Sorry this is long, but it’s a bit complicated. Here’s the deal:
My Church has a great pension plan for clergy (and lay employees, too!). It’s particularly great if you’re employed by the Church, which I ceased to be when I left my job serving three congregations last summer. Taking the leap of faith to leave that position to start my own business doing creative things also put at risk my ongoing participation in the pension plan. To benefit, clergy have to be engaged in “active” ministry to pay into the plan, and to recoup benefits at the time of retirement. Active ministry is traditionally understood as parish work, school or hospital chaplaincy, or some other typical form of ministry. There IS a provision for us non-traditional folks to be granted what is called an extension of ministry, granted by one’s canonical bishop (the one who oversees the diocese in which I work and am “registered to vote”).
After attending a conference earlier in the fall sponsored by the pension group and revisiting my recent vocational decisions, I decided that I needed to request an extension of ministry from my bishop. I wrote to him in late October making that request, but didn’t expect a positive response since he is fairly traditional in his view of what constitutes ministry. If he said no, it would mean that I would have to relocate to another diocese where I could find a bishop willing to grant the extension. Once granted, the extension is permanent and portable, which means that regardless of where I am, I can move to another diocese and still have my extension. If my own bishop said yes, then it would be feasible to stay in TN. (Reasons for doing that have their own set of complicated circumstances!)
When I returned home from my Christmas visit with my family there was a letter from the bishop among my mail. When I opened it I couldn’t help but notice that it was brief, and I assumed that it contained the anticipated “no.” I almost didn’t read it. Fortunately, I did, because my bishop said YES to the extension! I met with him this afternoon and got his signature on the form that makes this official, which is why I waited to post about this.
This takes such a huge load of concern off my shoulders, I just can’t tell you what a relief I feel. What a wonderful holiday gift, and a blessing from God to encourage and strengthen what I am doing. Anyone want to join me in a loud, “Amen!!!?” I’ll even settle for a “yeeeeehaaaaaaaa!”
Now if only I could get the web site functioning, but I'm working on that!