Monday, October 24, 2005

The Price of a Baptist Conscience

The Price of a Baptist Conscience

By Dennis E. McFadden

Several years ago an ABCUSA General Secretary responded to my challenge regarding a proposed national endorsement of a gay chaplain by putting an angry finger in my face and taunting me: “You mean that Southern California pastors don’t care about their M&M [now MMBB]? I responded by saying that at last we had discovered the price of a Baptist conscience: the M&M pension.

Today I received a letter from Dr. Sumner Grant, Executive Director of the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of the ABCUSA, reminding me that while the times have changed dramatically since the mid 1990s, some things remain distressingly the same. Repeating the earlier language about being “saddened” by the proposed withdrawal of the PSW from the ABCUSA, Sumner explained that “We provide only contractual benefits to eligible non-ABCUSA groups who wish to become affiliate members of MMBB’s plans. We want to be sure that our members and employers understand the different services we are chartered to provide ABCUSA and eligible non-ABCUSA organizations.”

Until now there had been some questions among PSW pastors how the proposed withdrawal from the ABCUSA would impact their relationship with MMBB. Dr. Grant’s letter appears to have settled the matter. “MMBB members of a church that withdraws from the ABC will become affiliate members and employees present and future will be eligible for contractual benefits, but not for non-contractual benefits.”

Practically speaking, this means that MMBB members of congregations withdrawing from the ABCUSA will lose emergency assistance to members, career counseling support, premium assistance, Thank You checks, educational grants for children if a member dies or becomes disabled before retirement, regular grant in retirement, if eligible, and an annual visit in retirement for career members. Also the 1% of premium that is directed to member assistance will be “directed to administrative expense.”

As a member of MMBB for nearly 30 years with a ninth grader still at home, these clarifications sound chilling. I still remember pastoring a congregation where one year our Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering exceeded $27,000. That kind of gift brought Sumner out to California to thank me personally for my “faithfulness to the cause.” Then there was my bringing our nearly 200 employees at Atherton Baptist Homes into MMBB a few years back. I guess Dr. Grant is “saddened” about all of that too. The General Secretary had it right; we have discovered the price of a Baptist pastor’s conscience.

[This blog presents the ideas and opinions of the blogger only. It does not speak for or represent any person, power, or position within the PSW]


roy said...

doesn't it make sense that in order to be entitled to non-contractual MMBB benefits, you would at least need to be in the denomination?
Now the question of cost is one in the laps of those who would pull out... does one have the integrity to hold their convictions even if these benefits disappear?

Dennis E. McFadden said...


I prefer the divorce analogy. If a substantial (rather than merely PSW) number of pastors/regions withdraw from the ABCUSA, wouldn't some kind of equitable access to shared assets be appropriate to negotiate?

As to your basic question, speaking ONLY for myself, I am prepared to stand by my convictions regardless of the financial impact, including loss of benefits. It would be sad since I have always felt a loyalty to MMBB and been very fond of both of my MMBB reps (Terry and now Augie).

Roy, we disagree about lots of things, but not this. Integrity has a price and those unwilling to pay it don't have it. You, by the way, have always been an example/model to me of someone with LOTS of integrity and character. Would that everyone on both sides of this issue were as integral as you!!!