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Committee calls for change in mandatory retirement age

4/7/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert (615) 742-5470 Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Calling forced retirement at age 70 "antiquated and ageist," the United Methodist Committee on Older Adult Ministries finalized proposed legislation that will relax the rules on mandatory retirement for lay employees, pastors and bishops of the church.

Meeting March 25-27, the committee forwarded the resolutions to the churchwide Board of Discipleship for submission to the 2004 General Conference. The top assembly of the church meets every four years and will gather in Pittsburgh.

"God does not take away God's blessing, including opportunity to serve in full capacity, simply because someone has reached the age of 70 years or older," the resolutions state.

The action involves amending or changing paragraphs 714.3; 356.1; 430.1 and 409.1 in the 2000 Book of Discipline, the church's law book.

"The committee is concerned about ageism in the church," said the Rev. Richard Gentzler Jr., director of the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries at the Board of Discipleship in Nashville.

"Chronological age should not be the determining factor for removing people from their positions," he said.

The wisdom of age is often overlooked, said David Maldonado Jr., president of Iliff School of Theology in Denver. He was invited to speak to the committee about theological education as it relates to aging and ministry with older adults in United Methodist-related seminaries.

"In theological education, the assumption is often that pastoral care equals problems, having to take care of the aging. Aging is part of God's creation; it is not a condemnation," he said.

Committee members are concerned about training pastoral candidates to care for and minister to older adults. The members discussed the idea of hosting a symposium that would bring together seminary professors and those working in older adult ministries to develop course work for seminaries.

In other action, the committee:
· Proposed and forwarded to the United Methodist Board of Church and Society a resolution titled, "Deficit Spending and the Elderly," protesting such spending to finance foreign conflicts.
· Voted to contact all general board and agency heads to evaluate compliance with a General Conference call to examine pension policies.
· Endorsed creation of a chair of gerontology at Africa University, a church-related school in Zimbabwe.
· Discussed creating a general church award for each annual conference to use in recognizing an individual or congregation doing extraordinary ministry with older adults.
· Approved a June 30 deadline for sending in applications for grants for older adult ministry programs. The committee will review and award the grants at its Aug. 15-17 meeting.
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