The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) today announced that the Central Conference Pension Initiative (CCPI) reached its $25 million challenge goal with a $217,000 “tithe” contribution from the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) board of directors, making it possible to retire the fundraising initiative once all pledged contributions are received.
Following the contribution confirmation, GBOD General Secretary Karen Greenwaldt said, "What an honor it is to contribute funds to the CCPI. Providing for retired pastors and spouses across the Central Conferences is the right thing to do and GBOD is blessed to be able to contribute to this important fund." GBPHB General Secretary Barbara Boigegrain commented, “We are so grateful to the thousands of individuals, local churches, conferences and others, and now the GBOD, who contributed over the years to make it possible for our United Methodist Church (UMC) clergy in the central conferences to also have hope for the future.”
The UMC central conferences are those outside the U.S. CCPI addressed the challenge to provide a long-term foundation for retirement security for dedicated pastors who would otherwise have little or no pension support when they retire from ministry. All clergy around the world, including every eligible central conference pastor, now have reliable pension support through their conference and/or government program. In January 2013, all central conferences seeking pension support through CCPI had met the necessary pension program start-up criteria. They now have their own pension programs approved and in place—two years ahead of schedule.
Boigegrain commended the efforts over the years of the CCPI team—Managing Director Dan O’Neill, Director Paul Dirdak, and Chief Financial Officer Tim Koch—for their active engagement, personal commitment and dedication to this special program. The CCPI-established pension plans today cover 2,839 retirees and surviving spouses, and more than 8,000 active pastors. Bishop Ben R. Chamness (retired), a member of the initial Central Conference Pension Committee, kicked-off and led the fundraising effort in 2007; he expressed his delight at this accomplishment: “It is truly a matter of justice that our central conference ministers have support in retirement when their careers in ministry end. This is a significant effort that now recognizes and rewards a life of service to the Lord.”
CCPI began 13 years ago when GBPHB and the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) laid the groundwork for sustainable pensions for central conference retirees. General Conference 2000 focused the UMC on this need, launching an inter-agency task force led by Bishop Joe Pennel. As a result, General Conference 2004 amended The Book of Discipline and authorized GBPHB to raise the necessary funds to provide pension support to the central conferences that need it. Several agencies collaborated to provide support for the fledgling effort including United Methodist Publishing House, United Methodist Communications and General Council on Finance and Administration, in addition to GBGM and GBPHB.
Wespath Investment Management (a division of GBPHB) invests the contributions—the earning on which make the initial pension payments possible. Pension plans are different from charitable-giving programs, because ultimately, they are funded by contributions from local churches and the ministers themselves. Over time, the central conferences will grow and manage the pension program funding with contributions from their active pastors.
To date, $3.9 million has been dispersed, providing a financial foundation while giving central conferences time to build their own contribution base for future retirees. In this way, conference pension programs become self-sustaining over time.
It is important to remember that this significant achievement was realized during the most severe economic downturn in recent memory—a remarkable testament to a great Church and its generous members. Thousands of donations and pledges have been received and will continue to be taken—to date, 94% of pledges have been realized.
Reverend Francisco Ferreira is a retired pastor in East Angola—he has led 10 churches during his 41-year career in ministry. He typifies many ministers in the central conferences—he is putting his pension payment to use to secure his future. Since he has already replaced his roof, he now buys cement blocks every month to improve his house. They are stacked neatly in his yard—1,500 of the 4,000 he estimates he will need. In most of the African central conferences, the gift of sheets of zinc (the material used as roofing) is common at retirement—essentially giving the retired pastor a “roof over his or her head.” Through CCPI, the UMC now provides longer-lasting, ongoing support.
Reverend Ferreira expressed his appreciation to CCPI staff during one of their recent visits: “When I first retired in 2003, we did not receive any pension but I was able to grow my own food. Now, I am older and unable to grow my food, so I am very happy that pension payments started in 2010 and come every quarter to help me survive.” He wanted GBPHB to thank the UMC in America for sacrificing for the central conference retirees.