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Annuity Board trustees continue process for name change

DALLAS (BP)–Resolutions to amend the Annuity Board’s charter and the charters of its affiliates were approved by trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention entity during their Nov. 3-4 meeting in Dallas.

Board President O.S. Hawkins expressed appreciation to trustees for what he described as their faithful support and foresight in working with the SBC Executive Committee to change the name of the Annuity Board to GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and to expand its markets.

“The name change for the Annuity Board and the opportunity to expand our markets, which will be voted on by the Southern Baptist Convention in June of 2004, will further undergird our efforts to enhance the financial security of the pastor at the crossroads and other Southern Baptist employees we serve,” Hawkins told trustees.

Trustees approved resolutions to change the names and amend the charters of the Annuity Board and its affiliates following the SBC Executive Committee’s unanimous vote last September concurring with the board’s proposed name change and ministry assignment enhancements. The name change will require two successive annual votes of the convention to change the SBC bylaws, beginning next June in Indianapolis. The recommendation from the Executive Committee includes a provision to allow the Annuity Board to begin using its new name after the first vote of the convention.

The ministry assignment enhancements will allow the Annuity Board to make its products and services available to other evangelical ministry organizations. Officials said the initiative will increase the board’s investment asset base and expand the base for its medical plans. Southern Baptist pastors and other employees will benefit from the board’s enhanced ability to provide competitive retirement and investment products and services, officials said. Additionally, the board will gain greater buying power related to risk management products and services, including medical plans.

Legal documents will require that the majority of participants served by the Annuity Board be Southern Baptists, and all Annuity Board trustees must be members of Southern Baptist churches and elected by the Southern Baptist Convention in the same manner they have been elected since the board’s founding in 1918. The revised charters will be reviewed by the SBC Executive Committee in February and then presented at the SBC annual meeting for approval in June.

Chairman George Tous van Nijkerk told fellow trustees, “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.”

In other action, trustees approved a 2004 budget of $53 million, a .2 percent decrease in spending and operations from 2003. The Annuity Board receives no Cooperative Program funds for operations, but pays all expenses from an advisory fee on the investment funds available to participants. All Cooperative Program money received by the board is paid as financial assistance to needy retired ministers or denominational workers or their widows.

John R. Jones, the board’s chief operating officer, reviewed the process used to develop the 2004 budget.

“During the last four years, we have been able to reduce the Annuity Board workforce by 55 positions,” Jones reported. “This reduction has been accomplished through attrition by re-evaluating and restructuring vacated positions. Additionally, the Annuity Board has consistently looked for opportunities to gain intentional operating efficiencies and aggressively manage costs. These efforts have allowed us to propose a flat budget for 2004 while maintaining the opportunity to continually enhance the services provided to our participants.”

Robert W. Boyles of West Virginia, chairman of the trustee insurance committee, reported on enhancements to the health programs to be implemented Jan. 1. With all Annuity Board PPO plans being revised for 2004, participants have received informational packets and numerous Annuity Board-sponsored informational meetings have been held across the country. In order to receive an accurate bill for Jan. 1 coverage, re-enrollment materials must be returned to the Annuity Board by the end of November. Although not all re-enrollment materials have been returned, just over one-third of the participants who have returned forms have chosen the Health Legacy 200 plan, Boyles reported, while another third are evenly split between the Health Today plan and the Health Choice 500 plan. Twelve percent have opted for a much higher deductible plan, the Health Choice 3000 plan.

Ollie Allred of New Mexico, chairman of the trustee investment committee, reported on discussions of the investment committee related to the performance of the financial markets for the first three quarters of the year. Following two and a half years of a declining market, the equity markets have shown improved performance through the first nine months. Allred said well-diversified investors have been rewarded with significant improvements in their equity investments. The majority of the retirement class Select Funds of AB Funds Trust are outperforming their respective benchmarks year to date, he reported.

Trustees received a valuation report of the Fixed Benefit Fund, which provides annuity payments to annuitants receiving Plan A benefits and certain fixed annuities. While recipients of commercial fixed annuities do not normally receive an increase in benefits, the Annuity Board has granted seven increases to annuitants since 1990. Three of these increases were 10 percent increases while four were 5 percent increases. The most recent increase was a 5 percent increase granted at the beginning of 2001. Each year the Fixed Benefit Fund is valued and if there is sufficient margin, an increase is granted. The report noted that although the financial markets have rebounded significantly this year, the previous three years’ losses in the markets has not provided sufficient margin to consider an increase for 2004.

The trustee relief committee, chaired by W. R. Chestnut of Ohio, approved applications for nine two-year monthly grants, four two-year expense grants and three temporary grants. Twenty-one applications were declined for being outside relief guidelines. Thirty-eight individuals were added to the relief assistance roll during the third quarter.

Other action by the relief committee included approving a $200 Christmas check for each relief recipient on the roll Dec. 1. Funds to provide the special Christmas check are made possible through the endowment program of the Annuity Board.

The trustees’ next scheduled meeting will be March 1-2, 2004, in Dallas.

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  • Curtis D. Sharp