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New Annuity Board president invokes first executive’s pledge

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–O.S. Hawkins, president of the Southern Baptist Annuity Board since last October, introduced his first report to Southern Baptist Convention messengers with the pledge to minister to ministers made by the agency’s first president.
“Exactly 75 years ago,” Hawkins said, William Lunsford “made a promise to our ministers: ‘We will stand back of you; if you fall in the work we will care for you; if you die we will not permit your family to suffer; if you grow old in it we will comfort your declining years.’
“As we move into a new millennium, we want to go back to the future,” Hawkins declared. “More than ever, we will stay tethered to our roots.”
Hawkins, formerly pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, was elected last year by trustees of the $6 billion church pension agency to become the agency’s seventh president and chief executive officer.
“Your Annuity Board is a steward and provider for more than 28,000 retired ministers, missionaries, denominational employees and their widows,” Hawkins said during the SBC annual meeting June 9-11 in Salt Lake City. “Beyond this, more than 100,000 persons are looking to the future with us with growing accounts.”
Citing good investment experience in 1997, Hawkins reported that virtually all the retirees in pay status Dec. 31, 1997, received a permanent 10 percent increase in monthly benefits, effective Jan. 1 of this year.
“Before the year has ended,” Hawkins said, “we will have sent more than $200 million in benefits to our annuitants.”
Despite the large total of benefits paid, Hawkins lamented the plight of thousands of retired ministers who receive little or no retirement benefits because their churches never enrolled them in the convention’s retirement plan or they contributed too little, too late.
Hawkins thanked the messengers for the convention’s annual contribution of more than $1 million through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program.
“Every cent of that money will be spent for relief and help of your retired ministers and widows,” Hawkins declared. “No Cooperative Program money is used for salaries, administration or printing. In fact, we do not even use Cooperative Program money for stamps to mail the relief checks. Every cent finds its way to someone in need.”
Operating expense for the relief and supplemental assistance program is paid from earnings on the Retired Minister’s Support Fund, an endowment separate from participants’ retirement accounts.
At the conclusion of his report, Hawkins answered questions from messengers.
Asked to share his dreams and visions as president of the Annuity Board, Hawkins said one of his dreams is to “mobilize the vast host of retirees, taking the emphasis off retirement and placing it on retooling retirees to serve as volunteers alongside young (seminary) graduates in churches that need help but cannot afford a second salary.”
Acknowledging his dream of a volunteer force of retirees requires that they have adequate incomes independent of their volunteer positions, Hawkins said about 3,000 annuitants are receiving an extra $75 a month through the Board’s Adopt An Annuitant program.
Hawkins asked messengers to carry away two burdens: “Join us in fulfilling the promise to not allow our retired ministers and their widows to suffer financially in their declining years, and to take responsibility for yourself now in preparing for your later years.”

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  • Tom Miller