Leading SGAUMC Forward: A Bright Future with Hope

South Georgia Conference approves establishment of Retiree Health Care Trust


South Georgia retirees and those approaching retirement can breathe a little easier. 

During the 2022 South Georgia Annual Conference session, delegates approved the establishment of a Retiree Health Care Trust. This trust helps secure retiree healthcare funding as the denomination moves into an uncertain future. It will benefit all clergy and conference staff currently receiving retiree healthcare funding and will also secure funding for those clergy and staff who are 55 and older and who have or can meet the qualifications for retiree healthcare.

“You are probably aware of the discussions going on in our denomination about what our future looks like – whether we remain a single united denomination or split into one or more separate groups,” Dr. Ben Martin, chair of the Board of Pension, said in a video. “The future of The United Methodist Church is not clear at this point.”

The Board considered what potential changes might be in store for South Georgia churches, pastors, and the annual conference. Over the past few years its focus has been on ensuring clergy pensions are as secure as possible, explained Dr. Martin. Meeting that goal allowed the Board to consider other retiree needs, such as retiree healthcare.

The Board appointed a Task Force to look at the options and make a recommendation. The Task Force reviewed how other conferences are funding retiree healthcare, considered actuarial projections for South Georgia clergy, and consulted with Wespath and other legal authorities. Members of the Task Force include: Dr. Marcus Tripp, retired clergy; Dr. Scott Hagan, senior pastor of Statesboro First UMC; Connie Flannigan, healthcare social worker and lay member of South Columbus UMC; Dr. Derek McAleer, Director of Administrative Services; Cater Thompson, Conference Chancellor; and Eleanor Dickson, Assistant Director for Pensions and Benefits and Human Resources Officer. 

After much research and discussion, the Board of Pension found a way to secure funding for retiree healthcare, and the laity and clergy agreed. Below is the outline of what was approved:

  • That our annual conference will establish a Trust for the sole purpose of providing a healthcare benefit subsidy to retirees and conference staff of the South Georgia Conference. 
  • That the initial Directors of the Trust be the Conference Board of Pension. 
  • Should our conference and denomination undergo some sort of separation, the Board of Pension will appoint a new Board of Directors that represents the racial, gender, and theological diversity of the clergy who receive retiree healthcare benefits. 
  • The Trust will be funded by a combination of investments currently available, all of which are presently earmarked for the benefit of our retirees. These assets are sufficient and will not require that we solicit additional funding from churches. 
In addition to an explanatory video, in January, the Board of Pension posted a draft of a full organizational plan for the Trust and a summary of the Trust as well as a Frequently Asked Questions document. (View video and all documents here.)

“The churches of our Annual Conference have been gracious over the years in providing for our clergy and Conference staff,” Dr. Martin said. “We are grateful that we have pensions and healthcare in retirement. Our Conference has already taken steps to secure pensions for our retirees.

“The approval of this Trust gives us the opportunity to secure support for healthcare in retirement.”

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