Taking Care of Our Own
Mention the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and what comes to mind?
• Financial stability
• Retirement and insurance products
• Investment services
The Annuity Board is all of the above but this does not tell the whole picture. Interwoven in this picture of financial security is one of compassion and trust, and the Annuity Board's ongoing commitment to provide help and hope to thousands of retired ministers and their widows in need.
Since 1918, the Annuity Board has depended on Convention-wide resources to meet the needs of aged ministers and their widows. When the Cooperative Program began in 1925, the Board's allocation was divided on the basis of 55 percent for relief assistance and 45 percent to fund the obligations of its newly-developed annuity retirement plans.
Beginning in 1930, all Cooperative Program receipts were utilized for relief assistance. This commitment continues today as every penny of Cooperative Program funds is paid in supplemental assistance benefits to individuals and couples who have little or no annuity retirement income from the Board. Nothing is used for administrative expenses.
Currently, 855 individuals or couples receive help in the form of monthly benefit supplements or expense grants. The Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program and the Annuity Board's Retired Ministers' Support Fund will provide nearly $2 million for supplemental assistance this year.
In addition to supplemental assistance, the Annuity Board also provides help to those in need through the Adopt An Annuitant ministry. More than 2,700 recipients will receive over $2.3 million this year paid in $75 monthly supplements to their modest retirement checks. Gifts for the Adopt An Annuitant ministry come from the direct contributions of individuals, groups, and churches.
Hoyt and Ruth McPherson of Fairfield, Texas, are two recipients of the Adopt An Annuitant ministry. Hoyt surrendered to preach in 1949 and was ordained in 1953. His first full-time church was in Loan, Texas where he served from 1954 to 1957.
"I guess everybody thinks their first church is their best church," Ruth said. "Those people were just great. They were so good to us when we were there. We had a four-room parsonage and a windmill in the yard for the water system.
"We didn't buy too many clothes while we were there and we really had to watch our money just to put food on the table and make out with what we had, but God blessed," she said.
Hoyt and Ruth continued to serve in small and mission churches throughout their ministry. In many churches where Hoyt served, the church was unable to "pay anything towards my retirement." One church contributed $18.75 a month.
When it came time to retire, the McPhersons' monthly benefit check did not even meet living expenses. "We're not talking about going out and living the high life - we're talking about just getting by. If it were not for the Annuity Board and the Adopt An Annuitant ministry it would be impossible for us to make it," Hoyt said.
"We have had the experience of being down to the very bottom. We know what it is to scrape bottom and now we see the light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to the Annuity Board," he added.
Ellen Scarborough grew up in Savannah, Ga. And met her husband, Ben, at church when she was fifteen years old. They married in 1940 while Ben was attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and returned to their home church, Calvary Baptist Temple, in Savannah at the beginning of World War II.
The Scarborough's ministry was in several churches in Georgia and Mississippi where Ben served as a pastor, minister of music, and the first full-time director of missions for Polk County in Georgia.
"The Lord blessed me as a pastor's wife and showed me how to serve. One of the greatest things in my life has been to see people become involved in missions," Ellen said.
As the Scarboroughs moved from church to church, they never questioned God's direction or if He would provide for them materially. "At the beginning of our ministry, it was hard," Ellen said. "Members of our church were concerned about our financial needs, but they could not give as they wanted. Husbands and sons were off at war and everyone was struggling.
"Ben would try to do things in the community for pay and I did a little sewing on the side to help, but it was a difficult," she said.
Later in their ministry the Scarboroughs began to participate in the Annuity Board's retirement program. "Ben was so excited when our church began to contribute to the Annuity Board for us. He said it would provide for us later on."
And the Annuity Board has provided for Ellen Scarborough through her retirement benefit, supplemental assistance, and the Adopt An Annuitant ministry.
"The Annuity Board has been so good to me," she said. "They helped me with the burial expenses for Ben and I was one of the first recipients of the Adopt An Annuitant ministry. I am eighty-three years old living in Kosciusku, Miss. and I do not know what I'd do without the Annuity Board.
"If it wasn't for them - I just couldn't do it," she said.
"Each day Annuity Board employees answer telephone calls, write letters, and enroll Southern Baptist ministers and employees into our retirement and insurance programs," said O.S. Hawkins, Annuity Board president. "But what motivates us is knowing we are making a difference in the lives of dear people like Hoyt and Ruth McPherson and Ellen Scarborough. The Annuity Board is committed to providing assistance for retired ministers and their widows.
"We are driven by our mission to be a LifePartnerTM with our participants and we are working to ensure that the next generation of Annuity Board retirees are able to retire with sufficient income to continue ministering throughout their lifetimes. We are proud of our seventy-five-year Southern Baptist partnership of caring for God's retired servants in need through the Cooperative Program," Hawkins said. "We are here, serving those who serve the Lord."