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Annuity Board trustees strengthen relief help for retired ministers

DALLAS (BP)–Key improvements to programs for retired Southern Baptist ministers were approved by trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annuity Board during their Feb. 25-26 meeting in Dallas.

President O.S. Hawkins told trustees, “In a year marked by attacks on America, a financial recession and world crises, the Annuity Board remained faithful in its vision to honor God and assist our participants in enhancing their financial security.”

After hearing a special report and recommendations from their relief committee, trustees affirmed revisions to the guidelines for the Supplemental Assistance and Adopt An Annuitant programs. The programs will be combined into a single ministry and the eligibility guidelines will be modified to allow more retirees to qualify for benefits. Additionally, many Adopt An Annuitant recipients now will qualify for more than twice the benefit they have been receiving. While in the past donors have been asked to give at specific levels, the new program will encourage donors to contribute at any level.

Hawkins applauded these revisions, saying, “The implementation of this initiative will allow us to assist more needy individuals. The original purpose of the Annuity Board was to provide relief to aged ministers and their widows. We are committed to continue and advance this important ministry.”

Hawkins addressed the trustees using a verse from 1 Peter 4:10 that states, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms.” Hawkins declared, “The Annuity Board is different from other financial institutions in its approach, its appeal and its attitude. We are dedicated to our mission to serve those who are serving the Lord.

“This verse [1 Peter 4:10] will guide us this year as we serve as an advocate for our participants,” Hawkins said.

Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones reviewed the year 2001 from an operations perspective. “While financial markets continued to disappoint investors, the Annuity Board successfully implemented programs during the year that will benefit its participants in the years ahead,” he said. Of particular note was the creation of a family of no-load mutual funds to allow eligible investors to invest in IRAs and also set up Personal Investment Accounts. Additionally, a new business system was implemented to provide a more robust platform for internal operations.

Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey P. Billinger reported total assets were $7.1 billion at Dec. 31, 2001, compared to $7.7 billion at Dec. 31, 2000. Although, financial markets were down for the year, assets rebounded nicely in the fourth quarter driven by net income of $452.5 million. Billinger told trustees, “This marks the first time net income has been positive for three consecutive months since the fourth quarter of 1999.” He also noted that cash gifts to the board’s endowment program set a new record at $4.04 million.

Benefit payments and withdrawals in 2001 totaled $461 million. At year’s end, there were 29,461 participants/beneficiaries receiving funded benefit payments from the board. Participants or beneficiaries receiving fixed annuities of five years or longer received a 5 percent increase in their benefit as of Jan. 1, 2001.

The Church Annuity Plan had 52,362 persons from 23,458 churches in active billing status Dec. 31, and another 38,931 institutional and entity employees had active retirement accounts. Participant contributions of $358 million represented a 7 percent increase over 2000.

New vendor relationships began in the insurance area with UnumProvident and General Electric Capital Insurance. These new programs will make available new value-added services and new products, trustees were told.

A total of $5,217,655 was distributed through the board’s relief program to needy retired ministers and their widowed spouses. 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 is spent in relief ministry without any expense applied. The board’s Retired Ministers’ Support Fund supplements the convention allocation. A significant number of persons on relief receive no regular retirement annuity because their churches never enrolled them in the Church Annuity Plan.

At year’s end 842 persons were receiving supplemental assistance grants, and nearly 2,400 received the $75 Adopt An Annuitant benefit.

The trustee relief committee considered 46 relief requests. They approved 27 two-year monthly grants, one five-month monthly grant, and eight two-year expense grants. Sixteen individuals were declined for being outside guidelines. Twenty-eight individuals were added to the Adopt An Annuitant roll.

Trustees adopted a response to a motion referred from the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans last June. The motion asked that a study be conducted to determine the feasibility of forming a group that would enable smaller SBC churches to participate in the group insurance plan offered through the board without affecting local church autonomy.

The board affirmed the spirit of the messenger’s motion, but because SBC polity does not allow the Southern Baptist Convention to mandate action of SBC churches, adequate participation requirements could not be met to form a single group for all SBC churches. In the spirit of the request, new guidelines have been developed that will allow smaller churches (less than 10 employees) in the same geographical area to form a group under the Annuity Board’s Employer Security Program. Information and guidelines concerning this program are available by contacting the board. The full text of the official response to the motion will be printed in the 2002 SBC Book of Reports.

Trustees accepted the recommendation of their general officers nominating committee and elected George Tous van Nijkerk of North Carolina to a third one-year term as chairman and William T. Patterson of Mississippi to a one-year term as vice chairman.

At the Monday evening dinner meeting, five trustees were honored for their years of service to the board: Jerry M. Dance, Gary C. Glanville, Timothy E. Head, Michael L. Rochelle and Wayne M. Rodgers.

The next scheduled meeting of the Annuity Board trustees is July 29-30 in Washington D.C.

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  • Curtis D. Sharp