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Synod 2024 discussed pension plans Monday morning, with some conversation around inflation and how retired pastors are being affected by the current plan. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It is meeting June 14-20 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The discussions stemmed from two overtures (formal requests) to synod asking to reassess the pension salary calculation (Overture 3, Agenda for Synod 2024, p. 420) or to to close the pension fund to new members and create a new retirement fund (Overture 4, Agenda, p. 421).

The committee considering those requests recommended synod ask pension trustees to explore “a broader retirement benefit that may include a blend of defined contribution plans along with the defined benefit plans” instead of altering the average salary calculation or ending the ministers' pension plan. They also approved consulting with a diverse group of U.S. and Canadian pastors, including bi-vocational and recently ordained ones, for feedback. Additionally, Synod passed that the pension board, along with the Candidacy Committee and Calvin Theological Seminary, educate pastors and churches about both the current defined pension plan and available defined contribution options.

Ryan Schreiber, Classis Grand Rapids East, was against the recommendations. He said as a volunteer minister who has other employment, “I think many ministers here are confused and wondering if they’re getting the best deal that they can with their benefits.” He said he’d like to see the pension board create a “really thorough report of different benefit suites so that ministers really have a definitive understanding of what’s going on.”

Bob Loerts, Classis Niagara, proposed an additional recommendation to urge “the Trustees to make it a priority to work toward increasing the accrual of benefits for ministers.” He gave an example, “such as restoring the 1.46% multiplier in the pension calculation.” He noted the value of giving the pension trustees specificity and spoke to how “in Canada the assessments today are lower than they were in 2008.”

Jonathan Westra, Classis Pacific Northwest, the reporter for the committee making the recommendations, said that they’re asking the trustees “Can we have a look at increasing wealth while maintaining security?” He added, they are trying to “give the trustees a broader playing field to say, ‘Come back to next year’s synod and tell us what you came up with.’”

Maria Bowater, Classis Kalamazoo said, “I’m hearing this language of ‘wealth building versus security—adjusting for inflation is not wealth building.’ … My concern is that we’re emphasizing educating our ministers that they should be investing in other ways for wealth building” but that “our churches believe our pension is building security for pastors.”

David Salverda, Classis Toronto, wanted synod to remember the potential financial burden on small churches. “ I just want to name that this can be a burden for smaller churches, and I’d hate for the pension plan to be a reason to not keep the doors open.”

In the end, synod accepted the recommendations of the committee to have more education for pastors on their options and to instruct the pension plan trustees to consult with a wide group of pastors in exploring the possibilities of a comprehensive retirement benefit package. It also asked, in the spirit of education, that the pension office provide to Synod 2026 and the churches “a more detailed—understandable to churches and pastor—summary of the actuarial reports for the USA and Canada pension plans, and that they do this every three years as the actuarial reports are completed.”

Synod 2024 is meeting June 14-20 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at Visit for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.

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