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Mission agency loses 24 staff to retirement

4/14/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NOTE: For related coverage of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries' meeting, see UMNS stories #217-219.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (UMNS) - Twenty-four staff from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries are retiring June 30 because of changes in the denomination's pension plan.

The list of retirees was presented during the agency's April 7-10 meeting in Birmingham.

During his address to board directors, the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive, spoke about his regret that pension changes for lay employees could affect the board's operations.

"These persons, all of them laity and most of them women, were more or less given an ultimatum: retire now or lose a big part of your benefits," he said. "We have protested this policy directly to the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, to no avail, and we cannot blame persons for acting to protect the benefits they rightfully have earned."

The pensions board has changed its policy for converting pension account balances to annuities at retirement. Effective July 2, lay employees who retire and choose to "annuitize" their pension accounts will do so at a floating market rate rather than the longtime fixed rate of 8 percent. Current market rates are at 5 percent or less, Board of Global Ministries staff members have reported.

Day noted that "some of our most creative and productive employees" had felt compelled to retire. "This is a blow," he added. "We will recover from it, but we shall greatly miss colleagues we had not expected to replace for five or more years."

Particularly affected is the Women's Division, which is losing five executive staff - most of whom had 10 or more years of service apiece - as well as two longtime professional staff and one support staff.

The Board of Global Ministries currently has more than 400 employees, including about 100 in the Women's Division.

Executive Women's Division retirees are Maxine West, Mary Louise Head, Ann Needham, Ressie Mae Bass and Marilyn Clement. Also retiring are Melba Smith and Velta Hartstern, professional staff, and Lorraine Walton, support staff.

The general board retirees include Lorene Wilbur, a top executive.

Other retirees, including executive, professional and support staff, are Sarla Chand, Peggy Halsey, Ruth Lawson and Andrea Thomas, Community and Institutional Ministries unit; Elizabeth Calvin, Zebediah Marewangepo, Monique Serres and Elaine Steele, Mission Context and Relationships unit; Wilma Roberts and John Kirk, Office of the General Secretary; Fred Christian, Nancy Quigley and Brenda Wilkinson, Coordinated Services; Betty Purkey, Mission Personnel and Stella Bolioli, Financial Services.

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