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Clarifying Information About the Pension Impacts of the 2019 General Conference

Wespath Benefits and Investments recently issued some clarifying information about the pension impacts of the Called 2019 General Conference. The following is an email sent to the Council of Bishops from General Secretary and CEO of Wespath Barbara Boigegrain in response to inaccurate information and rumors being floated around the internet regarding the potential impact that General Conference 2019 could have on clergy benefits.
 

As we draw closer to the special called General Conference, we are seeing an increased volume of questions and concerns about potential impact on clergy benefits with varying degrees of accuracy. We also hear the worries individuals have for their personal financial security during this time of uncertainty. We monitor dialogue on social media and blogs, and we receive questions and comments from participants and other stakeholders.
 
For example, this week we identified a blog posting based on a Wespath document that is taken out of context. The tool was developed at the request of Jurisdictional Bishops, and shared with you at the Council meeting in May, illustrates the overall benefits impact to a clergyperson terminating conference relationship today, under current plan provisions. We designed it as a tool to assist conference leaders in conversations with pastors considering leaving the Church. The tool reflects the effect on all types of benefits – not just pensions, which Wespath manages, but also, for example, retiree medical coverage, which are administered by the annual conferences. The tool has no relationship to the Commission on a Way Forward’s plans. Wespath was asked to analyze and provide advice regarding each of the Commission plans, which is reflected in Appendix 4 to the Commission’s Report.
 
Wespath has published FAQs, which we update regularly,  in an attempt to share information with the Church about the pension impact of all the Commission’s plans, which you can find here: https://www.wespath.org/WayForwardWespathFAQ/. Our proposed legislation submitted  as part of the Commission’s report (both as part of the Traditional Plan and the One Church Plan) would in fact mitigate the pension impact illustrated in the tool. We’ve updated these FAQs to include questions like:
 
I’m hearing rumors and reading things in blogs and social media about the possible impacts of the 2019 General Conference and the Way Forward plans on pension and other benefits. How do I find out if what I’m hearing and reading is true?
Wespath seeks to provide unbiased and accurate information about the UMC benefit plans, and in particular about the effects that the Way Forward plans and the 2019 General Conference may have on those plans. Wespath has published these FAQs to help participants and Church stakeholders understand these types of questions, and we update the FAQs regularly. You can also send your questions to Wespath at ldrew@wespath.org.
 
Is it true that if the Traditional Plan is approved, my pension will automatically be cut?
No. Neither your pension, nor any retirement account balances, will be reduced by enactment of any of the three Commission plans as they are written.
 
Wespath worked closely with the Commission to help mitigate any risks to retirement benefits during the analysis of the Way Forward options. The Commission recommends (page 133-134 of the ADCA) that an amendment to the clergy pension plan (CRSP) (Petition 90017—page 168 of the ADCA) be enacted with any of the three Commission plans that might be approved by the 2019 General Conference, or in the event that no plan is approved.

For those who leave the UMC, this petition recommends converting the participant’s accrued pension benefits into an actuarially equivalent account balance and transferring to a defined contribution plan (UMPIP) that offers future opportunities for investment growth (based on market conditions and fund returns).
 
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, or Andy Hendren at ahendren@wespath.org  or (847)866-4644.