‘Faithful Partners in Ministry’, a message from Bishop Peggy Johnson

Episcopal SealGreetings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus the Christ!

I am writing to you during this season of giving with an important reminder about the paying of conference remittances and apportionments.

The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference currently has 415 churches. We are a collection of Christian communities which have partnered together to make a difference for Christ and the Kingdom in southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond. The Connectional Ministries apportionment and the direct bills for property & liability insurance, clergy pensions, and clergy health care benefits are a tangible expression of our unity in the face of human need. It is also an expression of our commitment to the much larger Body of Christ. Much good comes from our connectional ministry and the missions we support through this giving.

As we come to the end of this year I am urging every local church to keep their commitment to this tangible expression of unity. Please find out if your church is behind on its payments. I am making this appeal because there are certain financial realities that are impacting the life and ministry of the Conference.

At the adjourned session of Annual Conference, delegates elected to reduce the number of districts from six to four in an effort to reduce the Conference budget and improve cash flow. This is just the first of several steps to be taken toward becoming a financial secure Conference.

Informing you about our financial realities is another step:

  • As of October 3, 2016 out of 415 churches in the EPA Conference
    • 167 paid 100% of their Billed remittances in full.
    • 233 churches paid a portion of their remittance bills.
    • 15 churches have paid zero toward these bills.
  • In the past, we have managed the Conference cash flow by using monies from reserves or other one-time events such as building or property sales. With less and less of our churches paying in full or in advance, we do not have the funds required to meet our current billing responsibilities.
  • Regarding the Pre-82 Pension obligation: $1.2 million is due to the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits in December 2016 to pay for our annual Pre-1982 Pension invoice.
    • In 2015, the conference took an advance from the Board of Pension and Health Benefits to pay the 75% of the direct bill anticipating a reimbursement from the faithful remittance of local churches. As of this letter, the conference has been unable to recoup those funds.
    • If the Board of Pension and Health Care Benefits must do the same in 2016 and the responses of the churches are similar to 2015; and this trend continues, then it would leave us without reserve funds and creates the possibility of a pension shortfall in 2021 when the obligation should 100% funded.
    • This trend is also happening with other direct bills, including property and liability insurance and clergy health care. The Conference continues to pay this obligation too from resources that are nearly exhausted; and does so with the expectation that local congregations will do their part to make every effort to pay.

As stated earlier, all of these financial realities impact our life and ministry as a Conference of local churches called to be a witness for Jesus Christ in southeastern Pennsylvania.

I invite you to pray for clear steps forward. We also invite you to consider steps you can take as a congregation to faithfully partner with the other churches of the EPA Conference in securing, and growing, our life and ministry together. There are looming financial hurdles before us, but if each of us does our part, the challenges will be easily met. If we give cheerfully, as II Corinthians 9:8 says: God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance.

Let’s be faithful partners in ministry for Christ and the transformation of the world.

Bishop Peggy Johnson