Category Archives: PC(USA)

Board of Pensions Uncovers Fraud Scheme

Board of Pensions News Release

Contact: Susan Reimann
Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
215-587-7228 • sreimann@nullpensions.org

PHILADELPHIA  — The Board of Pensions is investigating the fraudulent redirection of 11 pension payments. The Board reissued the December payments to the pensioners, and acted immediately to ensure that no other Benefits Plan members or pensioners were, or would be, affected. The fraud did not affect any other plans or funds.

The Board also identified that the online accounts of 46 additional pensioners had been altered to redirect future payments. The Board reversed these, thwarting the attempt at a second theft. Credit and identity protection service is being offered to the 57 pensioners who were in some way affected.

“We identified it, contained it, and prevented further damage,” Board President Frank C. Spencer said. “The final loss was minimal and we have insurance as well.” The Board is working with its insurance carrier, a top forensic consulting firm, and law enforcement to determine the source of the fraud and to help ensure system security, he said.

“We’re fending off attempts at computer-facilitated fraud daily, as is every large organization in the United States today,” President Spencer said. The Board monitors the safety of its systems constantly and frequently upgrades systems security. The fraud investigation is in the early stages, but there is no indication that Board systems were hacked.

“This was the transfer of the pension payment through direct deposit, and the assets of the Board were never in danger,” President Spencer said. The number of pension payments made by the Board in 2017 will total about 250,000, he said. Last month was the first time any have been fraudulently redirected.

The fraud follows a pattern of targeting older retirees who do not have online profiles.

“The targeting of elderly people in this way is happening a lot. It’s cruel,” President Spencer said. “We need to be alert to this sort of fraud. And we need to help protect our loved ones and friends who are vulnerable to it. Remind them to check their accounts regularly, especially for automatic deposits and withdrawals.”


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Photos Wanted for the PC(USA) Planning Calendar

Calling for great church photos for PC(USA) calendar!

Vital congregations, mission to be featured in next Presbyterian Planning Calendar

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

The Presbyterian Planning Calendar for 2018-19 will feature photos on the cover and throughout the monthly calendar pages showing the best of what our churches are doing in mission and ministry. Your photos are invited! Presbyterian News Service/Jeffrey Lawrence

LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Planning Calendar, a beloved publication of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is seeking photo submissions from congregations, mid councils, camps, conference centers and education centers for use in its 2018-19 edition.

Focusing on vital congregations and mission activities, the request for images also asks, “Who are the unsung heroes of your congregation?”

Images should feature congregation members engaged in activities including worship, mission service, creativity and the arts, and direct outreach. Calendar planners ask that staged photos of groups of people and photos of people sitting at conference or dining tables be avoided.

The format of the calendar is “landscape,” meaning photos should be wider than tall, and high resolution photographs, with a minimum resolution of 2000 x 1500 pixels (no smaller than 1 MB), are requested for best printing. Please include a caption and photo credit with each image. If children are pictured, please ensure the use and distribution of your photo complies with your safe church policy.

The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2018. Photos should be emailed to the planning calendar manager, Jackie Carter, at Jackie.Carter@nullpcusa.org. Feel free to call 502-569-5772 with any questions.


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Board of Pensions issues statement on housing allowance ruling

Spencer says, ‘We will keep working diligently to protect our ministers’

by Susan Reimann | Board of Pensions

Read the original article here.

PHILADELPHIA — On Oct. 6, Judge Barbara Crabb, a federal district court judge in the Western District of Wisconsin, found Section 107(2) of the Internal Revenue Code (the subsection dealing with housing allowances) to be unconstitutional based on the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Section 107(1), relating to the exclusion of the value of manse housing, was not the subject of the lawsuit and remains unaffected.

The Board of Pensions is deeply concerned by this ruling. If upheld on appeal, it would substantially impact the congregations and ministers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Board believes that it is inconsistent to exclude manse housing from income and not treat a comparable cash allowance in the same manner.

“Our concern is that ministers could face a substantial and unfair tax burden should the housing allowance in lieu of manse housing be deemed income,” said the Rev. Frank C. Spencer, President of the Board of Pensions. “Our defined benefit pension plan likewise depends on the same treatment to provide adequate income replacement to retired ministers.”

Through the Church Alliance, the Board has been monitoring this lawsuit, brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation against the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Church Alliance had previously filed briefs with the court in this matter and expects to file an amicus brief upon appeal.

The Church Alliance is a coalition of the CEOs of 38 denominational church plans who work to preserve the legal rights of churches and their employees and clergy in the realm of benefits and compensation. Spencer represents the PC(USA) on the steering committee of the Church Alliance and Board Counsel Jean Hemphill serves as a member of the Church Alliance Core Lawyer Working Group.

The Church Alliance follows issues in the legislative, regulatory, and judicial branches of government. It has engaged the firm of K&L Gates as its Washington, D.C., counsel. Members of the Church Alliance routinely engage with members of Congress and the staff of federal agencies. The Core Lawyer Working Group often develops and files amici briefs in important judicial cases.

Judge Crabb has given the parties until Oct. 30, 2017, to submit briefs concerning possible remedies, after which she will make a final ruling. Judge Crabb heard an earlier case brought by the same parties in 2013 and made the same ruling but stayed any action pending appeal. The 2013 ruling was overturned by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the Freedom From Religion Foundation plaintiffs lacked standing to bring action. This suit seems to have corrected the issue of standing and, if appealed as expected, the Court of Appeals would presumably consider the constitutional issue itself.

“We will keep working diligently to protect our ministers,” said Spencer, “and we expect this to be a short-term setback and not the end of the story.”

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About the Board of Pensions
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a connectional church. The Board of Pensions, one of six agencies of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), fulfills a unique role in the community by upholding the commitment made by congregations to care for installed pastors and by providing ways for churches and other Presbyterian-affiliated employers to care for other teaching elders and other employees. The board administers the benefits of approximately 20,600 pensioners and survivors, 12,900 active members, 18,300 dependents, and 8,700 inactive members (those with vested pension credits who are not actively participating in the benefits plan). 


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PC(USA) Disaster Response

California churches and presbyteries work to help those affected by wildfires

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Northern California’s wine country has received the brunt of the massive wildfires that continue to burn out of control. More than 20 people are known to have died in the fires, while at least 285 remain missing. Authorities report 3,500 structures have been destroyed and over 170,000 acres burned.

Presbyterian Church leaders react to mass shooting in Las Vegas

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

While authorities try to determine what led 64-year-old Stephen Paddock to open fire on a crowd of people in Las Vegas Sunday night, Presbyterian Church leaders and pastors are reaching out to congregations and those impacted by the tragedy.

Presbytery leader in Puerto Rico reports on damage from Hurricane Maria

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, Stated Clerk of the San Juan Presbytery in Puerto Rico, says the biggest challenge he is facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is communications. Attempting to reach and coordinate relief efforts across the island has been hampered by downed communication lines outside of San Juan, infrastructure damage due to flooding and ongoing concerns about fuel shortages.

Presbyterian ministries issue statement on 2018 refugee admissions

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) today, in conjunction with the Office of the Stated Clerk, issued a statement regarding reports the Trump Administration is considering reducing refugee admissions to 50,000 in 2018, the lowest level since passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to help with earthquake recovery efforts in Mexico

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

As rescue crews continue to dig for survivors in the latest earthquake in Mexico, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is connecting with ecumenical partners to support recovery efforts and assist in developing long-term response plans. Tuesday’s quake, which registered 7.1 on the Richter Scale, was the second to strike the region in less than two weeks, causing buildings and houses to collapse, killing or trapping hundreds.

 

Interfaith leaders hold 23-hour vigil on Capitol Hill

Group voices concerns over senate/house versions of health care act

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Original article posted on the PC(USA) Presbyterian Mission website.

Interfaith leaders and supporters spent 23 hours in front of the Capitol speaking out against the latest health care proposal currently under consideration. Photo by Ray Chen.

LOUISVILLE – For 23 hours, a group of interfaith leaders from a variety of denominations gathered on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building on Thursday to pray, sing and speak out against the Senate and House versions of a new health care bill. The group described the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) as “a greatly flawed bill” that was being rushed to approval before there is a thorough examination of its contents.

The group included Muslim and Jewish leaders as well as Christian faith leaders such as the Rev. William Barber, president and senior lecturer from Repairers of the Breach, the Rev. Jennifer Butler with Faith in Public Life and the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness.

The group urged people to advocate and take action to protect Americans who depend on Medicaid coverage for their health care.

“The BCRA does not achieve the goal of universal health care for all Americans. Physicians take a vow to ‘do no harm,’” Hawkins said. “This bill does far more harm than good. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that over 22 million people will lose coverage.”

Hawkins says the bill would create enormous tax breaks for the wealthy, roll back Medicaid expansion in 31 states, block Planned Parenthood funding for one year and end the coverage mandate for both individuals and employers.

Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the Office of Public Witness, speaks to the crowd in the final hour of the 23-hour vigil on Capitol Hill. Photo by Ray Chen.

“This must be a right of citizenship in this country, that if your child gets sick, you don’t have to hesitate in taking him or her to the doctor because you don’t have the ability to pay. Our Christian faith compels us to have a heart for the sick,” Hawkins said. “The Parable of the Good Samaritan gives an example of proper health care and going out of our way to help someone with serious health issues.”

The Office of Public Witness helped plan the vigil, which began Wednesday at 4 p.m. and continued through the night. The gathering closed Thursday afternoon with comments from Hawkins and others.

“How can Paul Ryan stand before the American people and say this is an act of mercy? This is not merciful. We as people of faith serve a God of justice, passion and love,” Hawkins said. “We have to keep coming back and let the lawmakers know that we will not go away. We will be here to the end.”

Several public opinion polls show only 1 in 5 Americans favoring the latest health care proposal.

News from the PC(USA)

LPTS president Michael Jinkins announces retirement
Chris Wooten | Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Final day of service set for September 2, 2018

‘Living, Dying, Rising’ conference leadership spotlight: Jeya and Daniel So
Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service
Innovative church planters to speak on the theme of ‘Dying’ at 2017 national gathering

PC(USA) All-Agency Review Committee meets in Denver
Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
First day deliberations include agency review reports, articulation of mission

PC(USA) journalists reap 24 Associated Church Press Awards
Jerry Van Marter | Special at Presbyterian News Service
Honors include seven prestigious “Best in Class”

National Caucus of Korean Presbyterian Churches elects new leadership
Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service
New leaders look forward to developing a closer partnership with PC(USA)

D.C. church changes worship from passive to participatory
Edie Gross | Faith & Leadership
At Church of the Pilgrims, vulnerability is a virtue and worship is an innovative and deeply collaborative experience between clergy and congregants.

Montreat College breaks ties with Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities
Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service
President says relationship no longer compatible with the college’s mission

Faith leaders protest federal budget proposal in Washington, D.C.
Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
Seven arrested in act of civil disobedience

National Caucus of Korean Presbyterian Churches celebrates 46th annual meeting
Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service
Korean Caucus celebrates in its homeland