United Methodist officials explore funding Mozambique pension fund
11/14/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn
Photographs are available.
By Nancye Willis*
UMNS graphic by Laura J. Latham
African Continent featuring the Republic of Mozambique UMNS graphic by
Laura J. Latham, Photo number 03-481, Accompanies UMNS #558, 11/14/03
of the United Methodist Church’s Mozambique Episcopal Area pause after
sharing their experiences with a fact-finding group investigating the
feasibility of establishing a viable pensions system in the United
Methodist Church’s central conferences outside the United States.
Pictured are front row, from left, Alexandre Machaba, treasurer;
Leonardo Lasse, North Maputo district superintendent; and the Rev.
Morias Quissico, pension administrator; back row, from left, the Rev.
Xavier Guambe, council on ministries director; Zacharias U. Massicame,
Maputo West district superintendent; Arlindo Dias Simbine, area
financial officer; Bishop João Somane Machado; Linita Bahule, finance
committee chairperson; and Alfredo Chamusso, annual conference lay
leader. UMNS photo by Nancye Willis, Photo number 03-03-474, Accompanies
UMNS #558, 11/14/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
The Republic of Mozambique UMNS graphic by Laura J. Latham, Photo number 03-480, Accompanies UMNS #558, 11/14/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
João Somane Machado of Mozambique pauses during a recent meeting in
Maputo with a fact-finding group investigating the feasibility of
establishing a viable pensions system in the United Methodist Church’s
central conferences outside the United States. The ongoing
conversations, Machado said, “are making us start to feel much more part
of the church in the global sense.” UMNS photo by Nancye Willis, Photo
number 03-475, Accompanies UMNS #558, 11/14/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS)-"When someone loses a
goat, he starts looking for it, even on top of the trees," says an
"We've lost our goat," said United Methodist
Bishop JoÃ£o Somane Machado, likening the missing animal to the dire
economic situation of Mozambique, where unemployment is estimated
between 50 percent and 85 percent. "Where can we find it?"
leader of the churches in Mozambique, was among church officials from
that nation who met here recently with the Global Pensions Task Force, a
group of U.S. church officials investigating the possibility of
offering pension support to central (outside the United States)
conferences. The church in Mozambique, which has about 80 retired
pastors, provides pensions, but depressed economic system causes amounts
Contributing a percentage of salary toward retirement
is a difficult concept in this southeastern African nation, where a
pastor's salary averages the equivalent of $48 a month. Historically,
pastors' salaries have been paid intermittently, members of the task
force learned, with most of the funds coming from church entities
outside the country.
Missouri United Methodists help pay
salaries of Mozambican pastors. "Missouri money helps cover almost 90
percent, with 10 percent from local sources," said the Rev. Morais
Quissico, pension administrator for the church's Mozambique Area.
Additionally, the United Methodist Publishing House contributes part of
its revenues to support pastors' pensions within and beyond the United
"If close to 90 percent of Mozambicans are in absolute
poverty, United Methodists are in that percentage," said Quissico. "We
can't expect them to have money to contribute toward pastors' salaries."
supporting a family, Leonardo Lasse, North Maputo district
superintendent, noted, "pastors provide spiritual and material support,
including clothing and food, to church members." Therefore, he said,
even pastors who are paid regularly would find it difficult to put a
portion of their salaries aside for retirement.
The goal for the
church in Mozambique, said Barbara Boigegrain, top executive of the
denomination's Board of Pension and Health Benefits, is that "clergy and
lay workers can have adequate support in old age."
pension plans might develop in different countries at different paces,"
Boigegrain, a member of the task force and a participant in the visit to
Mozambique, added, "each would be a self-sustaining program, built in
the country of the people who would benefit in much the same way
pensions for 'tired, worn-out preachers' developed in early American
Conference staff members, banking officials and
representatives of Mozambique's social security system met with the
group to share information about local economic conditions, investment
possibilities and established retirement practices.
Chiziane, director of Mozambique's National Institute of Social Security
(INSS), outlined the national retirement plan. Under INSS, established
in 1989, employees contribute 3 percent of their salary, and the
employer, 4 percent, toward retirement. Participants must register with
INSS and maintain a consistent record of contributions, a difficult
goal, when salaries are relatively low.
Machado noted, "In terms
of the system, that would be good, despite the fact that we're still in a
struggle to see how we can decide what constitutes a reasonable
INSS has set 60 as the age of retirement for men and 55
for women, with 10 years' contributions to the pensions system. Since
few Mozambicans live until the age of 70, "by the time they retire, they
are advanced in age and exhausted," said Arlindo Dias Simbine,
Mozambique area financial executive for the denomination's Board of
Global Ministries (BGM). "They survive, but barely."
had anyone want to retire early," said Alexandre Machaba, treasurer of
the church's Mozambique Area. "To be a pastor is to accept all kinds of
sacrifice," he added, including little money and long distances to
travel without adequate means of transportation.
Mozambique faces many challenges, opportunities are present, said Xavier
Guambe, director of the Mozambique Council on Ministries. "Peace makes
Mozambique a preferred country for many investors," he said.
United Methodist Church is well-respected by government and civil
society," Guambe added, "and the government is open to working with the
church, providing moral, and in some cases, financial support for
Machado said he and conference staff have
considered investment possibilities in land owned by the church,
including the marketing of cashew nuts and coconut products. "People
from South Africa are coming to get coconut oil to process for beauty
products and other uses," he said.
The initial investment would
be for a machine to extract the oil, he noted. "Once it is set up, it
doesn't cost much to run. All year you can get coconuts."
expressed gratitude for the U.S. delegation's visit. "Our joy is to be,
for the first time, sitting down and talking with our brothers and
sisters here," he said. "These conversations are making us start to feel
much more a part of the global church."
In that sense, the
bishop said, "When a small finger feels the pain, the whole body feels
it; when the head hurts, the whole body goes to the hospital with it.
But when one part of the body starts to dance, the rest of the body will
dance with it."
The delegation to Mozambique included
Boigegrain, John Connors and Sarah Johnson, Board of Pension and Health
Benefits staff members; James Branscome, treasurer of the denomination's
Virginia Annual (regional) Conference and a member of the pension
board's directors; Donald Reasoner, BGM translator; Jerald Scott, BGM
staff executive; Paul Dirdak, director of the United Methodist Committee
on Relief; Rukudzo Murapa, vice chancellor of Africa University; and
Nancye Willis, representing United Methodist Communications.
Mozambique visit, the second the task force has made, included sessions
with Bishop Machado, conference staff members, banking officials and
representatives of Mozambique's social security system. A similar visit
to Russia took place in July.
The Global Pensions Task Force was
established after the 2000 General Conference when the church's missions
agency identified pension support for central conference pastors as a
new mission initiative. The legislative assembly called for the
establishment of a fund to "launch a pension support plan for the
The Board of Global Ministries has pledged
funds for central conference pensions, and the task force is
investigating other funding sources. A Central Conference Pension
Initiative fund has been established to help churches outside the U.S.
pay pension benefits to their ministers and lay workers. Conferences,
churches and clergy in the U.S. will not be required to contribute to
An overview of the Central Conference Pension
Initiative, a short list of frequently asked questions and answers, a
copy of the legislative document, and feedback mechanism are available
at the initiative Web site www.gbophb.org/news/ccpi.
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*Willis is a staff member of United Methodist Communications