Advance info on health, pension costs


A full house asked few questions at the first pre-conference meeting, April 14 at Anadarko-First.

Crucial changes in clergy healthcare and pension benefits drive the discussion at these district meetings, which continue through May 9.

Conference Treasurer Brian Bakeman urges each church’s financial officers to attend, as well as clergy and Annual Conference delegates.

"We want the laity here because in these meetings we want to deal with how this affects the local churches," Rev. Bakeman said. "Everything here will have a critical impact on how you do your 2014 budgeting."

The Anadarko session targeted the 88 Clinton and Lawton District churches and extension ministries. All but seven were represented at the meeting.

Federal health care law and decisions by the 2012 UM General Conference mandate changes for Oklahoma’s churches beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Annual Conference delegates in late May will vote on solutions for implementation.

Bakeman and Stephen Mitchell, Office of Benefits director, led the pre-conference presentation. A video explanation featured Bob Long, a member of the Conference and General Boards of Pension and Health Benefits. Each church received a one-page financial handout with data specific to that congregation.

"Small churches will reap the biggest savings" from the changes, Bakeman said. "Extension ministries will bear the brunt of the cost changes."

The changes will be made in stages across four years. Financial officials said most churches will see reductions in their bills for clergy pension and health costs.

District Superintendents Chuck Nordean and Chris Tiger also spoke. Four proposed amendments to the Church’s Constitution, found in the Book of Discipline, also await Annual Conference vote. They address prayer for unity, scheduling of General Conferences, annual conferences’ boundary decisions, and leadership training for laity.

You can watch the video and view the Pre-Conference Workbook online. Go to . Find the list of all pre-conference meetings by clicking the link "Annual Conference 2013."

— Holly McCray

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