DALLAS (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention’s Annuity Board will combine two key ministries for needy retirees — the Supplemental Assistance and Adopt An Annuitant programs — effective April 1.
The unified relief program will modify the eligibility guidelines to allow more retirees to qualify for benefits, board officials said in their March 27 announcement.
Additionally, many Adopt An Annuitant recipients will now qualify for more than twice the benefit they have been receiving. Formerly, qualified individuals or couples could receive $75 a month through the Adopt An Annuitant program. The Supplemental Assistance program primarily targeted more needy individuals and provided $200 per month for individuals and $265 for married couples.
Under the new combined program, all qualifying persons may receive $200 if single or $265 if married. About 3,000 individuals or couples are currently receiving assistance each month.
“The original purpose of the Annuity Board was to provide relief to aged ministers and their widows,” said Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins. “We are committed to continuing this important ministry and touching the lives of annuitants like Mary Page who lives in Hopkins, S.C.,” an 82-year-old pastor’s widow who served alongside her husband during three decades of ministry in smaller rural churches.
Hawkins cited a letter the board had received from Page, who has received a monthly supplement from the Adopt An Annuitant program since 1989.
“It is with a grateful heart I thank the Annuity Board for the help you have given me and for the blessings of the Lord,” she wrote. “My eyes are not too good. I can read my Bible at times. I’m thankful God has blessed me each day of my life. I thank Him more and more!
“My mobile home is in very bad condition — especially the plumbing and heating. The roof has been repaired before but has begun to leak. The floors are beginning to fall apart. I’m still thankful. I do have a roof over my head.
“Thanks again for all you have done throughout the years. Your assistance has made my life easier. I thank the Lord for each one who has shared to make things more pleasant for others less fortunate.”
Said Hawkins, “Despite daily challenges, Mary continues to thank God and Southern Baptists for remembering her and others through the Adopt An Annuitant ministry. My hope is Southern Baptists will embrace this combined ministry and put a face to the names and statistics.”
The combined program will use the Adopt An Annuitant name. “Lest We Forget” will be the theme for the 2002 Adopt An Annuitant Sunday on June 23.
Other facets of the revised program for needy retirees include:
— Recipients of the Adopt An Annuitant funds must meet guidelines for income, assets and years of service. This includes retired ministers, denominational workers and their widows with 10 or more years of SBC service who receive no more than $1,665 a month for a couple or $1,250 a month for an individual.
— Cooperative Program funds, Retired Ministers Support Fund investment income and direct gifts will be used for the combined program. The expected total payouts during the coming year will be approximately $7 million. All Cooperative Program funds received by the Annuity Board are used for ministerial relief. An additional $5 million will be required through the direct gifts of individuals, groups and churches.
— The Annuity Board’s endowment department will establish multiple giving levels to allow more people to participate in the combined program. Current promotion focuses on a monthly $75 “adoption” level. Donors also may include the Annuity Board’s relief program in their wills, trusts or estate plans.
— The Annuity Board also will coordinate prayer links between donors and annuitants who give permission to share their names.
“We want every person in every Southern Baptist church to be Christ’s hands extended in helping God’s servants in need,” said John Ambra, the endowment department’s head. “Our aged pastors and their widows have served our smaller churches well for 40, 50 or 60 years. They are real people with real needs — especially in the areas of food, housing, prescription drugs and medical care. As they face these crucial challenges, it is urgent that we step in to affirm their service and let them know they are loved and not forgotten.”
For more information about the Adopt An Annuitant ministry and how to get involved, call the Annuity Board at 1-800-262-0511 or send e-mail requests to [email protected]