Anglican congregations across Canada will be called upon to make collection plates a little heavier to help offset skyrocketing church insurance rates that have spiked premiums in some dioceses by more than double and added to a range of financial demands.
And while most dioceses can probably absorb the budget shortfalls caused by the rate hikes, church financial advisors say, others will have to find ways to trim their insurance costs.
"We never had a parish last year that didn't make its financial commitments--it was a great year, but next year? I have to admit that I am worried about what's going to happen with this increase," says Rev. David Torraville, financial officer with the diocese of Central Newfoundland, which has 32 mostly-rural parishes. "We're going to have a really close look at whether we can afford it and keep our commitments. We have commitments to our national church, our theological college, to the Primate's World Relief Development Fund, the residential schools fund, and all sorts of different commitments."
The three dioceses in Newfoundland and Labrador have seen their coverage for churches, rectories and parish halls rise to about $600,000 this year from about $340,000 last year. But those rates pale in comparison to rates in the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where premiums are reported to have soared 250 per cent, among the highest in the country--in part, because of the fire that leveled the 247-year-old wooden St. John's Church in Lunenburg, N.S., last Halloween. The rates do not even take into account the damages dealt Nova Scotia by September's Hurricane Juan.
Rates are also up overall in Quebec, Ontario and the Prairies. And the diocese of New Westminster, in British Columbia, has seen its insurance bill jump to just over $400,000 this year from about $240,000 last year. Insurance companies attribute the high rates to many factors, including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks which hit the global insurance industry with a $40-billion loss. Damage claims that many denominations have incurred in abuse lawsuits have also been cited as a cause. And the distance from church buildings to the fire station and building materials used in the churches always has a bearing on the calculations.
But Matthew Cook of Aon
Reed Stenhouse, a Toronto brokerage firm that handles the insurance of a large number of Anglican dioceses in Ontario, says churches are not being singled out. "There is not a huge bias between western Canada, eastern Canada or central Canada," said Mr. Cook. "Individual churches and individual dioceses are being treated according to their loss ratios more than anything else, whether those losses arise from storm or fire. …