Two hundred people work at the Board of Pensions, administering benefits and providing care. But we do not labor alone. Collaboration and a shared sense of mission are part of the Presbyterian and Reformed identity. We answer the call to do God’s will on earth — together.
Together is alongside 186 mid councils and thousands of congregations. It’s alongside the 10 Presbyterian seminaries — three of which provide us with an office. Together is alongside the PC(USA) coalitions and caucuses of color. And it’s alongside PC(USA)-affiliated organizations, such as the camps, conference centers, retirement communities, and colleges and universities. Together is also alongside ecumenical coalitions — the Church Benefits Association, for one. And it’s alongside secular coalitions working to make the world better for all, such as Climate Action 100+ and CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion.
The connection in mission is especially strong among the six national agencies of the Church. A recent example is when a rule change around the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program moved the Board and the Presbyterian Mission Agency to engage PeopleJoy’s EdAssist. EdAssist is now helping those who serve the Church navigate this new opportunity for debt relief.
Lightening burdens is part of the missional calling to holy work the agencies share. In 2015, we collaborated with the Presbyterian Foundation on grant applications to the Lilly Endowment. The Endowment was concerned about pastors’ lack of financial literacy and the debt they carried. With $2 million in grants as the catalyst, we created the Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations program. That program closed last year with 4,000 elders having participated in our educational program, over 900 ministers having received financial counseling, and more than $8 million in grants lifting debt from their shoulders.
The two agencies’ collaboration on the grants reflected an expanding partnership. Since 2015, the Presbyterian Foundation has cultivated major gifts and planned gifts for our Assistance Program. Last year, $7 million in assistance grants was awarded. Again, burdens were lightened. This time for over 1,200 members of the church Benefits Plan, both active and retired, and their families.
We partner with the Foundation on our Well-Being Retreat. After a two-year coronavirus hiatus, Well-Being Retreat will return this year, to Montreat Conference Center in August. The popular gathering focuses on wholeness, and gives participants the space to reconnect with God and their colleagues in ministry. A refreshing experience, it, too, lightens burdens.
Lightening burdens also lies at the heart of the PC(USA) commitment to dismantling structural racism. This year, the six agencies collaborated with other church entities to support the PC(USA) Diverse Voices Table in drafting the Antiracism Statement. The Boards of Directors for all the agencies have affirmed the statement, as have those of Presbyterian Women and the Administrative Services Group.
When Moses found “the burden of all this people” too much to bear, the Lord distributed it among the elders so they and Moses could bear it — together. The Board of Pensions is grateful for our shared service in the name of Christ Jesus.
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer