders strategy. This fossil fuel-free strategy seeks companies positioned for long-term profitability based on the transition to sustainable practices. The Retirement Savings Plan of the PC(USA) includes the sister fund Pax Global Environmental Markets Fund Institutional Class (PGINX) — enabling Benefits Plan members enrolled in the RSP to use investments to combat climate change. Under normal market conditions, the fund invests at least 80 percent of its net assets in companies whose businesses and technologies focus on environmental markets.
Internally, the Board has supported environmental stewardship through digital transformation. The majority of plan members conduct business electronically, and employers have been transitioned to digital invoicing.
The Board of Pensions is an investor signatory of Climate Action 100+, an investor-led initiative to ensure the world's largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change. The Board joins the church committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) as one of 700 global investors that manage assets totaling more than $68 trillion. "The Board looks for positive ways to engage as we live out our commitment to environmental stewardship," said the Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer, President of the Board. "Shareholder activism is one way to do that, and Climate Action 100+ has the investor influence needed to propel the clean energy movement."