RESOLVED, That this 138th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark call upon the 77th General Convention to delay the January 1, 2013 deadline for the implementation of Resolution A177.
Submitted by: The Rev. Michael Allen, The Rev. Whitney Altopp, The Rev. David Cabush, The Rev. Kevin Coffey, The Rev. Cathy Deats, The Rev. Ed Hasse, The Rev. Beverly Huck, The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, The Rev. Nick Lannon, The Rev. Tom Mathews, The Rev. Allison Moore, The Rev. John Negrotto, The Newark Episcopal Clergy Association (NECA), The Rev. Archie Palmer, The Rev. Jon Richardson, The Rev. William Thiele, The Rev. Stephanie Wethered, The Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye Wilson
The Diocese of Olympia which passed a resolution on October 22, 2011 with near exact wording. As they stated clearly in their supporting information:
“One unintended consequence of Resolution A177 would be that vestries would tend to see the minimum level established by the Diocese as an “accepted standard” and reduce existing paid coverage to this level. Then clergy and lay employees presently receiving more than this minimum would see their benefits package reduced. In the case of clergy whose congregations presently pay premiums for dependents this reduction could be devastating.
Another unintended consequence of Resolution A177 would be that financially hard-pressed congregations would tend to reduce the hours of lay employees and clergy so that they fall under the threshold of eligibility.
Ensuring just healthcare benefits for all church employees is a goal that the Diocese of Newark shares with the drafters of Resolution A177. However, this Resolution threatens to undermine the morale and financial viability of the very ministry vocations on which “Growing Congregations” and “Strengthening Governance and Foundations of Ministry” must depend.”
The sponsors of this resolution wholeheartedly support the justice issue behind extending health benefits to near full time (at least 1,500 hours per year) lay employees. However, after research showed that only 1 in 8 churches in the Diocese of Newark (14-16 congregations out of 107) have employees who will benefit, we see this as acongregational issue and believe that diocesan-wide mandates including minimum cost sharing would only serve to adversely affect clergy in the remaining 91-93 churches without full time lay employees. It also may reduce greater benefits than lay employees currently receive voluntarily by churches. The implementation of a cost sharing policy, which is not required from A177, would be devastating to clergy who depend upon this benefit. Thus, replacing one injustice with another is not acceptable in the body of Christ, we ask General Convention to suspend the mandates and implementation date of A177.
Further research has also shown that many of the parishes that have employees that would benefit already provide partial or full coverage for their lay employees’ healthcare. Work can begin now, without a mandate, to get parishes up to full coverage in those specific, few instances when that’s not already the case, and this should be aided by the Bishop’s Advisory Committee on HR, Diocesan Council, the Newark Episcopal Clergy Association and other diocesan committees, in concert with the Bishop.