PEORIA – Lay and clergy members will gather June 4-7 for the 2014 Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference around the theme Ministry of the Laity, but clergy health insurance and the way it is provided will be one of the major pieces of legislation that will be discussed.
A proposal (Legislative Item 107 and 107-A, which contains Frequently Asked Questions) by the Conference Board of Pensions will be presented Thursday afternoon. The proposal, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2015, would move the clergy currently covered by a self-insured plan to purchasing insurance from the exchanges under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
A $12,000 health insurance allowance is being proposed by the Committee on Equitable Compensation (Legislative Item 112) to be added to full-time clergy salaries by their congregations. Currently, local congregations pay $17,520 per full-time pastor for insurance coverage while pastors pay $65 per month for individual coverage and $320 per month for spousal coverage. The actual cost to the pastor would depend upon the plan which the pastor chooses.
In 2013, health care costs exceeded revenue from the local church assessment and premiums by $1.5 million. As a means of addressing the shortfall, the 2013 Annual Conference approved $500 deductibles on in-network expenses and $1,000 for out-of-network providers; $1,500 for in-network family deductible and $3,000 for family out-of-network deductible.
Because pastors would be purchasing their health insurance on the exchanges, there would be some tax credits available for some pastors.
The impact on churches is that they would no longer pay the $17,520 assessment, but would increase the salary by $12,000 and the corresponding pension payment on the increase (6 percent or $720).
For pastors, the impact is mixed. For pastors with lower than average taxable income the eligible tax credits will offset a substantial portion of their insurance costs. For pastors with high compensation and/or with spouses with high compensation the exchanges will be affordable, but they will not qualify for tax credits. They may qualify for affordable health insurance through a spouse and do quite well. However, on average the most highly-compensated will not be net winners. Local churches may choose, but are not mandated, to increase their compensation beyond the recommended $12,000 level.
Clergy couples will be net winners. In the past, churches have paid for both pastors, but under the exchange clergy couples will be able to purchase health insurance together.
Early retirees will not be paying the $18,540 (for clergy and spouse) to the Conference prior to becoming Medicare eligible at age 65. They will simply continue with their exchange plans.
The proposal does not affect those past the age of 65 as they already have Medicare as their primary insurance in retirement. However, the rules of eligibility which require participation in the conference health insurance program for a certain number of years will need to be rewritten in order for retirees to be able to have a Medicare supplement through the conference. Preachers’ Aid Society has continued work to make the transition of any change a smooth one.
IGRC Director of Administrative Services and Health Benefits Officer Rick Van Giesen held 10 meetings around the conference – one in each district – to explain the proposal in detail. His reflections are in a related story.
Here is a summary of the legislative items from the Pre-Conference Workbook and the Supplemental Packet legislation which will require a 2/3 affirmative vote in order for it to be considered part of the agenda:
Legislative Item 104 and 104A: Conference Budget
The 2015 budget being proposed by the Conference Council on Finance and Administration is a 0.80 percent increase or $97,433 to a $12.34 million budget. This budget does assume the passage of the health insurance proposal. Legislative Item 104 presents the actual numbers for the Conference Budget, including detailed budgets for the Equipping and Connecting Team as well as the Office of Congregational Development and the Conference Benevolence Budget. Legislative Item 104-A provides a narrative for each line-item describing how those funds are expended.
Legislative Item 105: CCFA Policies and Guidelines
The policies and guidelines of how funds are expended are subject to the approval of the annual conference and form the procedures for how funds are disbursed.
Legislative Item 106: Conference Board of Pensions
This report includes information on the defined benefit portion of clergy pensions for 2015. For 2015, the rates for a full-time pastor will be $5,640 per year ($470 per month). Pastors at ¾ and ½ time are proportional. Pastors serving ¼ time are not eligible for the CRSP-DB portion of the plan.
The report also recommends a 2 percent increase in past service year funding for the pre-1982 plan which was a defined benefit plan. Currently, the pre-1982 plan is funded at the 102 percent level and no additional contributions will be needed from the conference to fund it.
Legislative Item 108: Standing Rule on Connectional Table (requires 2/3 vote)
The proposal seeks to address deficiencies in the current conference structure by placing mission, ministry and finances at the same table. The new model, similar to a local church Administrative Board structure, seeks to provide alignment and better clarity of purpose while at the same time reducing duplication. A graphic on page 34 of the Blue Section of the Pre-Conference workbook provides a drawing for explanation.
Legislative Item 109: Standing Rule on Bishop’s Resource Team (requires 2/3 vote)
The changes in the language mirror the changes in language made as a result of the 2012 General Conference and conforms to The Book of Discipline (2012).
Legislative Item 110: Standing Rule on Safe Sanctuaries (requires 2/3 vote)
Legislative Item 111: Standing Rule on Sex Offender Boundaries (requires 2/3 vote)
Currently, the policy on Safe Sanctuaries is found in the 2009 Journal-Yearbook due to action taken by the 2009 Annual Conference. The proposal, brought forth by The Bishop’s Resource Team on Relational Ethics, seeks to elevate the policy to a standing rule, which would have the effect of being published annually in the Conference Journal and Yearbook.
Legislative Item 111 is an adaptation of action taken by the 2012 General Conference and action to include it as a Standing Rule would give it the effect of being published annually.
Legislative Item 112: Equitable Compensation Report
The Committee on Equitable Compensation is recommending a 3 percent increase for 2015 for minimum full-time clergy salary. Clergy in full connection, associate members and provisional elders would have a minimum salary of $39,227 and full-time local pastors would have a minimum salary of $35,996.
The report also includes the $12,000 health insurance allowance in addition to the minimum salary to assist the pastor in purchasing adequate and affordable health insurance.
Legislative Item 113: Discontinuation of Bloomington Grace UMC
Legislative Item 114: Discontinuation of Hurst UMC
The two churches, which have completed their mission, will be part of the Trustees Report on Friday morning.
Legislative Item 115: Policy on Clergy Sexual Misconduct
This legislation is being offered by the Bishop’s Resource Team on Relational Ethics and seeks to revise the Conference Policy Statement on Clergy Sexual Misconduct which was passed in 1997. The proposed legislation increases the scope to include all clergy and laity in ministerial roles, lay employees and volunteers of the Conference as well as lay employees and volunteers of the local church.
Legislative Item 116: Policies on Submitting Resolutions (requires 2/3 vote)
This change to the standing rules requires that all Supplemental Packet materials are subject to a May 1 deadline and reduces the number of copies required by the maker of any legislation from 2,000 to 1,600. It further requires that resolutions and reports be submitted in Microsoft Word and spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel.
Legislative Item 117: Display Policy
This legislation merely reflects current policy and makes clear that items cannot be sold or given away for a donation without serious tax implications which can affect the Conference’s tax-exempt status.
Legislative Item 118: Covenant with Sunset Home
The covenant agreement of mutual relationship between the IGRC and Sunset Home in Quincy spells out expectations of both parties. Similar covenant relationships have been established with the conference’s other health and welfare agencies.
Legislative Item 119: McKendree University as Historic Site
This resolution authorizes the Conference Commission on Archives and History to apply for recognition of McKendree University as a United Methodist Historic Site.
Legislative Item 120: Webb Funds Use and Management
The legislation seeks to reconstitute a committee for the Webb Lectures which was disbanded in 2005, and the combining of funds from the Webb Continuing Education Fund from the former Southern Illinois Conference and the Webb Lectureship in Spiritual Formation Fund of the former Central Illinois Conference be used to sponsor events of continuing education for persons under the supervision or care of the Conference Board of Ministry.
Legislative Item 201: Discontinuation of the Printed Current
The legislation, if approved, would cease the publication of the monthly conference publication of The Current in printed form no later than Aug. 31. This proposal was not proposed by or through the Conference Commission on Communications, which is given the authority for setting communications policy.
The legislation mandates that The Current be available electronically, which is has been since September 2006; that a study of communications strategies be brought to the 2015 Annual Conference; and that a reallocation of savings from print and postage between the Communications Commission and the Council on Finance and Administration in an effort to fulfill the disciple making process.
Legislative Item 202: Non-Violent Actions Toward Peace
Legislative Item 202 calls upon IGRC churches and agencies to review investments and to divest in any multinational corporations profiting from the current conflict between Palestine and Israel. The legislation further urges use of particular materials of an unofficial advocacy group that has made similar calls for divestment to the General Board of Pensions and to the 2012 General Conference.
Legislative Item 203: Humane Treatment of Farm Animals
Legislative Item 203 seeks to raise awareness on the treatment of farm animals, particularly those raised for food.
Legislative Item 204: Living Into Inclusiveness
This legislation seeks to direct the Committee on Nominations to seek out self-proclaimed “out” gay men and lesbian representation on all Conference committee and agencies and that the Sessions Committee seek “out” gay men and lesbians to be in Annual Conference leadership roles. The legislation also seeks to draw the distinction between “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and those that are “self-avowed homosexuals.”
Report 301: Advance Specials for 2015
Legislative Item 301 provides a list of approved Advance Specials for 2015 and also provides notations as to where the various ministries fall within the Conference’s Five-Star Mission program.
Report 302: Treasurer’s Report
This report documents the revenue and expenditures for calendar year 2013. The report shows apportionment receipts at 91.66 percent for the year. Expenditures were expended at 90.53 percent of the budget.
Report 303: IGRC Board of Trustees
This report shows the work done by the Conference Board of Trustees on the various properties owned by the Conference as well as the churches that have completed their mission in the past year.
Report 304: Preachers’ Aid Society and Benefit Fund
The annual conference forms the membership of the Preachers’ Aid Society and Benefit Fund. The annual business meeting of PASBF is convened within the annual conference session to approve the recommended actions.
Report 305: United Methodist Foundation
This report provides an accounting for the activities of the United Methodist Foundation and its work with local churches on stewardship, financial planning and investment.
Report 306: Christian Response to Violence Update
This is a report to the Annual Conference on Legislative Item 201, which was passed by the 2013 Annual Conference regarding gun violence.
Supplemental Resolutions (subject to 2/3 approval of the Annual Conference to include them as part of the agenda (see Legislative Item 103)
Legislative Item 121: Standing Rule on Submitting Resolutions (2/3 vote needed)
The legislative item seeks to facilitate the legislative process by making editorial corrections and provide a window for the Conference Council on Finance and Administration a means to address financial implications of legislation before voting on the final budget.
Legislative Item 122: Ministry with Ethnic Minorities
This legislation would direct the IGRC Committee on Ethnic Local Church Concerns to form a speaker’s bureau that would educate local churches on strategies for improving outreach with ethnic minorities.
Legislative Item 205: Responding to Same Gender Weddings
This resolution calls for a year of fasting, prayer and studying the issue of same gender weddings in local congregations with a stated purpose of “fostering a better understanding of the matter and composing legislation for the next session of General Conference.”
Legislative Item 206: Amend CBOP Policies and Guidelines
This legislation seeks to add a requirement to the Conference Board of Pensions to annually notify clergy members on family leave of their coverage under the Comprehensive Protection Plan. In response, the Conference Board of Pensions has said it believes the requested action is beyond the scope of the Conference Board of Pensions and is handled by the General Board of Pensions.
Report 307: Bishop’s Task Force on Cross-Racial and Cross-Cultural Appointments
This is report by a Task Force formed in 2011 by Bishop Gregory V. Palmer to address the challenges and opportunities of cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments, and to make an effort to be more pro-active in such appointments.
Report 308: Conflict Transformation Ministry
This is a report by the Conflict Transformation Ministry, formed in 2012, where 40 lay and clergy persons have been trained to assist congregations in conflict.
Report 309: Committee on Nominations
This provides the leadership that has been nominated for the Conference for the 2015. Some of the boards and agencies elect in classes, meaning only part of the group is being elected. In other cases, certain boards merely report their officers and board members and they are duly noted.