Comments: CofE pensions crisis: more coverage

The current full CofE pension is already hardly over-generous:- According to the CofE pension folk, if you include a full UK state pension, a (married) priest gets about 19000 pounds per year, and an Archbishop about 30000. So I don't see how this could be reduced without causing hardship - which is against the principle of the stipend. Similarly the idea of defined cost pensions (putting the risk on the priest) would be against the "stipend" principle.

So the only honourable way to avoid further huge cost increases to the churches would be later retirement. Assuming good health in old age, and increased life expectancy, I think that is a perfectly reasonable and honourable answer.

Posted by Dave at Saturday, 11 March 2006 at 3:12pm GMT

Dave suggests later retirement as a response to the pensions shortfall for the C of E. There are two difficulties with that route; one financial the other pastoral.

Most institutions would save by going for later retirement because it would not affect the total number of employees. However the church has a longstanding practice of sustaining as many stipendiary ministers as offer. Later retirement would add to costs because it would mean clergy who would otherwise have been in receipt of a pension at about £13K being in receipt of a stipend, housing and pension contribution package over £30K. My roughest calculation would suggest an increase in 2 years would add around £7.5M to the total costs, equivalent to around £800 per clergy post. The only way to save through this would be if the later retirement age were simply a proxy for basing the full service pension on a greater number of years of service, and hence reducing the actual level of pension for most clergy. Which defaults to the solution Dave rejects in his first paragraph.

The second problem is pastoral. The demands on clergy have increased hugely in the last thirty years or so, not least as numbers of stipendiaries have dropped. There are no gentle posts left for those who wish to move quietly towards retirement. Some are actually going a little before 65 already through stress. To put financial pressure on such individuals is iniquitous. And if the result of increasing the offical pension age is that a high proportion leave in advance the potential savings have been wiped out anyway.

Posted by David Walker at Sunday, 12 March 2006 at 7:57am GMT

Dear David, I certainly agree that raising the pension age means that more people may have to retire early on health grounds (physical/mental/emotional) - hence I said "assuming good health".

However I disagree that it is unfair that a priest gets the same pension having worked for more years. Of course it is unfair if you focus only on the interests of the priest, but there are other considerations in the church.

Regarding the outcome of having more working clergy (and related employment costs) I understand that half the clergy of the CofE are heading for retirement on the next 15 years, and ordinands in training are about half the replacement rate. So if nothing changes the church's employment costs are going to drop by about 25% in real terms over the next 15 years. Put the other way round, we could raise the normal retirement age to 70 (ie same as Bishops) progressively between 2010 and 2020 and still have slightly falling employment costs!

Personally I would prefer that (with health guarantees) to being told I would receive a lower pension (or no guaranteed pension at all) or loading the churches with even higher pension contributions.

Posted by Dave at Saturday, 18 March 2006 at 8:42pm GMT

A further thought... An increase in retirement age will, I suggest, be unhelpful from both the perspective of mission and church life. Already the average age profile of clergy is too high to effectively reach the younger generations, though I know that there are individual exceptions to this.

Also, faced with another five years of ministry, any thinking person - hopefully clergy are that - who has been in ministry a decent amount of time, would start to pace themselves more and thus outlay less time and energy on their work. Most would still be working well within their job description so little could be done practically, but the result would be a less energetic and involved leadership, though again there would be individual exceptions. This, of course, in addition to any who, by that stage, had burnt our or retired through ill health.

Posted by mike newman at Tuesday, 12 September 2006 at 5:31pm BST
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