Thomas C. Paisley, chair of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Board of Pensions (BOP) today announced the appointment of a special committee of the board to consider same-gender benefits under the BOP's healthcare and pension plans.

The nine-member special committee will be charged with developing the BOP's response to this summer's action by the 219th General Assembly "to urge the Board of Pensions to extend benefits to same-gender domestic partners of plan members and to the children of those same-gender domestic partners."

The BOP originally referred the Assembly's recommendation to its Pension Committee but then decided to create the special committee "because this issue cuts across many of our duties," said BOP executive vice-president and chief operating officer Frank Maloney.

Special committee members, drawn from several of the BOP's committees, are Frank S. James III, Vestavia Hills, Ala., chair; Anne S. Drennan, Newtown, Pa.; the Rev. John A. Huffman, Newport Beach Calif.; Claude C. Lilly III, Clemson, S.C.; Christopher M. Mason, New York City; Carol Sheffey Parham, Annapolis, Md.; Nancy M. Rhodes, McLeansville, N.C.; the Rev. Laird J. Stuart, San Anselmo, Calif.; and Dr. Paul B. Volker, Boone, Iowa.

"We are clearly in a period of discernment and listening," Paisley told the board at its Oct. 21-23 meeting here. He said the proposal will be discussed at the BOP's annual regional benefits consultations and will be the subject of an upcoming education forum for board members.

Paisley also reminded board members that "individual directors are not responsible for responding to correspondence" and asked them to forward any mail they might receive to the BOP staff. "Thousands of servants of the church depend on the Board of Pensions for their livelihood … and we cannot be distracted from our overarching purpose," Paisley said.

According to the BOP's 2010-2011 business plan, "We must undertake this work in a manner that both maintains the confidence of our constituencies and does not materially impair our current excellent church relations position."

Its charge to the special committee is to:

  • study in depth the Assembly's request to provide benefits to same gender domestic partners and their children;
  • determine the effects of any whole or partial implementation of the equest on each basic and optional component of the Benefits Plan (including financial effects, operational effects and effects on the "community nature" of the Plan.)
  • consider the consequences of any proposed actions on plan members and employing organizations;
  • determine the implications, limitations or restrictions of the polity and Constitution of the PC(USA) in effect at the time of any recommendation on same-gender partner benefits;
  • consider the advantages and disadvantages of creating more inclusive benefit levels for Plan members who are not ordained;
  • determine the effects of any proposed actions on the reputational integrity of the Board of Pensions;
  • report the status of its deliberations to the full Board from time to time; and
  • in due course recommend for consideration to the full Board of Directors an appropriate response to the request of the General Assembly.

The special committee was also authorized to "consider such other matters as it, in the exercise of its judgment, deems to be closely related or incidental to the responsible exercise of its inquiry."