Don Walter, director of Pensions and Benefits USA, announced U.S. districts and churches contributed $13.6 million to the P&B Fund in 2017. Walter presented the information in a report to the Church of the Nazarene's Board of Pensions and USA National Board in February.
“While this is about a quarter million less than received in 2016, it remains a significant accomplishment, for which we are grateful,” Walter said.
Giving to the P&B Fund, combined with revenues from other sources, allowed Pensions and Benefits USA to provide a variety of services for almost 17,000 active and retired ministers, church-employed laypersons, spouses, and widowed spouses. Financial highlights for 2017 include:
- $15 million in Basic Pension payments to more than 5,000 retired ministers and widowed spouses;
- $9.5 million deposited to the Basic Pension Trust;
- $2 million deposited as Annual Pension Supplements to the Nazarene 403(b) Retirement Savings accounts of almost 2,600 ministers;
- $1 million to provide 7,000 active and retired ministers with basic life insurance, and another 3,000 with long-term disability coverage; and
- $100,000 to support emergency medical assistance and benevolence for 100 individuals.
“While we are thankful we were able to provide financial assistance, much of our time in 2017 was given to connecting with those we serve in various ways,” Walter said. “Altogether, we had more than 16,000 personal conversations by phone, at training events, and through mail or email correspondence.”
Walter went on to say his office continues to work to communicate with ministers from various cultural groups within the U.S. by translating key resources into Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Korean. The office also used a translation service that allows P&B representatives to converse with others in almost any language.
Walter said he had several causes for concern during 2017, including the fact that while many take advantage of the Nazarene 403(b) Retirement Savings Plan, almost 63 percent of eligible pastors and associates failed to add anything to their accounts. He said he was thankful that 3,077 churches (62 percent) paid 100 percent of their P&B allocation, but he was distressed that 411 churches (19 percent) contributed zero to the P&B Fund.
“While this affects all churches to some degree, failure by a church to contribute even a dollar prevents the pastor from being eligible for $15,000 in life insurance and $400 a month in long-term disability coverage,” he said.
Walter added that there are issues on the horizon that ministers should be aware of. Most notable is the 2017 ruling by a federal district court in Wisconsin that declared the Clergy Housing Allowance unconstitutional. That decision has been appealed and the outcome is uncertain at this point. He said tax code changes at the close of the year also may affect the pocketbooks of ministers and will make it more important than ever for them to use accountable reimbursement plans for business expenses.
“2017 was a busy year with many opportunities and challenges,” Walter said. “In retrospect, we believe we did the best we could with the resources available. Certainly, we would like more churches to support the P&B Fund, and we would like more ministers to be actively engaged in personally planning for their retirement. The truth is, of course, we can’t force change in anyone, but we can come alongside them — in conversation — to inform and encourage.”
The Pensions and Benefits USA Annual Report is available for viewing as a PDF here.