NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Southern Baptist Executive Committee has approved a recommendation to change the name of the Annuity Board and to permit the entity to serve evangelical ministry organizations outside the SBC.
The proposal initially was approved by Annuity Board trustees and then presented to Executive Committee members Sept. 23 at their meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The recommendations will be presented to the Southern Baptist Convention at the annual meeting in Indianapolis in June 2004.
If the proposal is approved by the convention, the Annuity Board’s name will change to GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The name change recommendation will require official approval by messengers for two successive years, while the convention will vote on authorizing the board to do business as GuideStone Financial Resources for one year, pending a second affirmative vote at the annual meeting in Nashville in 2005.
An Annuity Board statement to Baptist Press described GuideStone as a composite word consisting of two words describing the board’s goals: The Annuity Board intends to be a guide to walk alongside its participants throughout their lifetime, helping them enhance their financial security, while the word stone refers to the Annuity Board’s enduring presence since its beginning more than 85 years ago.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “guide stone” as a marker for travelers, according to the statement. The guide stone’s common use was in the Roman period as a directional, distance and warning marker placed along Roman roads. The stones were set up beside the roads by explorers, leaders and road builders to help those who traveled behind them.
“The Annuity Board’s name has served us well, but it has been decades since our only retirement option was an annuity,” George Tous van Nijkerk, chairman of the Annuity Board trustees, said in the statement to Baptist Press. “The board now offers a myriad of distribution options to participants as they reach retirement, as well as many other products and services such as life and medical plans and personal investment programs including Traditional and Roth IRAs.
“Our current name is no longer reflective of our organization, and a new name gives us the opportunity to communicate our image as an up-to-date, full-service provider of financial and insurance products and services,” Tous van Nijkerk said.
The amendment to the ministry assignment of the Annuity Board would include other evangelical organizations in addition to the churches and denominational entities it already serves. Relief would still be exclusive to Southern Baptist ministers and denominational employees, but retirement plan programs, life and health coverage, personal investment programs and institutional investment services would be open to others who qualify.
Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins said the board exists first and foremost as an organization that provides retirement benefit services to Southern Baptist pastors and employees in smaller churches, entities and institutions.
“But the reality is that due to competitive pressures and limited growth potential, the Annuity Board must seek ways to grow our asset base so we can continue to be an advocate for our Southern Baptist pastors at the crossroads,” he said in the statement to Baptist Press.
Concerning retirement, Hawkins said retaining assets is vitally important for management fees and maintaining current levels of service.
Expanding its ministry assignment to evangelical churches and ministry organizations will provide a larger client base and more assets under management, and Southern Baptist pastors will benefit by the Annuity Board being able to maintain competitive products and services at reasonable fees, Hawkins said.
“It’s a challenge for us and it’s going to be a greater challenge in the future,” he told the Executive Committee. “We lost a hospital in South Carolina because of a hospital merger and because they’re no longer a hospital that fits into our guidelines. There are some states where some denominational issues become involved in some institutions.”
Of the 42,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board reports that 9,500 of them received $5,000 or less in total receipts last year, Hawkins said, so they’re really not viable opportunities for a retirement program.
“[For example] in Missouri, 1,000 of the 1,800 churches are bivocational churches. Many of them are those bivocational guys who have retirement programs where they work,” Hawkins explained. “So we already serve 27,000 Southern Baptist churches, and you’re hard-pressed to find one that’s not already in our program. Growth is something that’s not a great opportunity for us in the future [without the expansion].”
Hawkins said the Annuity Board will use criteria similar to what the International Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources uses in determining which evangelical organizations will be eligible for partnership.
The guidelines also are written to ensure that the other evangelical organizations never become the majority of those served by the Annuity Board, Hawkins emphasized.
“We’ve got it set up so that Southern Baptists will always have the super majority,” he said. “[And] nobody will elect our board of trustees except the Southern Baptist Convention.”
In addition to benefiting the asset base for retirement programs, market expansion also will benefit the board’s life, medical and disability programs, board officials said in the statement to Baptist Press, because a larger base of participants will help diversify the risk and enhance the board’s ability to provide more affordable rates.
“Why should the pastor of the local church mind if one of his laymen who works for an evangelistic ministry participates in an Annuity Board medical plan if it gives the plan greater buying power and helps to reduce monthly rates?” Hawkins said in the statement.
While the Annuity Board will expand its ministry base for the delivery of financial and insurance products and services, the relief ministry assignment will not change. The board will continue to provide relief services only to Southern Baptist ministers, employees and their widows.