Pension Initiative needs millions for retired pastors

For many retired United Methodist pastors serving in Africa, the Philippines and Eastern Europe, retirement often becomes "a transition to homelessness," said Barbara A. Boigegrain, chief executive of the church's Board of Pension and Health Benefits.

Boigegrain made that statement in a video during an April 26 report from the Central Conference Pension Initiative to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, the quadrennial meeting of the church's top legislative body.

"On behalf of all our retired friends, I thank you for your contribution," says Bishop Benjamin Chamness of the Fort Worth Area.

Bishop Benjamin Chamness, Fort Worth Area, told delegates the initiative has raised $7.8 million but needs $20 million to fully fund pensions for retired pastors in areas outside of the United States. He challenged delegates to contribute to the fund while at General Conference.

"On behalf of all our retired friends, I thank you for your contribution," he said.

Bishop John Innis, Liberia, also thanked United Methodists who have contributed to the initiative. Liberia started receiving quarterly pension payments in 2007 as the first pilot pension project.

Innis reported the program is working even though many of the retired pastors can only be reached by walking six or seven hours.

"These retirees are so deserving," he said. "United Methodists, God bless you. You saw a need, and you stepped forward."

The United Methodist Church, directed by its 2000 and 2004 General Conferences, has been developing pension models to help pastors and church lay workers in annual conferences outside the United States retire with dignity, hope and an adequate income.

Even though the denomination's greatest growth is in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Philippines, pension funds are minimal or nonexistent for pastors in those areas. Many clergy have served for 20, 30, 40 or more years. When they retire, they find survival difficult.

The Central Conference Pension Initiative Committee consists of members from the denomination's Board of Pension and Health Benefits, General Council on Finance and Administration, Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Publishing House and United Methodist Communications.

Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo, Democratic Republic of Congo, who was presiding over the meeting, also took the opportunity to thank those who have contributed.

"Thousands and thousands have no hope but today you are bringing them hope," he said. "Thousands can now die in peace knowing you are thinking of them. There are many ways to build God's kingdom, thank you."

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, e-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.

Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405(817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470(615) 742-5470.

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