By Pam Ekey
The Missouri conference set a record for apportionment giving last year with 89.32% of apportionments paid. That is important because 72% of all apportionments paid stay in Missouri. A total of 602 churches paid 100% of their apportionments last year, with 12 churches paying more than 100%. The Mid-State District had the highest district payout with a total of 97.43% paid. “I am deeply appreciative of the Missouri Annual Conference,” he said. He added he was pleased to be part of an annual conference that is so generous, not only with apportionments but extra-mile giving such as Puerto Rico, Mozambique and other areas.
The conference remains committed to maintaining a flat budget, with only a 0.3% increase in proposed apportionments for 2020. Most of that increase comes in general church support with conference support decreasing by 0.1%. The total proposed budget is $13,902,431. “We want to make sure our budget properly aligns our resources with our mission, and that funding is adequate to effectively pursue that mission,” he said.
Because of the number of claims made for health insurance in 2017-18, year, there will be a composite increase in the premium of 9.2%. However, he reported that local church’s contribution to full-time clergy medical and dental health insurance plans will remain unchanged at $8,900 for 2020. The Conference contribution will increase to $1,087 for a total defined contribution of $9,987. Clergy also will pay an additional amount for the top “gold” healthcare plans through payroll withholding. Costs for health insurance will continue to be shared between the local church, the individual and the conference.
He encouraged clergy to continue to participate in the wellness incentive programs including Virgin Heathmiles and the Health Quotient questionnaire and the annual Quest Diagnostic blood screening, all of which can earn cash incentives for participants. The constantly changing health insurance plans can be very confusing, Berneking said. He is planning on presenting another benefits roadshow this fall.
Pension plans are fully funded on an actuarial basis, Berneking reported. The plans have been reviewed by Wespath Benefits and Investments, the plan administrator and have been found to be adequately funded.
The Clergy Support Team recommended that the pre-1982 annuity rate for 2020 be set at $664 for each service year. The recommendation was approved by the Conference.
Berneking reminded churches that, because of the 2017 changes to the federal tax law, reimbursements for moving expenses are now taxable. Churches that reimburse pastors for moving expenses must report the amount on W-2 forms.
Trustees Report on Church Closures
Ivan James presented the report from the Conference Board of Trustees. It included a recommendation for the closure of nine churches. “We are aware of the difficulty and emotions involved in the decision to close these churches,” he said, adding, “We want to make sure you know we appreciate all that is being done in our churches and to celebrate their years of ministry.”
Churches that have closed in the preceding year including the following:
Gateway Regional District: Highcrest, The Word at Shaw
Northwest District: Willow Row
Ozarks District: Hurley, Rogersville
Southeast District: Caruth, Coldwater Chapel
Southwest District: Golden City, Simsberry
After the motion passed, he asked for a moment of silence to reflect on the ministries that have been done by these churches and all who have served there. “Thank God for all that God has done for us through these churches, and thank God for all that will be done in churches throughout the conference,” he said. These churches will also be remembered at the memorial service Saturday morning.
James also noted that the Conference Trustees are developing policies to protect data from individuals and churches, especially data maintained in electronic forms or media. We want to make sure this information needs to remain secure, he said.