Pre-conference meetings will give delegates details
By Holly McCray
Changes looming in pension and health plans in 2014 intensify the need for Annual Conference delegates, both clergy and laity, to attend pre-conference meetings.
These meetings begin April 14, for Clinton and Lawton District churches, at Anadarko.
To comply with General Conference pension legislation and federal healthcare law, the Oklahoma Conference must make changes by Jan. 1, 2014, according to Treasurer Brian Bakeman.
Working since August, multiple groups within Oklahoma’s leadership have developed recommendations to fulfill the terms. Their solutions will be explained at the pre-conference meetings by Rev. Bakeman and other financial leaders.
Details of the specific impact on each local church will be available. Most churches will see a decrease in pension costs, leaders said. Monthly medical insurance premiums (single-party) for active clergy will drop.
Delegates at Annual Conference will vote on the proposals.
The working groups have included the Board of Pension & Health Benefits (BOPHB); Commission on Equitable Compensation; Council on Finance & Administration (CFA); and a joint task force, led by Jim Jones of Enid-Christ UMC and Tom Harrison of Tulsa-Asbury.
"Knowing the decisions were going to be far-reaching," said Rev. Jones, the task force "made sure to have representatives from churches of all sizes, from agencies, the Conference office staff," etc.
On March 26, the CFA approved a 2014 Conference budget of $16,665,001, which is a 1.77 percent reduction from 2013. The changes are incorporated in that amount.
For the second consecutive year, the total Apportionment support sought from Oklahoma’s churches decreases for the connectional Kingdom-work in which all share.
To achieve that goal as well as comply with law, a mosaic of changes emerges in clergy pension and healthcare systems. Conference leaders expressed hope their proposals also will clarify for each local church its actual financial costs for pastoral support.
The pre-conference meetings will present a plethora of specifics — direct-billing, restructuring the Health Benefits Fund apportionment, personal investing, etc.
"The meetings aren’t just for delegates, because of the impact," Treasurer Bakeman said. He is encouraging attendance by all financial officers of a church.
Mark Commons, who chairs the Pension and Health Board, said, "This is hard to explain. It’s why we are having these pre-conference meetings."
The Active Clergy Medical Apportionment, paid by the local church, will be discontinued by 2017. To achieve this, the amount will be reduced by 25 percent annually over the next four years.
The Retired Clergy Medical Apportionment, paid by the local church, will continue annually. The amount will increase by 2 percent in 2014.
Health insurance premiums paid by active clergy for single-party coverage will be based on 9.5 percent of the annual minimum compensation set by the Commission on Equitable Compensation.
Only a charge with a full-time appointed clergyperson will be direct-billed an annual per-clergy share for medical insurance. The amount will increase in phases over four years to offset the reduction in the Active Clergy Medical Apportionment. In 2014, that amount will be $1,621 per full-time appointed clergyperson.
Highlights from the 2014 pension plan:
As adopted by the 2012 General Conference, the restated Clergy Retirement Security Plan (CRSP) will apply only to full-time appointed clergy, beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
Clergy appointed to serve less than full-time will participate in the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP) program.
An incentive plan, offering a 1 percent match, will encourage clergy to personally invest in UMPIP. Stephen Mitchell, Conference director of Personnel/Pensions, reported to the BOPHB Pensions Subcommittee that 45 percent of Oklahoma’s clergy currently make personal contributions into their retirement accounts.
The 2013 Annual Conference will be in session May 27-30, Monday evening-Thursday afternoon, in Oklahoma City.
In calendar order, here is the pre-conference meeting schedule.
April 14 (Sunday), Clinton/Lawton Districts, 3 p.m. at Anadarko-First UMC
April 27 (Saturday), Ardmore District, 10 a.m. at Ada-First UMC
April 27 (Saturday), McAlester District, 1:30 p.m. at McAlester-First UMC
April 28 (Sunday), Enid District, 3 p.m. at Enid-First UMC
April 30 (Tuesday), Stillwater District, 7 p.m. at Stillwater-First UMC
May 4 (Saturday), Woodward District, 10 a.m. in Fairview UMC at Slapout
May 5 (Sunday), Tulsa/Bartlesville Districts, 2:30 p.m. at Owasso-First UMC
May 7 (Tuesday), Muskogee District, 7 p.m. at Muskogee-First UMC
May 9 (Thursday), North and South OKC Districts, 7 p.m. at Chapel Hill UMC