The Church Pension Group annual report at a glance

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This week, Church Pension Group (CPG) released their annual report.  The report, which has the subtitle “A Stable Presence,” details trends in investments, shares current statistics about their services, introduces new board members and employees, and gives a snapshot of current priorities for the organizations that fall under its purview.  Church Pension Group includes The Church Pension Fund, Church Life Insurance Corporation, The Church Insurance Companies, The Episcopal Church Medical Trust, and Church Publishing Incorporated.

At the of the end of 2018, CPG pension plans had 6,000 active clergy participants and 19,881 active lay participants and boasted a portfolio with assets totaling $13.5 billion.  During 2018, CPG took in $85 million in assessments but paid $380 million in clergy pension benefits, relying on their investment returns to make up the difference.  In that same time, CPG also offered 75 conferences, The Church Insurance Companies insured 90% of Episcopal churches, and Church Publishing managed 2,753 products and titles.

The report also looks back at the past decade, acknowledging the significant financial impact felt by CPG after the economic collapse of 2008 when they experienced a $3 billion loss, and detailing some of the recovery from that.  In 2009, CPG opened an office in Hong Kong in order to be more present in the global market, specifically looking at CPG’s investment presence in Asian markets.  In the past few years, CPG has made moves to increase the social responsibility of their investments and, most recently, invested $40 million dollars in clean energy projects in North American.  According to their website, they use three strategies in their approach to socially responsible investing:

    • Investing for Positive Impact: proactively seeking out and investing with managers who deliver both strong returns and positive social outcomes;
    • Shareholder Engagement: using CPF’s position as an institutional investor to influence the behavior of companies in its investment portfolio; and
    • Thought Leadership: sharing CPF’s experience and its industry relationships to create awareness of modern, effective strategies for using capital to achieve positive social impact.”

Despite some global financial setbacks, though, CPG investments have consistently performed well, even out-performing investment goals at the last three, five, and ten year benchmarks.  Likewise, CPG’s assets grew from $12 billion as of March 31, 2015 to $13.5 billion as of Mark 31, 2019.

Another notable shift at CPG is an increased focus on lay pension and health benefits.  While CPG has long been celebrated as a model of excellence in clergy pension plans, there has been a push in the past decade to improve benefits for lay employees.   General Convention 2009 passed resolutions creating the Lay Pension System and the Denominational Health Plan.  Just recently, Executive Council made steps toward parity in its lay and clergy pension benefits, effective July 1 of this year.

One significant addition to the clergy pension plan came this past year when the Diocese of Cuba was readmitted to the Episcopal Church at last summer’s General Convention.  CPG is currently working to onboard the Diocese of Cuba’s clergy to the pension program.

Other than personnel changes, the final significant portion of the report was a section detailing statistical trends in ordinations and pensions.  According to their chart, the overall number of active clergy enrolled in the pension plan has dropped from 6,824 in 2013 to 6,000 in 2019 while the number of retirees receiving benefits from the plan has increased from 7,636 in 2013 to 8,235 in 2019. Meanwhile, the number of ordinations has fallen in recent years: 371 individuals were ordained in 2012, 392 in 2015, and 350 in 2018.

The Church Pension Group report can be found in its entirety on the CPG website, either in an interactive format or as a downloadable PDF.

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