|Bishops approve pilot program for Liberia pension|
The executive committee of the United Methodist Council of Bishops has approved
a proposal to fund a pension program in the church's Liberia area.
A UMNS file photo by Larry Hollon.
By Linda Green*
Nov. 2, 2006 | MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS)
The United Methodist Council of Bishops has unanimously approved a
proposal to the denomination's finance agency to pilot a pension program
in the church's Liberia Annual Conference.
Minerva Kekeh cannot afford a bag of rice on the meager pension that she receives as a pastor's widow in Liberia.
A UMNS file photo by
The proposal will use over-funding of $1 million in a prior United Methodist pension plan that existed until 1982.
The bishops, meeting Oct. 31-Nov. 1 in Mozambique, approved the
recommendation to the United Methodist Council on Finance and
Administration that the earnings from the over-funding in the church's
former Ministerial Reserve Pension Fund (known as the Pre-'82 Plan) be
lent for two years to implement a pension plan for clergy and church lay
workers in Liberia beginning in 2007.
The earnings on $1 million of the $5.6 million in the over-funded
pool will be used to start an income stream. After two years, the
funding of the pension plan would come from money raised by the Central
Conference Pension Fund.
The idea to use money in the Pre-'82 Plan came from the Central
Conference Pension Committee on the recommendation of Sandra K. Lackore,
top executive of the finance agency, with support from the episcopal
leadership of the Council on Finance and Administration and the
chairperson of the agency's episcopal services committee. The Central
Conference Pension Committee met Oct. 30, prior to the meeting of the
Council of Bishops, which is gathering for the first time outside the
Sandra Lackore, with the General Council on
Finance and Administration, answers questions during a Feb. 15 media
conference. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
The bishops' action "is giving us the interest for two years from the
over-funding of the Pre-'82 jurisdictional bishops' pension plan to
fund the pension pilot in Liberia," said Barbara Boigegrain, top
executive of the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits.
The denomination had the Pre-'82 Plan in place prior to the current
ministerial pension plan. It was a defined benefit and contribution plan
of the church that was supported by the denomination's annual
"This is something that the church should celebrate," Boigegrain
said. "The bishops are leading the way in helping to develop the Central
Conference Pension Fund for retired clergy, lay workers and surviving
spouses in developing countries."
"This is groundbreaking and is a celebration of the church's global
nature and that we are in mission together," said Liberian Bishop John
Innis. For the Liberia Annual Conference to be chosen as the first
pension pilot project in the African central conferences is
"commendable" and "falls under the umbrella of making disciples for the
transformation of the world," he said.
Leveraging the future
The United Methodist Church, directed by its 2000 and 2004 General
Conferences, has been working to develop pension models to help pastors
and church layworkers in annual conferences outside the United States
retire with dignity, hope and an adequate pension.
Bishop John Innis
Even though the denomination's greatest growth is in Africa, Eastern
Europe and the Philippines, pension funds are minimal or nonexistent for
pastors in those areas. Many of the pastors have faithfully served for
20, 30, 40 or more years. When they retire, they find it difficult to
provide for their daily lives.
"We are taking a resource that comes from the Pre-'82 pension plan and using it to leverage the future," Lackore said.
The pension committee, under the auspices of the United Methodist
Board of Pension and Health Benefits, has been leading a Central
Conference Pension Initiative. The committee consists of members from
five church agencies: the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, General
Council on Finance and Administration, Board of Global Ministries,
United Methodist Publishing House and United Methodist Communications.
"The Central Conference Pension Committee knows that it is urgent to
get pensions started in the central conferences, and we hope to have
pilot plans started in three conferences by the 2008 General
Conference," Boigegrain said.
The problem, she said, has been the lack of resources to support
sustainable systems in the central conferences. The United Methodist
Board of Pension and Health Benefits has been working on developing
funding streams in order to implement pension plans in the conferences,
beginning in Africa. The committee is developing different models for
each country's circumstances, trying to determine how best to support
the different governmental and church infrastructures and frameworks,
cultural differences and economic situations.
"We are making progress on the Central Conference Pension Initiative,"
said Bishop Ben Chamness, president of the committee and of the Board of
Pension and Health Benefits. "It is a big undertaking and will take
time to bring it to fruition."
Bishop Ben R. Chamness
In addition to conversations surrounding fundraising and
administration, the committee on Oct. 30 decided that money from a
Central Conference Benefit Fund would be used to implement the pilot
pension scheme in the Liberia Annual Conference.
Currently, the fund has $2.25 million in contributions from annual
conferences that donated money they had received annually from the
Publishing House to augment their pension plans and from individuals and
Boigegrain said that in order for an income stream to begin for the
pension pilot first in Liberia, an investment of $2 million is needed,
which would result in about 5 percent from the amount or $100,000 a year
to fund the pension program.
Delegates to the 2004 General Conference, the United Methodist Church's
top legislative assembly, heard of the plight of retired pastors and
surviving spouses in the African central conferences. The delegates were
so moved that they passed a petition to provide immediate pension
support in the form of emergency grants from the Board of Global
According to Paul Dirdak, chief executive of the United Methodist
Committee on Relief, Global Ministries and the Board of Pension are
beginning to make payments of $76 to pensioners who are retired pastors
or surviving spouses in African central conferences.
Dirdak told the Central Conference Pension Committee that the
emergency grants "were in response to the African bishops' appeal (for)
an interim emergency supplement for pensions for clergy and surviving
spouses." The pension initiative, he said, "is using $100,000 per year
for this purpose" and is dividing that amount evenly among the African
claimants whose names are reported to both the boards of Global
Ministries and Pension and Health Benefits.
Chamness said large-scale investments are needed, such as real estate
or equities, to produce ongoing income for pensions. "This is needed to
have a lasting and enduring effect of providing pensions for the clergy
and lay workers," he said.
Pension for the retiring clergy and surviving spouses and lay workers
in the central conferences is "a justice issue," Chamness said. "We
need to address the needs of our clergy that have given themselves so
faithfully across the years in countries that are not able to support
them in their retirement years."
More information about the initiative can be found at www.gbophb.org online.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com .
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