Late last week , the Bishops across the United Methodist Church received an important communication from the General Secretary of Wespath (previously known as the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits) Barbara Boigegrain. General Secretary Boigegrain requested in her letter that we share the information with our Conferences, which we did initially via our conference website. However, because it is so vital that we all keep our WIG – our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world top of mind in everything we do, I wanted to spend a little extra time on a few points made in General Secretary Boigegrain’s communication.
She opened her letter by noting that as the time for the special called General Conference draws nearer, Wespath is “seeing an increased volume of questions and concerns about potential impact on clergy benefits with varying degrees of accuracy.” She also noted “worries individuals have for their personal financial security during this time of uncertainty,” – worries gleaned from posts and comments made via social media and blogs, as well as questions and comments received from Wespath participants and other stakeholders.
In particular, she reported a concern that the information put out by Wespath regarding the impact on pensions by the various plans on the Way Forward is being “taken out of context” and misrepresented.
At her judicious request, I offer the following from her letter:
“Wespath has published FAQs, which we update regularly, in an attempt to share information with the Church about the pension impact of all the Commission’s plans, which you can find here: https://www.wespath.org/WayForwardWespathFAQ/. The updated Wespath FAQs include responses to questions like:
I’m hearing rumors and reading things in blogs and social media about the possible impacts of the 2019 General Conference and the Way Forward plans on pension and other benefits. How do I find out if what I’m hearing and reading is true? Wespath seeks to provide unbiased and accurate information about the UMC benefit plans, and in particular about the effects that the Way Forward plans and the 2019 General Conference may have on those plans. Wespath has published these FAQsto help participants and Church stakeholders understand these types of questions, and we update the FAQs regularly. You can also send your questions to Wespath at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is it true that if the Traditional Plan is approved, my pension will automatically be cut? No. Neither your pension, nor any retirement account balances, will be reduced by enactment of any of the three Commission plans as they are written.”
The Central Texas Conference Communications office has published a news report with the full letter from General Secretary Boigegrain. It may be accessed here or by going to the “News” section of ctcumc.org and clicking on the article entitled “Clarifying Information About the Pension Impacts of the 2019 General conference.” You can find links to the “News” from the homepage of ctcumc.org either in the top right header, or midway down the page under “Browse.”
As we move through January into February, it is important that we - lay and clergy alike - remain calm about the upcoming General Conference. Regardless of the position and convictions you hold, gossip and rumor are to be rejected as unfaithful to the best of Christian living. Allow the letter of James to guide your conversation. “Consider ships: They are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly… Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way!” (James 3:4-5, 10)
I ask you to take seriously the call to “pray our way forward.” Please join with me to pray for the Holy Spirit and the unity of the church from 2:23 to 2:26 p.m. every day. (Those times were chosen because they represent the dates for the called General Conference – Feb. 23-26 or 2/23-26, 2019.)
At a recent Cabinet meeting, our noon worship included a reading of the 23rd Psalm. The person reading chose a different translation from the well-known King James Version and instead used the Common English Bible translation. Let the words wash over us again.
A psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
2 He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
3 he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
for the sake of his good name.
4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
they protect me.
5 You set a table for me
right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
my cup is so full it spills over!
6 Yes, goodness and faithful love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live[b in the Lord’s house
as long as I live.
Breath deep my colleagues in Christ. Jesus is still Lord!