General Synod voted July 14 to make changes to the General Synod Pension Plan that would allow groups outside of the Anglican Church of Canada to join the plan. In the same afternoon session, the synod also passed motions to put in place a plan to re-evaluate the purpose and mission of the General Synod.
Each resolution was on the no-debate list, meaning they were presented, moved and immediately voted upon. All passed near unanimously.
Bishop (ret.) Philip Poole introduced the presentation on the General Synod Pension Plan (GSPP) by saying, “It’s all good news,” adding that the plan is “in good shape.”
“We are fortunate, because there are only 40% of Canadian employees who have a company pension plan,” mostly in the public sector, he said. “I want to say thank you to the church that we even have a pension plan in the first place.”
In a presentation outlining the proposed pension changes, actuary Cameron Hunter explained the strength of the GSPP and why expanding the plan to include others would be in the best interest of plan members.
According to Hunter, the plan, which is a Target Benefit Plan, has 50 participating employers; 1,500 active members; 3,000 pensioners; and a $900 million fund.
The plan has a surplus of $187 million, he said. It is 128% funded, with 74% of contribution required to fund benefits accruing.
Expanding the plan could have several positive outcomes, Hunter told General Synod, such as providing access to a well-governed plan to other non-profit organizations, giving the opportunity to bring Lay Retirement Plan members into the GSPP, economies of scale in plan administration and investment fees as assets increase, taking advantage of a multi-jurisdictional administration system already in place, and helping to offset an ongoing trend of declining active plan membership by broadening its membership base.
Hunter suggested that groups outside the Anglican Church of Canada could be added to the plan, such as other religious or non-profit organizations, groups that align with Anglican values, and groups with “favourable demographics,” such as a higher proportion of young workers.
The resolution contains amendments to Canon VIII that will allow groups outside the Anglican community to join the plan. It also revises certain trustee provisions so that they may analyze or recommend new groups to the pension committee.
During a period of questions from the floor, Robert Dickson, a delegate from the diocese of New Westminster who is also on the pension committee, took the opportunity to “encourage members to think positively about this series of motions.” The changes, he said, would “allow us to fix the one serious issue that we all have with our plan”—namely, having more retired than active members, a trend which is expected to continue.
Another questioner from the floor, Canon Philip Der from the diocese of Toronto, asked whether clergy who choose to leave the Anglican Church of Canada would be eligible to continue contributing to the pension plan; in response, Hunter stated that this would only be possible if their new employer were to participate in the plan.
Three additional motions relating to the pension plan changes were carried which would affirm amendments to the canons and regulations regarding the Continuing Education Plan, the Lay Retirement Plan and the Long Term Disability Plan previously adopted or approved by CoGS.
General Synod also passed two resolutions regarding CoGS.
The first motion is to “develop and initiate a process to re-examine the mission of General Synod in relation to the dioceses and provinces, including the self-determining Indigenous church, with a goal to allow the structures of General Synod to best enable and serve God’s mission.”
“We all in our own places understand the pressures and stresses that the church is under in today’s world,” said General Synod prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner, who brought the motion. To respond properly to those challenges, she added, General Synod must “take some time to think about who we are and what we do and how we do it.”
Additionally, the second resolution is to direct CoGS “prayerfully to undertake a strategic planning process that will lead to the presentation of a proposal to the 2022 meeting of the General Synod for [CoGS’] ministry and mission with the General Synod.”
Extending the current strategic planning process (‘Vision 2019’) to 2022 would give time for Primate-elect Linda Nicholls to give her input, Haines-Turner said.
General Synod received the results of the Provincial Caucus elections of CoGS members that took place earlier in the day. CoGS members elected at this meeting of General Synod will serve for the next triennium, 2019-2022.
Those members are listed on the General Synod website.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said a resolution was passed to re-examine the mission of CoGS. In fact, the measure calls for re-examination of the mission of General Synod.