Four protesting parishes in the diocese have taken up the offer of the Diocesan Council made last fall that lets eight of their clergy return to the diocesan payroll so they can remain in the Anglican Church of Canada’s pension and benefits plans.

However, the parishes have decided not to return about 15 lay employees to the diocesan payroll. They will receive lesser benefits that will cost more.

The clergy and lay employees left the diocesan payroll system in 2002 to protest the Diocesan Synod’s request for a blessing of same-sex union.

Last fall the national Church’s pension and benefits office adopted new software. The trustees of the national pension and benefit’s plan decided that, because of the way the new software operates, and to comply with the provisions of Canon VIII, all clergy must go through a diocesan payroll system, as employees of the diocese for purposes of the pension plan, if they are to remain in the national clergy plan.

In December the Diocese of New Westminster’s Diocesan Council agreed to take the clergy back on the diocesan payroll. To do this the council agreed to suspend a diocesan regulation that requires money received from a parish first be applied to a parish’s assessment. They suspended the regulation at least through June but not later than the end of 2007, and for the four protesting parishes only.

Judy Robinson, Executive Director of the national Pension Office, said that the rules of the national pension plan do allow lay employees to join a plan set up for employees of parishes throughout the Anglican Church of Canada who are not paid through their diocesan payroll.

The benefits in this lay employees plan do cost more and are not as comprehensive as those in the diocesan plans - it doesn’t, for instance, include orthodontia ,and the life insurance is for $20,000, rather than $100,000, as in the diocesan plan. The benefits plans, administered by Manulife Financial, are “experienced-based,” and lay employees not paid through a diocese tend to use benefits more frequently.

The four protesting parishes - St. John’s Shaughnessy, St. Matthias and St. Luke, St. Matthew, Abbotsford, and Good Shepherd - remain officially part of the diocese but participate in very few diocesan activities, and do not contribute to the diocesan budget.