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Annuity Board exec declares 2004 as year of ‘Expansion’

DALLAS (BP)–“Expansion” is the theme of the Annuity Board, President O.S. Hawkins told the trustees of the Southern Baptist entity during their March 1-2 meeting in Dallas.

Hawkins cited Isaiah 54:2, which states, “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.”

The Annuity Board will concentrate on three fundamentals (ABCs) throughout the year, Hawkins continued. “We will ‘lengthen our cords’ by having an Attitude of expansion; we will ‘strengthen our stakes’ by practicing the Basics of our work; and we will ‘not spare’ as we renew our Commitment to go the extra mile in serving our participants.”

Trustees heard reports from John R. Jones, chief operating officer, Jeffrey P. Billinger, chief financial officer, and Curtis D. Sharp, executive officer for denominational and public relations.

Jones reviewed the 2003 year from an operations perspective. Jones updated trustees on the success of the Dallas-based organization in reaching its 2003 goals and reported on the completion of key initiatives for 2003.

It was “a very successful year for the board as a transition was made to a new third-party administrator for medical plans, procedures were put in place to comply with new privacy regulations and healthcare plans were totally redesigned,” Jones said. “Enhancements were also added to the website, giving employers access to more information, electronic statements were made available to participants, and a new Capital Preservation Fund was launched.”

Jones also commented on the progress made in working with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to change the charters of the Annuity Board and its affiliates. This action is necessary to change the name of the board and also to expand its ministry assignments. Jones reported that recommendations were unanimously approved during the mid-February Executive Committee meeting to facilitate the charter changes. The recommendations will be presented to the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis in June.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the SBC Executive Committee to change our charters,” Jones said. “This has been an intensive effort that required mutual cooperation from the SBC Executive Committee trustees and Annuity Board trustees.”

Billinger reported total assets were $7.3 billion at Dec. 31, 2003, compared to $6.1 billion at Dec. 31, 2002. “Fueled by continued market growth and solid fund performance, assets climbed 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter to the highest level since July 2001. For the first time in the history of the Annuity Board, net income exceeded $1 billion,” Billinger told trustees.

Consolidated budget expenses finished the year favorable to budget by 3.7 percent for the year. Participant contributions to retirement plans and retail products were up 3.6 percent over the prior year.

Curtis D. Sharp invited trustees attending the SBC annual meeting in June to participate in the Annuity Board-sponsored “Living at Your Best Wellness Walk/Run.” Participants in the walk will have the choice to participate in a one-mile walk or a 5K run. The event will be held at 6:15 a.m. on Monday, June 14. Attendees to the convention may register for the walk/run through the Annuity Board’s website at www.absbc.org.

Sharp also led trustees through a tour of the new wellness website, www.baptistwellness.org. This interactive resource provides important information for Annuity Board medical plan participants who want to improve their health. Participants who visit the site will complete a health assessment and have access to current medical news, a medical reference guide for self-care tips, healthy recipes and nutritional analysis and a virtual trainer.

A total of $6.3 million was distributed through the board’s relief program to needy retired ministers and their widowed spouses in 2003. A significant number of retirees on relief receive no regular retirement annuity because their churches never enrolled them in the Church Annuity Plan. The amount received from the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program and special designations totaled $1.4 million. The entire Cooperative Program allocation for the Annuity Board and special designations are spent in relief ministry without any expense applied. Gifts from individuals and churches to the Adopt An Annuitant program and the board’s Retired Ministers’ Support fund supplements the convention allocation. Information concerning the Adopt An Annuitant program may be requested by calling the board’s toll-free telephone number, 1-800-262-0511 or by e-mailing the Annuity Board’s endowment department at [email protected].

The trustees’ relief committee approved four two-year monthly grants, one five-month grant, one two-year expense grant, one five-month expense grant and one one-time expense grant. Twenty individuals were declined for being outside guidelines. Twenty-eight individuals have been added to the Adopt An Annuitant roll since the last trustee meeting.

Bobby Sorrells of Alabama, chairman of the trustee audit committee, reported that independent auditor PriceWaterhouseCoopers reviewed the internal operations and financial statements of the board and provided favorable reports with no significant concerns noted.

Trustees accepted the recommendation of their general officers nominating committee and elected William T. Patterson of Mississippi as chairman and Robert L. Sorrell of Tennessee as vice chairman. Patterson is a senior vice president with Wachovia Securities and a deacon at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss. Sorrell is President of The Associate, a church growth consulting firm located in Memphis, Tenn. He served as associate pastor for 21 years at the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church and also served on the Southern Baptist Convention restructuring committee.

At a Monday evening dinner, six trustees were honored for their years of service to the board: H. Frank Harmon of Mississippi, Rudolph W. Hudnell of Illinois, Norman E. Jones of the Pacific Northwest, Frederick W. Pernell of the District of Columbia, George B. Walker of North Carolina and J. L. Williams Texas.

The next scheduled meeting of the Annuity Board trustees will be Aug. 2-3.

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