What is a church plan?

​​The Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a defined contribution 403(b)(9) church plan. The following details what a church plan is.

A church plan is an employer benefit plan established by a denomination or an organization such as the Board of Pensions that has as its primary purpose the maintenance and administration of a retirement, medical, and other welfare plans for the benefit of ministers and employees of churches and other organizations controlled by the church or associated with it. 

A key benefit of a church plan is that it allows small church-related employers to ban together to participate in a group plan consisting of numerous small and large mission-related employers. This gives employers the opportunity to not only benefit from the economies of scale in contracting with third-party administrators and professional administration of complicated, regulated, benefits plan programs but also to offer benefits programs that are consistent with the mission and values of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Church plans also are exempt from ERISA (the Employer Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) and certain provisions of the Internal Revenue Code in recognition by the U.S. Congress and certain states in recognition of the unique nature of churches and mission agencies as employers and in deference to the constitutional protection of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. These exemptions allow church plans to offer benefits to plan members that would not be permitted to ERISA-governed plans and facilitates the Board of Pensions' offering of affordable, flexible, portable benefits to the community of Presbyterian-associated employees. It also exempts church plans from numerous and complex reporting, disclosure, and tax-assessment obligations.

While church plans are exempt from ERISA, state fiduciary law principles continue to apply to protect the plan members and beneficiaries. Church plans are required by law to act solely and exclusively for the benefit of the plan members and their beneficiaries.