Diocesan Council has offered to provide clergy payroll services to four protesting parishes in the diocese to enable their clergy to remain in the Anglican Church of Canada’s pension and benefits plan.

The Council learned at its November 14 meeting that the adoption of new software by the national Pension Office means that clergy in the protesting parishes can no longer continue with a “temporary” arrangement accommodated in 2002 when their Parishes refused to meet required payment of Assessment as a protest against the actions of Synod in 2002.

Unless Council took action on this now, these clergy would be faced with a loss of access to the pension and benefits plan which involves all licensed Anglican clergy throughout the Anglican Church of Canada.

The national Pension Committee has ruled all clergy not on the national staff must have contributions to the plans remitted through a diocese if they intend to remain as active members of the Anglican Church of Canada pension and benefits plan.

Individual clergy and/or parishes can only participate through the diocese in which they are licensed, as is provided for under the Regulations of the General Synod Pension Plan, approved by General Synod.

Clergy in the four protesting parishes - St. John’s Shaughnessy, St. Matthias and St. Luke, St. Matthew, Abbotsford, and Good Shepherd - were among clergy and delegates in eight parishes who walked out of the 2002 Diocesan Synod after the majority voted to ask for a blessing of same-sex unions. (Of the other four parishes, three are back in the diocese - in some cases with fewer people - and one parish was dissolved.)

With diocesan agreement and cooperation - and in hopes of eventual reconciliation - the diocese in 2002 cooperated with the protesting parishes as they moved to set up their own payroll service through St. John’s Shaughnessy.

This avoided a confrontation with these Parishes and their clergy over the use of diocesan Regulation 12 (Assessment) which would have required monies received by the diocese to go first to assessment and then to payroll. At the time the Pension Office’s software was modified to allow the four protesting parishes to be considered a subgroup of the diocese’s clergy employees.

According to Judy Robinson, executive director of the Pension Office, the new software that the Pension Office has purchased can not accommodate subgroups. She said the regulations of the Anglican Church of Canada’s pension plan requires that clergy licensed by a diocese, must have contributions remitted by that diocese, in order to participate.

So Diocesan Council on November 14 agreed to offer to allow the protesting parishes to put their clergy back on the diocesan payroll system. It agreed, after a closed door discussion, to suspend Regulation 12 - for these four parishes only - at least through June 30 of next year, but no later than December 31, 2007.

This means that the protesting parishes during the time indicated will be able to continue their “protest”, not pay assessments to the diocese, but still receive payroll services from the diocese. Dean Peter Elliott, the Bishop’s Commissary, has written to each of the four Parishes indicating the decision which has been taken in the spirit of potential reconciliation.

Sometime next year it is hoped the long-term status of the protesting parishes will be clarified. They remain officially part of the diocese, the churches remain under diocesan control and their clergy are licensed clergy of this diocese as part of the Anglican Church of Canada, but participate in very few if any diocesan activities and do not contribute financially.