Effective July 1, employees who are part of the national church’s Continuing Education Plan (CEP) must prove that any course they plan to take or any books and equipment they wish to purchase benefit the employer.
Council of General Synod (CoGS) approved the pension committee’s recommendation to amend Canon XII (church law), stating it was necessary for General Synod to qualify as a non-profit organization under the Income Tax Act.
“We need to be in compliance or we’ll lose our standing,” said Judy Robinson, pensions director.
(Begun in 1971, the CEP has about 1, 868 active members; all clergy join the CEP on their first day of employment with a participating diocese. The plan also includes lay employees)
“It must be shown that the sole purpose of the Plan is to provide education or training for employees … to improve their work or work-related skills and abilities to the benefit of the employer,” the committee said in a written report to CoGS. “In the absence of such qualification, the plan and its members will be subject to a very substantial tax liability.”
Meanwhile, CoGS also gave the pension committee the go ahead to meet with the dioceses of Huron, Niagara and Toronto “to attempt to resolve” matters arising from disagreements over changes made to the Long Term Disability (LTD) plan approved by CoGS in 2004.
In a letter addressed to CoGS, the three dioceses charged that the committee had “exceeded its role, its mandate and its authority under the General Synod Canons (church laws)” when it introduced changes to the pension and LTD plans.
The dioceses said they were not properly consulted about the changes “nor were we given adequate advance notice before they were implemented.”
The dioceses expressed concern about what it called the “trading off” of pension and LTD contributions and said employees are being made to contribute “twice as much to their pension and receiving the same pension benefits.”
Linda Barry-Hollowell, who spoke for the committee said, however, that it had made its decisions “in full consultation with the governance of the church.”
She said there was merely a “difference of opinion, which is not surprising in the complex world of pensions.” She underscored the committee’s “commitment to continue to listen and discuss” with the three dioceses.