75 Years of Pensions and Benefits - Church of the Nazarene
The actions of the 1919 General Assembly are seen as the official beginnings of the work of Pensions and Benefits in the Church of the Nazarene. This means that this work, born of compassion for the church's ministers and their widows, is entering its 75th year of service.
In its May 1990 meeting, the Board of Pensions and Benefits USA took action encouraging the writing of this book. It relates the history of the work of pensions in the Church of the Nazarene from the perspective of the Pensions office. The Board expressed a desire that this gift book be released at the Recognition Banquet for retired ministers at the 1993 General Assembly in Indianapolis, IN, and that it be the "kickoff" for the 75th Anniversary celebration.
E. J. Fleming (1919-1940), M. Lunn (1940-1956), and Dean Wessels (1956-1993) have been the only directors of Pensions and Benefits Services. The early efforts were characterized by benevolence and the hope that a real pension plan could be established as churches could afford it.
Starting in 1955, the outlook grew promising as critical program elements came into place in relatively rapid succession. In 1955, ministers were allowed into Social Security and churches were encouraged to pay half or more of the cost of participation.
In 1963, the Nazarene Minister's Retirement Program, using the Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plan, began. The use of this optional contributory pension plan was encouraged as churches and pastors had funds to contribute.
In 1971, the "Basic" Pension Plan was inaugurated so that ministers could have at least some benefit based on years of service rather than only on the economic abilities of the local congregations they served. All years of service back to 1908 were recognized. The church accepted this debt with the hope that funds could be collected from participating districts and invested in interest-bearing reserves in order to meet the promises made. It was thought that in 20 to 25 years the plan would be "funded" and pastors would have had enough time to participate in the TSA so that reliance on the "Basic" Pension alone would be minimized. If realized, this goal could allow a new phase in pensions to begin. The Commission to Study Church-Related Pension Plans (1989-93), which was created by the General Assembly in 1989, has been reviewing these very possibilities. It will report its findings to the USA Caucus of the 1993 General Assembly.
Today, pensions and benefits plans are under the administration of the Board of Pensions and Benefits USA. This Board has been operating faithfully to serve the needs of Nazarene ministers, church employees, and their families. For example, pension and benefit payouts for the quadrennium have exceeded $100 million. This represents over $25 million in "Basic" Pension benefits, over $16 million in TSA and IRA benefits, over $4 million in life and disability insurance benefits, and over $55 million in medical and dental benefits.
Coincidently with the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of pensions work, financial reports indicate that over $7.5 million dollars were paid out in "Basic" Pension benefits during 1992. Also, it is interesting to note that from 1971, when the current "Basic" Pension Plan began, through the first part of 1993, the accumulative amount of pensions paid to "Basic" Pension recipients passed the $75 million mark.
For these last two years of the quadrennium, it has been my privilege to have been the Responsible General Superintendent overseeing the work of Pensions and Benefits Services. As this quadrennium closes, many reports will be given and received. In a sense, this book represents one of those reports. However, it is a very special one since it is a 75-year report on the ministry of pensions and benefits on behalf of Nazarene ministers. It is with great pleasure that I commend this book to you. Enjoy!
Dr. John A. Knight
Kansas City, MO
© Copyright 1993 Board of Pensions and Benefits USA, Church of the Nazarene
Cover art by Ray Craighead