The Confession of 1967 (sec. 9.29)
Reformation Sunday, which we just celebrated, reminds us of what’s possible. The boldness of Martin Luther in the 16th century helped ignite a remaking of the religious landscape. As both our culture and denomination undergo change, it is up to all of us to ask what is possible.
The Board of Pensions is committed to partnering with our community of faith to ensure that every ordained minister receives benefits in support of well-being. That means healthcare coverage and financial protection and access to the Board’s assistance and educational programs. We’re the church agency that administers benefits. There are things we can do in our role, and we’ve started doing them.
In 2021, we added a second benefits package for ministers, Minister’s Choice. It provides critical financial protection, the Employee Assistance Plan — and access to all the programs and grants that are a part of the Board’s support for ministers: grants like Sabbath Sabbatical Support and programs such as CREDO that cultivate wholeness and nurture ministries.
The Board has been steadily broadening eligibility for the Assistance Program, and we’ll provide financial support to even more members starting in 2023. This will make more ministers eligible for grants that support spiritual, health, financial, and vocational wholeness. A new grant will provide up to $5,000 to ministers to help them participate in respite and vocational support programs. Meanwhile, we are increasing grant amounts where we can without risking the ability to meet our promises to Benefits Plan members, retirees, and surviving spouses.
Widening access to support is just one task. Ministers as well as church leaders need to be aware of this support. This month, the Reverend Dr. Jerry L. Cannon joined the Board in the new position of Vice President, Ministry Innovation. Jerry will work to deepen agency relationships with small congregations and communities of color. Through his work, we will strengthen our connection to groups and ministries that represent the growing diversity of the denomination.
Pastoring today is happening amid accelerating cultural change. And our denomination is seeking new ways of spreading the good news of God’s grace beyond our congregational walls. Our Stated Clerk, the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, has said we’re having “to recalibrate what it means to be Christian in the 21st century.”
Supporting ministers is critical to the vitality of congregations and the larger Church. As spoken artist and preacher Lo Alaman says in Hold Me Up, starving shepherds will make malnourished sheep. The Board of Pensions is committed to working alongside the wider Church to ensure the well-being of all of our shepherds.
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer