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Hawkins emphasizes founder’s vision as GuideStone implementation begins

CHICAGO (BP)—The vision birthed by William Lunsford over eight decades ago is being re-birthed today at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (formerly the Annuity Board), President O.S. Hawkins said during an Aug. 2-3 trustee meeting in Chicago.

Speaking of Lunsford, the SBC entity’s founder, Hawkins emphasized in his message to trustees, “Our motivation is to honor the Lord, our message is to be a lifelong partner with our participants, our mandate is to enhance the financial security of those we serve.”

Every decision, he said, must be viewed “through the lens of our vision statement to focus on the pastor at the crossroads.”

Referencing action taken during June’s SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis, Hawkins said, “As we begin to use our new name, GuideStone Financial Resources, and expand our services to other evangelical ministry organizations, we are committed to make decisions that enhance the financial security of the pastor at the crossroads and others that we serve.”

John R. Jones, GuideStone’s chief operating officer, reporting on operations through the first half of the year, told trustees, “Asset growth during the first half of the year has been significant. As of June 30, assets under management totaled $7.5 billion, as compared to $6.6 billion at the same time last year.”

The growth has resulted from increased participants’ contributions, up 11.2 percent overall, and market growth in both equities and fixed income, Jones said.

Applauding the performance of GuideStone’s investment funds, Jones said, “A majority of our investment funds continue to outperform their relative benchmarks. This has been a great period for active management and our manager of manager’s approach to the investment process.”

Jones also reported on the status of the medical plans. While nationwide medical inflation continues at a double-digit rate, there has been a slight decrease in medical claims. “The implementation of higher deductible options, wider utilization of networks, deeper network discounts and participants becoming more involved in wellness have helped to reduce the level of medical claims,” Jones said.

Curtis D. Sharp, GuideStone’s executive officer for denominational/public relations and endowment, reported on the progress of phasing in the name change and branding efforts approved at the SBC annual meeting.

“During the 2004 meeting, the convention passed the first of two successive votes to change the name of the Annuity Board to GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Sharp recounted. “While a second vote for final approval of the name will be taken at the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., messengers approved a recommendation to allow the use of the new name during this first year.”

Douglas D. Day, GuideStone’s executive officer for benefit services, and Jeffrey P. Billinger, the entity’s treasurer and chief financial officer, reported on implementation of the new ministry assignment approved by the convention to extend products and services to other evangelical ministry organizations.

Day told trustees, “A phased approach will be used to extend our products and services to organizations outside the Southern Baptist Convention. We will move into this effort cautiously during this first year, being careful to use our resources wisely and maintain our high service levels.”

Billinger explained that the three existing share classes of AB Funds Trust funds will be restructured into four classes. “The restructuring of our share classes will enable us to more appropriately serve a wide variety of clients. No Southern Baptist client will have an increase in advisory or service fees as a result of this change,” Billinger said.

Hawkins assured trustees, “While we are excited to extend our products and services to a broader client base, we are determined to maintain our focus in serving our existing SBC participants.”

Samuel E. Stohner, GuideStone’s executive officer for organizational development and strategic planning, presented a report on the progress of healthcare plans for 2005.

“While medical inflation is expected to increase approximately 13.5 percent this next year, the average increase to participants in medical plans made available through GuideStone Financial Resources will be well below the expected inflation rate,” Stohner told trustees.

Medical plans were restructured in 2004 to provide a greater array of deductibles and premium choices. Further fine-tuning of this effort will be rolled out in January. Plans for participants in the Personal Security Program (churches with less than 10 employees) will move from five-year age bands to one-year age bands. Plans also are being structured to take advantage of deeper network discounts to further lower overall medical claims. More information concerning medical rates and plan features will be announced early in the fall.

The trustees’ relief committee added 55 recipients to the financial assistance roll during the first six months of 2004. They approved 10 two-year monthly grants and declined 43 requests because they did not meet the relief guidelines.

Trustee chairman William T. Patterson encouraged fellow trustees to become more involved in supporting GuideStone’s relief ministry through the Adopt An Annuitant program. “This program is at the very heart of our ministry,” Patterson said. “While we seek to provide plans and programs to prepare current participants to have secure retirements, we must not lose sight of those who have faithfully served but lack adequate resources to live with dignity in their later years.”

Trustees welcomed six new trustees elected during the SBC annual meeting in June: Ronald L. Bryant of the Northwest Baptist Convention; James D. Caldwell of Texas, Barry D. Hartis of North Carolina, Forrest D. Sheffield of Mississippi, J. Sebastian Traeger of the District of Columbia and Michael C. Williams of Illinois.

The next scheduled meeting of GuideStone trustees is Nov. 1-2 in Dallas.
EDITORS’ NOTE: While a second vote of the Southern Baptist Convention in June of 2005 is required to officially change the name of the Annuity Board, the Convention has authorized use of the new name during the interim period.

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