Annuity Board to cut non-SBC churches
February 23 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Annuity Board to cut non-SBC churches | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Annuity Board to cut non-SBC churches

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Baptist pastors and staff have often joked, "If the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) splits, I'm going with the Annuity Board." For some, the issue is no longer a joking matter. The Annuity Board has announced that staff members from churches that publicly sever ties with the SBC are no longer eligible to participate in Annuity Board retirement or insurance programs. The board will continue to manage asset accumulations and distributions for past participants, officials said, but will not accept additional contributions or make insurance programs available.

State convention officials have been asked to police the policy and to notify the Annuity Board when a church announces its withdrawal from the SBC.

The Church Annuity Plan (CHAP) is based on contractual agreements between the Annuity Board and the state conventions or multi-state associations affiliated with the SBC. The plan calls for the state conventions to determine which churches qualify for participation. As amended and restated in 1995, the plan defines an eligible church as "... any Southern Baptist Church as determined by the State Convention as well as an association of Southern Baptist Churches or other Southern Baptist organizations that the State Convention determines should be treated as a church for purposes of participation in this Plan" (CHAP, section 2.1[f]).

The same section goes on to state that "... an organization shall cease to be a Church when the Annuity Board receives notice from the State Convention that the organization is no longer a Southern Baptist Church."

Annuity Board president O.S. Hawkins recently wrote to the executive directors of the state conventions, pointing out the CHAP provisions. The Annuity Board must act within the limits of its charter, Hawkins said, which calls for it to serve churches within the bounds of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"We expect you to notify us of churches in your state that no longer consider themselves to be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention," Hawkins said in his letter to BSC Executive-director Jim Royston.

Royston told the Biblical Recorder that the BSC's policy allows any church contributing a minimum amount through one of the BSC's cooperative giving plans to qualify for participation. "The contract is between the state convention and the Annuity Board," he said. "If a church continues to support the state convention, we don't plan to declare it ineligible."

Churches that publicly disassociate themselves from the SBC are not the only ones that could be affected. Through a long-standing agreement, the BSC's contract with the Annuity Board also provides services for churches and denominational staff affiliated with the General Baptist Convention of North Carolina (GBCNC), which consists of predominantly black congregations. The cooperative agreement calls for GBCNC churches to be dually aligned with the BSC through minimum contributions to one of the BSC's cooperative giving plans but does not require affiliation with the SBC.

Curtis Sharp, executive officer for denominational and public relations services with the Annuity Board, told a recent gathering of state convention executive directors and state paper editors that the Annuity Board has no desire to force churches out of its programs. "We want to keep them in," he said. "The worst thing for us is to erode our asset base - the more assets we have, the lower our fees - but we must maintain the charter."

Sharp said the Annuity Board is encouraging all SBC churches to remain affiliated with the convention so they will not face any loss of benefits.

Annuitants who are members of non-SBC churches will not be affected, Sharp said, because their benefits are based on past service.

The Annuity Board cannot cease serving a church unless the state convention instructs it to do so, said Sharp, because the Church Annuity Plan is based on a contract between the Annuity Board and the state conventions.

The Annuity Board will not rely solely on the state conventions, however. Sharp said that when Board officials learn of churches that have voted to withdraw from the SBC, they will contact the churches individually, advise them that the Annuity Board will serve only SBC churches, and encourage them to rethink their decision to sever ties.

Those churches, however, have an alternative. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship launched a new benefits board Oct. 1.

Gary Skeen, president of the CBF Church Benefits Board, Inc., said he is already in conversation with a number of churches that have recently severed SBC ties. He said about 30 churches so far have enrolled in medical, retirement or life-and-disability programs offered by the new organization.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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