Health benefits to change in 2017

Rev. Josh Bell, Lead Pastor Spring of Life Orlando. Photo by Lance Rothwell.

Friday morning‘s plenary sessions at Annual Conference brought votes on Benefits and Pensions proposals as well as the Service of Remembrance.

The Freedom to Choose health insurance proposal, which was submitted by the Conference Board of Pension & Health Benefits, was adopted by a majority of votes. The Health Insurance subcommittee last year proposed changes to the current group health care plan. This proposal was offered in response to a variety of challenges adversely affecting the existing mandatory plan.

Rev. Clare Chance, who served on the insurance subcommittee, presented the recommendation at the meeting. She explained that the new benefit will be offered to full-time clergy (including deacons) appointed to a local church, district or to the conference staff.  Local churches will replace the current blended rate premium paid to the Conference by either:

  1. Enrolling pastors in their local church health insurance plan, if available, or
  2. If the charge does not provide health insurance, the clergy member must be paid additional compensation to purchase health insurance outside the church.

If the local church offers a small group health plan, clergy members may choose to either join the church’s plan or request the additional compensation from the local church in lieu of health insurance.  If the pastor chooses to take the additional annual compensation, it is based on family size.  In 2017, the amounts will be:  Single pastors, $9,000; pastors plus one dependent $12,000; families (three or more) $15,000. The proposal was approved.

Questions from the audience included a family’s size in relation to the stated amounts of annual compensation; projected increases in health care costs beyond 2017; income tax concerns and possible impact on appointments and clergy salaries.

Bishop Carter responded that the “underlying value of the plan is sustainability.”

Another matter relating to benefits concerned required contributions to CRSP (Clergy Retirement Security Program). The existing CRSP contribution is 12% of the pastor’s total plan compensation.  The body of voters approved an increase to the pension funding formula to 15% of the pastor’s total compensation, effective January 1, 2017.

There was a report from the Commission on Equitable Compensation by Brian Carr, pastor at Trinity UMC in DeLand and chair of the commission. The commission exists to assist churches who are in need of financial support on a short term basis. “Our job is to undergird churches doing good missional work but who are challenged financially,” Carr said.

The members approved a budget request for $1.5 million for the Equitable Compensation Commission for the fiscal year 2017.

Rev. Dennis White offered the greeting to the Service of Remembrance. Photo by Lance Rothwell.

Service of Remembrance

After greetings from Rev. Dennis White and an opening prayer by Bishop Ken Carter, Rev. David Dodge delivered the message, entitled Remember.  Dodge based his words on the scripture Genesis 28:10-22 and 35:1-3 which told the story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel and the stones that he used to make an altar.  Dodge likened those honored at the service as stones much like “altars in our heart—memories that serve as our touch stones,” Dodge said.

“We remember the lives of women and men who led us to our own places of Bethel,” Dodge said.  “They were the rocks that helped us on our way… as we struggled and succeeded.”

He also invoked the messages of two well known hymns. “In the beginning, there is the “Lift High the Cross…the love of God proclaim” and at the conclusion of their physical lives, when we return them in singing “For all the Saints who from their labors rest.”

The program included the naming of the saints who had passed on during the last year by Nell Thrift and Rev. White.  Click here for the names of the remembered. Rev. Larry and Lenora Shields lit candles on the altar, and members stood as names of those who had touched their lives were read.

Florida United Methodist Foundation report

Mark Becker, president of the Florida United Methodist Foundation, shared the Foundation’s report, focusing on this year’s 50th anniversary on June 4.  The anniversary was celebrated at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort on Wednesday, and the Future Generations Fund was launched. It is a long-term fund that will invest in the next generations of United Methodists with ministry for children, youth and college-age young adults.

Rev. Mark E. Becker, FUMF President. Photo by Lance Rothwell. 

The Florida Conference donated $10,000 to the fund, and the foundation board offered a matching challenge gift of $10,000.

He also reported that assets managed by the foundation totaled more than $316 million—an increase of $32 million over 2014.

Becker also announced to two nominees for the board, Sherry Houston and Phyllis Klock. Houston is executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida and a member at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville. Klock is a member at Asbury United Methodist Church in Maitland and a retired corporate executive. These two were approved by the voting membership.

Also, the foundation made a change in its articles of incorporation to allow it to collaborate with other annual conferences and United Methodist entities outside the Florida conference.

The Conference Committee on Leadership included the election of Conference Lay Leader Paulette Monroe and Conference Chancellor Mark Hanley, a member of Hyde Park UMC in Tampa.

Retirement Recognition Service

The service recognized 42 retiring pastors and celebrated their ministries. In the passing of the mantle, retiring Rev. Dan Johnson (Trinity UMC Gainesville) transferred the mantle to Rev. Patti Aupperlee (First UMC Pahokee). For a list of retirees, click here.

Friday closed with a special night of worship celebrating the life of Jesus Christ hosted by Bishop Kenneth Carter and the Eleven20 Worship group of First UMC, Lakeland. The night will began with Christ’s birth and continued with music and readings relating to His seasons in the desert, ministry, death and resurrection.

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