Written by Kevin P. Gilmore
In a recent devotional, the key verse was, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” James 1:17 (NIV).
The past several months have been absolutely crazy: economic and social shutdowns; being told not to wear a mask; being told we must wear a mask; flattening the curve; trying to reopen our communities and churches; concern over virus spread; the threat of potential repeated shutdowns—these events, among others, seem like “shifting shadows” do they not? Life is full of such things, but some stand out more than others. I’m grateful we serve a God who never changes and is steadfastly reliable in working for our good in all circumstances of life.
As director of P&B, I am regularly reminded of God’s goodness and the faithfulness of His people. We make it a priority to reach out to each retiree on their birthday and recognize couples for reaching major wedding anniversary milestones, so it’s not unusual for them to respond in handwritten cards, letters, and notes (yes, some people still put pen to paper); and in emails and personal conversations. I recently visited with a retiree who was 93 years old. I am confident he has twice the energy of someone half his age, and he spoke similar words of gratitude for the work of our office and our church. These faithful ones have given their lives to serve the Lord, and we honor their service with a monthly pension to supplement their retirement income.
In most cases, the Basic Pension our retirees receive under the Defined Benefit Plan is not much in terms of today’s cost of living requirements. We wish it could be more, but the pension was always intended to supplement a retiree’s income, not replace it. Despite that reality, the feedback from these precious men and women is filled with heartfelt thanks and gratitude.
Besides assisting those under the Basic Plan, P&B Fund allocation payments allow the Church of the Nazarene to support Annual Pension Supplements (APS) into the 403(b) Retirement Savings Plan accounts of currently active ministers.
In addition to retirement benefits, we provide basic life and disability insurance, as well as supplemental coverage, if desired, along with benevolence assistance to ministers and their families in times of emergencies.
None of this would be possible without the support of faithful Nazarenes from across the United States in support of our P&B Fund through local churches and districts.In my first eNews column (November 2019), I explained how a Nazarene layman once provided me with needed funds for college. That was 38 years ago, but I still hear his words as if they were spoken this morning, “This is not a loan, and it’s not a gift. It’s an investment in your life.”
That is the same message we communicate, collectively, as a denomination when we support the P&B Fund through our connectional allocations, but with one major difference—the man who gave me money for college did so believing it would result in added value in my life sometime in the future. The payment of P&B allocations do serve as an investment in the future of active pastors, but they also honor the significant value that has already been provided by retired ministers over a lifetime of service to our Lord and His Church.
I am often asked about the status of the P&B Fund. When the Defined Benefit Plan was closed to new participants at the beginning of 1996, it was not fully funded, which meant the payment of future pension obligations was dependent upon future funding. There are 7,500 participants in the plan today, and it currently expends 15% of its available assets annually for pension payment obligations and administrative costs (which are less than 2% of this amount).
Each year an independent actuarial valuation of the pension plan is used to measure our progress and prepare a financial projection. Utilizing conservative assumptions, the most recent projection estimated full funding by the end of 2037. I believe we are capable of reaching that goal in 10 years or less, if annual support for the P&B Fund remains at recent levels.
What happens once the plan is fully funded? For starters, we reconsider the budget allocation formula and honor the commitment to restore the .25% portion shifted away from the Education Fund in 2012. We would then be in a stronger position to evaluate the potential for increases in the level of pension payments and APS for 403(b) recipients.
Our constant reality is that none of this happens without faithful Nazarenes investing in the lives of those upon whose shoulders we now stand. Thank you for helping us to continue to honor and “serve those who serve” through your giving to the P&B Fund.
Kevin P. Gilmore serves as director of Pensions and Benefits USA for the Church of the Nazarene.