Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
— 2 Cor 5:17
Five years ago, we started realigning the Board of Pensions mission to better serve the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and ever since, we’ve been serving more and serving better. We ended decline and have seen an increase of 29 percent in active members as congregations and affiliated employers have offered new benefits to thousands of employees.
Fifty new calls for young ministers have been created through Pathways to Renewal, which we introduced in mid-2018, and grants have been established to help presbyteries provide benefits for organizing ministers and evangelists. Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations, which promotes financial literacy for ministers and just compensation by congregations, has committed over $5 million in grants to 560 covenant participants. And Church Consultants have been shifted to regions with the heaviest concentrations of Presbyterians and a Senior Consultant located in the Presbyterian Center, in Louisville, strengthening our connections throughout the Church.
Service is at the heart of what we do here at the Board, and we improved on it yet again in 2019. But we’re not done yet! Looking ahead, we see the Board introducing new benefits, seeking ways to reduce costs, continuing to support new calls to ministry, bringing record-level financial support to Benefits Plan members, and partnering with communities of color.
In 2020, our Board of Directors is considering new benefits and the expansion of eligibility for our educational and assistance programs. The expected result: expanded choice and affordability for congregations and PC(USA)-affiliated employers — and the potential for more ministers and employees to enter plan membership.
Membership in the Benefits Plan can open eligibility for financial assistance the Board provides to promote health and wholeness. We’re increasing the budget for these programs by $1.6 million in 2020. Our financial strength makes this possible.
One big concern is that many ministers remain excluded from the plan. That makes them ineligible for programs that have gone a long way in fostering wholeness, such as CREDO, Sabbath Sabbatical Support, and Minister Educational Debt Assistance. So, we’re excited about a new approach for bringing them into the plan. Stay tuned for details!
As we work to serve more, we’ll further extend our outreach to communities of color in 2020 so that we might serve better. This will include delivering Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations in Korean and the report of our study of leadership in African American congregations, and our continued delivery of service in Spanish.
Serving more, serving better, and serving the Church. Our work continues in the year ahead.
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer