EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis): In the latest “transparency effort” by GOA (here is the press release) it is evident that the priest’s pension plan is well on its way to be effectively eliminated through its transformation to a different category of pension plan which will not make the Archdiocese liable… One more promise broken… The only promise which is not about to be broken is regarding the annual contributions from the parishes to GOA and, of course, the annual “logia” to the Phanar, BOTH OF WHICH WILL SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE DESPITE THE COVID-19 CRISIS… Until the last faithful have walked out disgusted or until priests and faithful massively seek refuge to American Law or to the jurisdiction of another Orthodox Church…
BELOW YOU CAN READ THE LETTER SEND BY THE SYNDESMOS OF PRIESTS OF NJ TO THE METROPOLIS AND GOA REGARDING THE PENSION PLAN
THE GREEK ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF NEW JERSEY CLERGY SYNDESMOS
To: Fr. Jim Paris, Archdiocesan Benefits Committee
Fr. Mark Leondis, Archdiocesan Presbyters Council
From: Metropolis of New Jersey Clergy Syndesmos; Fr. K. Karavellas, Vicar General; Fr. D. Antokas, Pres. Syndesmos; Fr. L. Noplos, APC; Fr. C. Pavlakos, ABC; Fr. B. Gikas, past APC, Metropolis Council; Vicars- Fr. C. Moralis; Fr. N. Bacalis; Fr. A. Stavropoulos; Fr. A. Bourantas;
CC: His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey
Re: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (“GOA”) Clergy Pension Plan
Date: July 2, 2020
Greetings with Brotherly love and respect,
As you are aware, each of us are concerned about the Archdiocese Clergy Pension Program.
In an effort to better understand the status of our Clergy Pension Program, and to have a clearer basis from which to make educated financial/retirement decisions, and to develop strategies for financial health, His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, directed Fr. Bill Gikas to work with the Metropolis Clergy Syndesmos, the representatives of the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council, Archdiocesan Benefits Committee, and the Vicars of the Metropolis to compile the concerns of the Clergy in an effort to make positives changes regarding the GOA Clergy Pension Plan. We present you our concerns;
● “In our years of service to our Holy Church we have never seen a formal financial report on the GOA Clergy Pension Plan.”
● “Yes, we have received the mid-summer actuarial benefit statements indicating what our estimated defined benefit will be depending upon anticipated retirement age. However, as we are engaged in a clergy financial literacy project and there has been discussion for quite some time of moving the current clergy pension plan to a Defined Contribution type plan, we believe being clear with all our brethren is imperative.”
● Some pension plans present simple yet straightforward annual reports to their pensioners/participants which include the following:
o Status of Plan- Is it Critical or Endangered?
o How Well Funded is Our Plan?
o Participant Information: How many participants? How
many retired or separated from service and are entitled to
o Funding & Investment Policies
o Source of Fund Contributions, from Clergy, Parishes,
Archdiocese and Investments
o Asset Allocations
o Summary of Rules Governing Plans in Reorganization and
o Benefit Payments Guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)
o How much does our Archdiocesan Benefits Office cost us/our pension plan annually?
o What is our actuarial firms’ compensation?
o What are other Administrative and Consultant costs?”
● “Since a Pension Report has not been provided the Clergy, we are left with only the December 2019, issue of “The Epistle”, the Retired Clergy Association’s (RCA) publication in which an article “The Archdiocesan Pension Overview” to which to refer. The article mentions aspects of our plan.
○ There is a “freeze” of the Pension Plan. What is a “freeze”? Is the freeze referring to pension assets under management? Does the freeze refer to the anticipated Defined Benefit a retiree will receive or something else?
○ The Pension Plan is “underfunded”. What does “underfunded” mean and what are the consequences for the clergy.
o What does “underfunded” mean exactly? For example, if a clergyman retires at the end of 2020, does he receive a partial retirement benefit or the whole retirement benefit? Is the retirement benefit at risk in subsequent years?
o What is the cause of underfunding? If a clergyman pays in his percentage contribution each month then what is causing the underfunding?
o In the article “The Archdiocesan Pension Overview” it states that “the pension is secure and inviolate. No one can touch it.” What does that mean?
● In addition, we think it important to know:
o What has been the rate of return over the past five, ten fifteen, twenty years and the life of the pension plan? How is the rate of return calculated?
o Is there a provision in the plan for cost of living or inflation adjustments?
o What does the Pension Guaranty Board protect? The principal amount of clergy personal contributions or something more or less?
Without clarity, transparency and consistency some clergy may decide to forgo making any more monthly contributions to the GOA pension and opt to a private plan through their own selected money manager or mutual fund and thus make their own pension savings contributions, accumulate the returns and leave the assets as part of their wills or trusts.
We hope we can report more regularly, transparently and accurately to all our brethren. Financial literacy and pension plan education are vital to all of us.
We also feel very strongly that if the “plan” is presented to the Clergy in August of 2020, voted for approval in September and implemented in January 2021, this timetable is too short to make any educated appropriate decisions affecting the future of our Clergy Benefits Program.
Our Clergy have been faithful and trusting in this program since its inception. It was founded by Priests who had the foresight and the commitment to guarantee that the Priests and Presbyteras would live a dignified life in retirement until they enter the Eternal Kingdom.
As Clergy of the Metropolis of New Jersey, we stand united in expressing our sadness and disappointment, that even though this has been mentioned at various retreats and Clergy gatherings, that if the peak of the funding issue happened over twenty years ago, it should have been addressed then.
Thank you to all those who volunteer their time and talent to our Pension and Benefits Committees.
Respectfully in the Lord’s service
The Priests of the Metropolis of New Jersey