From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Board of Pensions Amends
04 May 1996 20:49:34
95401 Board of Pensions Amends
"Relief of Conscience" Process
by Julian Shipp
PHILADELPHIA--Accepting the recommendations of its special task group, the
Board of Pensions (BOP) has revised its controversial "relief of
conscience" process, a procedure designed to give peace of mind to
churches and employing organizations opposed to abortion while providing
payment for abortion procedures through the BOP's Major Medical Plan.
Three years ago, the Board introduced a "capture of dues" method to
assure that major medical dues paid by employing agencies that have been
granted relief of conscience would not be used to pay for abortions. But
critics have complained that simply diverting "captured" dues to other
parts of the major medical fund is an inadequate salve to their
consciences. So a task group of the Board was established last year to
develop refinements in the process.
According to D. Eugene Sibery, BOP chair from Cape Coral, Fla.,
churches and employing organizations that have been granted "relief of
conscience" will now have their dues placed into a separate account. The
new process becomes effective Jan. 1, 1996.
Major medical benefits costs for those members employed by churches
and employing organizations that have been granted relief of conscience
will be paid out of the separate account. Sibery said a semiannual report
will be prepared (without reference to medical procedures) that will
identify those expenditures.
If dues paid into the separate account exceed medical benefits costs,
the excess money will be applied toward the administrative expenses of the
Major Medical Plan.
Beverly T. Dodson, Relief of Conscience Task Group chair from
Birmingham, Ala., said task group members sought to "maintain the integrity
and the community nature of the [Major Medical] Plan" and develop an
administrative practice that "refines the capture of dues' process to be
more responsive to the conscience needs of those seeking relief.
"The big difference is that this process deals with [medical benefits
costs] and not a fund specifically designated for abortions," Dodson said.
In addition to Dodson, task group members include the Rev. John
Buchanan of Chicago; David Johnson of Kirkwood, Mo.; and Madelyn Matlock of
"We have studied this issue very carefully from a parliamentary
standpoint and this is a very important step for us," Sibery said. "This is
as far as we feel we can go on this issue because we do believe it gives
relief of conscience."
Anticipating protest from pro-life supporters, the Board docketed time
at its Oct. 28 to hear opposing views, but nobody appeared to speak to the
revised proposal. Board members and others interviewed by the Presbyterian
News Service reacted to this with guarded optimism.
"Board members need to know that strong voices on either side do not
particularly like this issue," Buchanan said.
"I like the idea that probably no one is going to be entirely happy
with this process -- it indicates that it's a pretty good [procedure],"
said Beach B. Hall from Rogers City, Mich., vice chair of the BOP's
"I think this policy is the best we can do. I also think that it will
be helpful to the church in saying there are issues that are seen
differently by different groups and different people and that we want to
stay in conversation with all those groups and not develop policies that
weed out one group or one perspective," said the Rev. William D. McIvor,
General Assembly Council chair from Spokane, Wash., who is also a
corresponding member of the Board.
"As difficult as that is, and as aggrieved as those groups may still
feel, we are one church and want to stay in conversation with each another
and move ahead as best we can," McIvor said. "This is a very specific
issue, but I think it has symbolic value for other issues that the church
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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