The Church Alliance is a coalition of the chief executive officers of 38 church benefit programs. It includes mainline and evangelical Protestant denominations, two branches of Judaism and Catholic dioceses, schools and institutions. The benefit programs provide retirement and health benefits to more than 1 million clergy, lay workers, and their family members.
The Church Alliance was formed in 1975 as the “Church Alliance for Clarification of ERISA” to address the problems presented for established church plans by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
The Church Alliance advocated for changes to the church plan definitions in ERISA and the Code. As a result of these efforts, Congress revised the definition of “church plan” when it passed the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (MPPAA). Under the revised MPPAA definition, a church plan could continue to provide retirement and welfare benefits to employees of all church agencies.
The Church Alliance continues to ensure that benefit-related legislative and regulatory initiatives fully address the unique nature of church plans. In addition, in some cases the Church Alliance has acted in a “self-regulatory” manner by advocating for changes that actually limited the tax rules and regulations that govern church benefit plans and clergy participants. As a result, over the years, the Church Alliance has been involved with numerous pieces of legislation (and legislative proposals) that directly impact church benefit plans and programs.