News Archives

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*

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
UMNS graphic by Laura J. Latham

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Staff 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

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
The Republic of Mozambique UMNS graphic by Laura J. Latham, Photo number 03-480, Accompanies UMNS #558, 11/14/03

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Bishop 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
MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS)-"When someone loses a goat, he starts looking for it, even on top of the trees," says an African proverb.

"We've lost our goat," said United Methodist Bishop João 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?"

Machado, 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 to vary.

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 States.

"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."

Besides 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."

"Although 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 Methodism."

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.

Clementina 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 salary."

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."

"We've never 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.

Although 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.

"The 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 community development."

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."

Machado 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.

The 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 central conferences."

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 this fund.

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

# # #

*Willis is a staff member of United Methodist Communications

Back : News Archives 2003 Main

Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add to your list of approved senders.