Anglican Church of Canada Pension Fund on Brink of Collapse
By David W. Virtue
July 29, 2013
The Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod Pension Plan is in danger of collapsing unless it gets immediate financial relief from the province of Ontario.
According to information VOL has received, a letter written by The Rt. Rev. Philip Poole chair of the Pension Committee pleads with pensioners to write and agree to a government bailout plan or face a 20% to 30% drop in their pensions.
"The government will consider granting us temporary funding relief only if 213 (about 67%) of the members in each of our active, inactive and retired member groups wrote 'Yes' using the enclosed voter card," wrote Poole.
"With funding relief, we will have three years to try to improve our plan's funding level."
Poole said most pension plans across Canada are facing significant funding shortfalls and cited several reasons: Canadians are living longer than ever (we continue to outlive our friends in the U.S. and U.K.). The population is aging, which means fewer actively working Canadians supporting more retirees. Investment returns are lower due to the economic downturn.
"Given that, historically, 213 of our pensions are paid from investment income (and only 713 from contributions), this has put a huge strain on our plan. Interest rates have had a significant impact on valuation results for solvency funding. The lower the interest rate, the higher the value of our pension benefits, and the more money we are required to keep in our pension fund."
Several recent major studies show that more than 90% of Canada's pension plans are underfunded, said Poole.
The Church Pension plan has a going-concern shortfall as of August 2012. "Our actuary estimates that as a going concern it was funded 95% with a shortfall of $28.7 million. As far as solvency is concerned the plan is only 70.5% a shortfall of $171 million.
"Right now, our plan is in a bind. Under provincial pension law, contributions to the plan must be high enough to pay for benefits currently being earned and to cover any special payments required to eliminate ongoing concerns. Under federal tax law, combined employer and employee pension contributions are limited to 18% of pay (77.2%) in our case because of the housing allowance). This means that our only choice is to cut benefits to bring them in line with contribution limits."
Poole said funding relief will give pensioners a three-year exemption from having to make special payments to cover a solvency shortfall.
"This means that we can keep our contributions within the tax limits with no benefit reductions. It also gives us time to apply to the federal government for a temporary increase in pension contribution limits, and an opportunity to try to improve our plan's solvency funding level."
Poole said that at the end of the three years there would need to be another valuation of the plan. "If there is still a solvency funding shortfall, we will likely have no choice but to cut benefits. Without funding relief pensions would be reduced immediately."
The total market value of the fund as of May 31, 2013 is almost $650 million.
A personal video message By Bishop Poole can be seen here: www.anglicanpension.ca.
At the church's General Synod in 2011, the church revealed a deficit of $65,000, due to a decline in expected revenue of $808,000, according to Treasurer Michele George.
Reviewing General Synod's financial results for 2011 the Council of General Synod (CoGS) revealed a budget of $12 million but had planned for a surplus of $18,000. Instead, a loss on investments, a decline in proportional giving from dioceses and lower than anticipated results from annual appeals, led to a shortfall. General Synod was able to use 20% of $2 million in undesignated legacies to help cover the shortfall, George told delegates.
Resources for Mission, particularly the annual appeals, were disappointing and resulted in a shortfall of $752,000, according to the financial management committee report to CoGS. The shortfall was partially cushioned by a reserve of $200,000 and partly from undesignated legacies.
Proportional giving fell short of budget by $273,000, but part of the loss was cushioned by another reserve of $200,000, according to the financial management committee report to CoGS.
There was talk in May of 2012 of merging three Anglican dioceses into one. The Anglican Diocese of Western Newfoundland could become part of a larger provincial diocese if changes to the ecclesiastical province of Canada go ahead. According to an article from an Anglican Journal story, the ecclesiastical province of Canada is looking at reducing the number of its dioceses so it can carry out God's mission more efficiently.
WARNINGS: HUGE DECLINES
Recent statistics reveal the Anglican Church of Canada is in huge decline. New independent surveys show the ACoC has experienced a huge decline over the past 40 years.
Over the period of 1961 to 2001 the ACoC has lost 53% of its members, with numbers declining from 1.36 million to just 642,000. Furthermore the survey suggested that the decline is accelerating. A retired marketing expert, Keith McKerracher carried out the report and said the ACoC was declining much faster than any other church. "We're losing 12,836 Anglicans a year. That's 2 percent a year. If you draw a line on the graph, there'll only be one person left in the Canadian Anglican church by 2061."
The decline has coincided with the liberalization of the Church views over the past four decades; something that has also been witnessed in the Episcopal Church USA. Ted Byfield, a long-time observer of Canadian culture, who has published a weekly news magazine in Canada for 30 years and now serves as general editor of The Christians, a 12-volume history of Christianity, has suggested that this liberalization of the Church is the core reason for the decline.
McKerracher also said that he did not believe that the Anglican leaders in Canada would respond in any significant way to the findings. "The church is in real crisis. They can't carry on like it is business as usual. They talk things to death. And my impression is that the bishops are not going to go around telling priests to shape up."
Evangelical Anglicans in Canada have been warning church leaders for years that the ACoC was in deep spiritual trouble with no proclamation of the gospel except for a list of social justice objectives.
More recently, Anglicans were warned that they must "change or die". A trio of bombshells dumped on their doorsteps came with the explosive message: become more like evangelical churches in style in order to survive.
Critics on one side are resisting change entirely; on the other, they suggest something must also be done about theological content. The Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi cogently asked, "Can We Handle the Truth?" and "Why the Church Must Change or Die."
A number of prominent Anglican leaders have left the ACoC, including the Rev. Dr. Marney Patterson President of Invitation to Live Ministries.
Patterson, an evangelist with the Anglican Church in his book Suicide: the Decline and Fall of the Anglican Church of Canada? , says denominational statistics show that Canada's second-largest Protestant church has lost 267,000 members over the past 30 years, and shut down 523 parishes between 1995 and 1997.
"I don't believe we have more than two or three years to make changes; otherwise the ball game is over. The church has 20 years at the outside. By that time we will be a chapel rather than a church, and it will last only until the old faithful die off," he said. The Anglican Church of Canada has only a short time to save itself from oblivion, said Patterson. "Personally, I feel there is little chance it can be saved."
The formation of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) was a body blow to the Anglican status quo. A number of evangelical Anglicans risked parish and pension to leave the ACoC foremost among them was St. John's Shaughnessy the single largest parish in Canada. They left with more than 2,000 parishioners, income the Diocese of New Westminster can never recover from. Others have launched out on their own in church plants to once again proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost denomination and country steeped in social issues but who ahve lost sight of Jesus as Savior and Lord.
In a touch of irony, when the ACoC met recently at a Joint Assembly of Anglicans and Lutherans, they offered up as their inspirational theme, "Together for the Love of the World."
Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, challenged the members of Joint Assembly with some tough questions. "The question before us these days is, 'what shall be the face of Christianity in North America in the next 10 years? Shall it be an increasingly vanishing face? Or shall it be the face of a cairn?'" he asked, describing the importance of stone cairns for travelers needing directions. "A cairn is a gathering of stones scattered but then piled up, and a cairn can have two functions. It can be a monument, a memorial to the past or it can be a pointing of the way."
The deeper truth is that these liberal bodies seem both unable and unwilling to change their ways and they continue to ignore the call of the Great Commission. As a result, they will continue to whither and die. The pile of rocks (cairns) left, along with the churches they have sold to evangelical churches, social service agencies, start-up storefront businesses, saloons and more WILL be their future.
No new parishioners, closing churches, dying dioceses and less income means less for those now retiring. While the church wants to love and save the world, it apparently can't muster enough dollars to save its own people and itself.
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