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Board of Pensions health care dues recommended for further exploration

General Assembly Entity Coordination presents non-consent agenda items to #GA226.

Photo by Jonathan Watson for Presbyterian Outlook.

Salt Lake City, Utah — The committee for General Assembly Entity Coordination (GAEC) considered and approved two items of business on Tuesday night, taking up items concerning “economically diverse participation on boards, commissions and committees” (GAEC-23) and asking the General Assembly (GA) to work with the Board of Pensions to adjust their recently proposed medical plan changes (GAEC-28).

The General Assembly Committee on Representation (GACOR) recommended GAEC-23 and asked the assembly to approve a per capita funding increase to ensure participation on the national board by those from diverse economic backgrounds. As approved, the overture directs the national offices of the denomination (Office of the General Assembly/Presbyterian Mission Agency/New, Combined Agency) to use per capita funds to help offset these costs in travel and pulpit supply for congregations so their leaders can participate in denominational service.

TEC John Pflug participates in the morning plenary on July 2. Photo by Jonathan Watson for Presbyterian Outlook.

(Want a brief refresher on per capita? See here for a short explanation.)

The cost of this program is $51,625 per year in 2025 and 2026, and incurs a $0.05 increase to per capita contributions each year. The assembly voted to approve this resolution as amended by acclimation as there was no dissent offered during the discussion.

In response to recent changes made to eligibility and costs of the medical plan offered by the Presbyterian Board of Pensions, a recommendation by the Synod of Lakes and Prairies (GAEC-28) suggested further exploration of adjustments to this plan.

Full-family coverage (Pastor’s Participation) has been guaranteed for installed pastors in the current plan conceived in the 1980s. At the time, church leadership consisted of mostly male clergy with families, where a spouse and children depended on the clergy person for benefits. 

In July 2013, Presbyterian News Service reported on a change to this plan saying:

[In October 2012], the board approved a dues overhaul that included a dues increase for members only and optional coverage for dependents priced at a flat $5,700, with employing organizations given the option of passing on all or part of the added to cost to employees. That model was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Opposition to the change was immediate and voluminous. Many argued that the flat-rate premium would discriminate against younger pastors with families and against smaller churches. Presbytery executives opined that such a dramatic change needed more time to implement.

[In early 2013,] the BOP withdrew the original dues overhaul and went back to the drawing board. “We placed a great deal of emphasis on the feedback we received,” Haines told the board at its June 26-29[, 2013,] meeting. “This tells an important story that I hope our constituents realize.”

For its most recent change, the Board of Pensions says they made their changes responding to data collection over the past several years which verified assumptions about the changing nature of clergy and the family structure.

For its most recent change, the Board of Pensions says they made their changes responding to data collection over the past several years which verified assumptions about the changing nature of clergy and the family structure. Of those enrolled in Pastor’s Participation in 2024:

  1. Fewer than half (46%) are a clergy person with a spouse and children.
  2. More than a quarter (28%) are a clergy person with a spouse and no children.
  3. Single persons comprise 20% of participants.
  4. The remaining 6% are clergy with children only and no spouse.

Added to these statistics is a decline in installed pastoral leadership in PC(USA) congregations. For the first time, in 2023, fewer than half of PC(USA) congregations had installed pastors. In 2024, 59% of congregations no longer have installed pastoral leadership. Only 30% of congregations with 150 or fewer members have installed leadership. In Black congregations, regardless of size, just 20% had installed pastoral leadership. The cost of required benefits for installed clergy is one of several factors in these numbers.

Although Board of Pensions President Frank Spencer noted the PC(USA) is “the last denomination to provide full-family coverage to our ministers and requires the congregation to pay it,” commissioners were still dissatisfied with the response and worked toward approving GAEC-28 as amended, registering an affirmative 377 to 32 vote of the overture.

The overture asks “the Association of Mid Council Leadership select 5 Mid Council Leaders to work with the Board of Pensions to explore adjustments to be made to medical dues plans for Pastors and Spouse or Families to help alleviate the burden on small congregations and present options for medical coverage for pastoral leaders needing family, spousal, or child coverage in 2026 and beyond.”

GAEC-28 as amended, asks mid councils to work with BOP to explore adjustments to be made to medical dues plans for Pastors and Spouse or Families to help alleviate the burden on small congregations and present options for medical coverage for pastoral leaders needing family, spousal, or child coverage in 2026 and beyond.

Discussion of GAEC-24, “On Recognizing the National Caucus of Korean Presbyterian Churches as a Caucus of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” will be covered in a separate Outlook story.

The final GAEC Committee item for discussion Wednesday evening was GAEC-26, “On Realigning Self Development of People with its Historical Purpose.” It asked the assembly “to realign Self Development of People (SDOP) with its historical purpose, emphasizing self-determination for the African-American community and the original focus of addressing the residual impact of slavery and oppression.”

Denise Anderson, co-moderator of the 222nd GA in 2016 representing the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Compassion Peace and Justice ministry, spoke to the assembly, saying SDOP’s goals had not swayed from their original intent.

The committee recommended the assembly refer the concerns of the overture in GAEC-26 to the new unified ministry agency of PMA and OGA as part of the ongoing work in the Center for Repair along with the Office of Black/African American Intercultural Congregational Support and other areas. The assembly affirmed the recommendation by a vote of 369 for and 23 against.

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