I am celebrating the completion of an important initiative of which you and I have been a part and I want you to celebrate with me. It is called The Central Conference Pension Initiative or CCPI. CCPI began 13 years ago when our denomination became focused on the need for a sustainable pension program for United Methodist clergy serving in the central conferences, specifically in twenty countries in Africa, twenty-two countries in Eastern Europe and Asia, and The Philippines.Prior to the Central Conference Pension Initiative, the clergy in these areas who had served faithfully for many years with little income would retire essentially destitute.
Pension plans are different from charitable-giving programs, because ultimately, they are funded by contributions from local churches and the ministers themselves. Over time, the central conferences will grow and manage the pension program funding with contributions from their active pastors. Our original goal was $20 million and we then adopted a stretch goal of $25 million.
We reached the stretch goal last week! To date, $3.9 million has been dispersed, providing a financial foundation while giving central conferences time to build their own contribution base for future retirees. In this way, conference pension programs become self-sustaining over time.
It is important to remember that this significant achievement was realized during the most severe economic downturn in recent memory—a remarkable testament to a great Church and its generous members. Thousands of donations and pledges have been received and will continue to be taken—to date, 94% of pledges have been realized. Our church contributed from our Christmas offerings $75,000 over a period of five years.Thank you for your generosity that made this possible.
You will want to know that our Annual Conference and our church was involved in another way. Bishop Ben Chamness, who was our bishop from 2000 to 2008, chaired the campaign fundraising steering committee for this global effort and Earl Cox from our church and I were the representatives on that steering committee from the South Central Jurisdiction (an eight-state region).
I want you to see this special thanks to the U. S. United Methodist Church from Reverend Francisco Ferreira, a retired pastor in East Angola. He has led 10 churches during his 41-year career in ministry. He typifies many ministers in the central conferences—he is putting his pension payment to use to secure his future.
Since he has already replaced his roof, he now buys cement blocks every month to improve his house. They are stacked neatly in his yard—1,500 of the 4,000 he estimates he will need. In most of the African central conferences, the gift of sheets of zinc (the material used as roofing) is common at retirement—essentially giving the retired pastor a “roof over his or her head.”
Through CCPI, the UMC now provides longer-lasting, ongoing support. Reverend Ferreira expressed his appreciation to CCPI staff during one of their recent visits:“When I first retired in 2003, we did not receive any pension but I was able to grow my own food. Now, I am older and unable to grow my food, so I am very happy that pension payments started in 2010 and come every quarter to help me survive.”
Reverend Ferreira wanted to thank the UMC in America for sacrificing for the central conference retirees.
Grace and Peace, Tim