Getting Ready To Select 2018 Benefits
Here are a few things to keep in mind while preparing to review or update your Employer Agreement for 2018:
- The Employer Agreement details the benefits selections for 2018 that will be available to your employees on Benefits Connect during annual enrollment in the fall.
- Key considerations for building your Employer Agreement include who will be covered (and when); what benefits to offer; and how much you (and employees) will pay toward the cost of coverage.
- Be certain that your benefit groups are set up correctly; read Importance of Benefit Groups below.
- Late June: Web tutorials Considerations for Selecting Benefits: Building Your Employer Agreement and Creating Your Employer Agreement available
- Early July: The launch of Selecting 2018 Benefits section, on pensions.org
- Mid-July: Guides for selecting benefits and completing the Employer Agreement available on pensions.org
- July 17-October 13: Employers log on to Benefits Connect to begin reviewing, modeling, and building their Employer Agreements for 2018
- October 13: Deadline for employers to submit their final 2018 Employer Agreements on Benefits Connect
- October 30-November 17: Annual enrollment for members to elect 2018 benefits
If you have questions about the Benefits Plan or the benefits selection process, call the Board at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN).
Article by Mark Klaas, Kent Reporter
Fri., June 9, 2017
Longtime Kent church to close
One of Kent’s oldest churches is closing, leaving behind a historic house of worship and questions about its future.
First Presbyterian Church of Kent, a part of the local faith community since 1889, performs its final service at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The decision to close was a difficult one for church leaders.
Rich in history and service, the church on East Hill and its aging congregation have arrived at a crossroads – a situation fraught by dwindling membership and financial hard times, according to Eyde Mabanglo, the church’s transitional pastor.
Membership is down to 57 members, many of whom having been with the church for 40 or 50 years and since retired, leaving only a few to financially carry the congregation.
Furthermore, the church, built in 1962, has aged to a point that it is outdated and too expensive to maintain.
“It’s been a difficult journey for them,” Mabanglo said of the close-knit congregation. “They were in a much more critical place than they had realized.
“Our final worship service many hope will be celebratory, and yet it’s hard for some members to not see it as a memorial,” she said.
From Faith Action Network:
We realize there has been a lot of constantly changing information already out there about the upcoming rally this Saturday, 6/10 in Seattle, by Act for America, recognized by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group (now slated to take place at Seattle City Hall plaza, 600 4th Avenue). While faith leaders have been involved in conversations with an ad hoc group planning a counter presence this Saturday, FAN, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, and other faith organizations have decided not to sign on organizationally.
While solidarity with our Muslim neighbors has been lifted up as a primary value in planning for the counter-presence there, we realize that there will be a diversity of voices and expressions in how that counter-presence manifests itself, which may or may not be consistent with public vigils that local faith communities have traditionally convened. We appreciate the significant thoughtfulness and conversation in planning among people and groups, some of whom have been meeting for the first time. That being said, we want to share some options for faith community members who will participate downtown or who choose to express solidarity in other ways.
We offer the following list of possibilities before/during/after 6/10:
The most important thing is we are there for one purpose, one message: We Stand with Our Muslim Neighbors. Whatever happens Saturday will have the greatest impact on their communities.
A WHITWORTH UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR HAD THIS TO SAY ABOUT TALL TIMBER...
Jerry Sittser, Whitworth University's Professor of Theology, had this to say about Tall Timber:
I can't think of a more beautiful and inspiring setting for a camp anywhere in the country.
I think this perfectly sums up what Tall Timber summer camps offer to kids of all ages. Between the beautiful and inspiring setting at Tall Timber, the chance to make lifelong friends while on an outdoor adventure, and our dedication to God and all that He has created, we hope your kids will join us this summer.
Dave Saugen, Executive Director
Please find our latest letter update posted here on our website:
We will be in the U.S. this summer from June-August to visit with churches and others interested in the work here in Berlin. Please find some info regarding this in our letter and we look forward to seeing some of you in person and perhaps others of you by Skype as we will be located on the East Coast this time.
Peace to you,
Rev. Ryan and Alethia White
Presbyterian Church (USA) Mission Co-workers
MAY 24, 2017
Office of the General Assembly
REV. J. HERBERT NELSON, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
We are moving towards a new future as a denomination. Membership loss, which was experienced since the 1970s, is slowing down. Congregations are refocusing on their mission. Mid councils are experimenting with ways to provide meaningful leadership in challenging times. Congregations are celebrating both anniversaries and new beginnings. Young adults are asserting their desires to serve in both domestic and international mission. Despite cries proclaiming the death of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we remain a viable interfaith and ecumenical partner in many local communities while proclaiming a prophetic witness throughout the world. Our eulogy as a denomination has been written too soon, because God’s Kingdom has not yet come. We are engaged both in the United States and around the globe. We are well-respected for our priestly and prophetic voice within Christendom. Our challenge is to see the powerful opportunities that are before us while declaring with Holy Spirit boldness that God is doing amazing work within us right now.
We have much more than we recognize. It is my hope that initially we will make bold moves to embrace the communal nature of our theology and practice. I want to encourage mid councils to implement strategies to move congregations categorized as “Fellowships” to the status of chartered congregations, particularly when they have met membership requirements to charter. Many racial ethic immigrant congregations are classified as “Fellowships.” These congregations are participating in the PC(USA), but are not fully brokered into the membership of the denomination. They are not required, in most instances, to pay per capita, while remaining non-voting members of presbyteries. This “half-in/half-out” status creates a perceived, racially motivated compromise that limits full participation even when many of these congregations outnumber by large margins long-term member congregations. My international travel offers clarity related to the new evangelism field of immigrants that know well the mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We should embrace these immigrants with a sense of kinship while recognizing their long-term familiarity and association with our missionary work. Immigrants are not strangers. Therefore, we must not categorize immigrants as such through existing membership double standards. They are Presbyterians and should be accepted and embraced as we do all Presbyterians. This effort alone could demonstrate our intentionality towards fulfilling our failed commitment to increase racial ethnic participation 20 percent by 2010.
God through Jesus Christ awaits our commitment. As we are challenged to become a more racially diverse denomination in order to grow into the future, it is imperative that we invite new immigrants into our congregations as members; connect with those who benefitted from our ministry partnerships across the globe; hear the voices of our youth and young adults regarding their vision for the future of the church; train a new generation of leaders; and creatively engage in inviting people to a transformative experience in our worship and mission. Take the risk of asking those persons in your midst (both members and nonmembers) the question Jesus ask Bartimaeus “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk. 10: 51). This question has power when offered in love.
I pray that a move of the Spirit will come over us in this new period of reform. Claiming persons to both experience the joy of fellowship and the faith within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
 Resolution on Racial Ethnic New Church Development and Redevelopment, Minutes, 1996, Part I, p. 378, paragraph 33.148.
PC(USA) membership decline continues but slows (Press Release)
Update from Sammamish PC given at July 18, 2017 presbytery meeting:
Refugee Crisis Update: Donations Urgently Needed to Replace Facilities Lost in a Fire
On July 10th a protest at the detainment center in Moria led to a fire that resulted in almost a complete destruction of EuroRelief resources on site in the detainment center/refugee camp. Both the “buildings” and contents of the buildings were burned to the ground and now EuroRelief has been left no facilities nor supplies to minister to the 3000 inhabitants of the camp. Funds are urgently needed to replace the destroyed infrastructure. Here is a more detailed update from the EuroRelief leader Kim Garrity.
“As for needs, we lost our whole office, with computers, printers, as well as wrist band and ID cards. Many volunteers as well as our translators lost their back pack with passport, phone, wallet. The translators that were living on the office area escaped with the shirt on their back. The clothing store and container we're destroyed as well as the new sewing lab, with four industrial machines, and the computer lab. We lost all of our sporting equipment, including the volleyball net, boxing mitts and bag, all balls. The evening tea was served from there, so we lost our tea pots and all supplies for that. Smoke damaged all our stock of blankets, sleeping bags and tents. Our tools were mostly destroyed, starting over there, too. Both hand tools and electrical and cordless. Most of the walkie talkies we're saved, as they were on us at the time. But 90% of the chargers were burned in the fires. Fortunately, our warehouse off site, full of clothes, was unaffected. We are compiling a good list, for donors, prioritizing what we need. It is best for churches and individuals is to donate money, and specify which item, rather than buying it in North America and trying to ship it over.”
Ways to Donate:
Crowdfunding Campaign: www.YouCaring.com/Eurorelief-877187
Donate or send a team of volunteers:
Other ways to help:
Donate to the UNHCR www.donate.unrefugees.org
Buy a product to fundraise and promote awareness:
Buy a bracelet made out of refugee lifejackets worn during their crossing to Greece: (These benefit both the refugees and the suffering islanders of Lesvos.)
Buy a welcome mat or table runner made out of lifejackets:
Sammamish Presbyterian recently teamed up with Greater Europe Mission to send a mission team to volunteer at the Moria Refugee Camp/Detainment Center on the Island of Lesvos in Greece. With only four miles of water to cross between the island and Turkey, Lesvos has become ground zero for refugees trying to reach the EU. The NGO we worked under at the camp is called EuroRelief and they are the NGO with the contract to run the camp on behalf of the UN and the Greek government. While it is technically a military run detainment center guarded by Greek police, EuroRelief does the all work of distributing the food, blankets, clothing, and manages the living arrangements within the camp. While about half the asylum seekers are Syrians fleeing the war, everyone who gets caught trying to get into Europe gets detained and processed at this facility so over 40 different nationalities were present within the camp.
For the manpower to staff the camp of 2200 asylum seekers on a 24 hour, 7 days a week schedule, EuroRelief relies on a constant rotation of volunteers from a wide array Christian ministries such as YWAM, Greater Europe Mission, and I58. These organizations send teams of church members and college students as well as solo individuals from all three North American countries and Western Europe. The core job description of the volunteer work at the camp comes straight out of Matthew 25. “I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was in prison and you visited me.” While on shift at the camp, our team did many routine tasks such as monitoring the entrances of the various the housing units, distributing meals, making hot tea on a cold night, and escorting those that needed medical attention to the volunteer doctors on site.
Probably the most important ministry we provided beyond meeting the basic physical necessities was to be a sympathetic ear and an open heart as the refugees shared their incredible stories of survival and loss. Most of them have experienced a great deal of tragedy and hardship by the time they arrive at this camp and are often deeply traumatized by those experiences. It was critically important that we volunteers made sure theses survivors realized that they are cared for not forgotten by the rest of the world. While no proselytizing is allowed in camp, volunteers are able to have meaningful conversations about whatever topic the individual refugee desires to bring up.
One of the great surprises for our team was the incredible hospitality and care the refugees showed us in return. Even though most of these individuals had lost so much and had so little in the form of resources, our team was constantly treated as guests of honor and offered the best seat by the fire or a portion of whatever food was being passed out. Our female team members were often escorted by male refugees from place to place to make sure we stayed safe. Our entire team would most likely agree that while this mission trip was one of the most heartbreaking experiences they had ever felt, it was also one of the most rewarding mission trips they have ever taken. Our church plans to send another team to Moria next spring and to search out opportunities to help with the refugee crisis here at home as well.
Introducing www.iKokua.com: an online classified ad site that the seller can donate the proceeds directly to charity. You can also find us on Facebook, @iKokua. There is no cost to the nonprofit other than their normal process for substantiating donations!
Nonprofits are deeply valued in our community, but too often scramble for ways to keep lights on and programs up. Many people like the idea of donating to nonprofits, but may be unfamiliar with philanthropy or short on cash. iKokua bridges these things with a solution that funnels money to nonprofits while giving donors an easy way to support them.
How it works:
· Sellers post tangible goods on www.iKokua.com to be sold in a virtual auction, choosing a local nonprofit to benefit from the sale.
· Buyers browse, shop and make purchases in this online environment.
· After the auction, sellers and buyers make arrangements between themselves to convey items purchased. Items that don’t sell remain with sellers, or can be reposted later. iKokua emails sellers verification of their donations (considered in-kind) for IRS tax deductions.
· Nonprofits benefit at no cost to themselves. iKokua forwards 95 percent of sale proceeds to them, while keeping just 5 percent for handling and processing.
iKokua auctions are fun, meaningful, and provide a new, seamless way for nonprofits to fundraise – and friendraise – in the community.
SEATTLE PRESBYTERY WELCOMES DEAN STRONG, STATED CLERK
At its April 18, 2017 stated meeting, Seattle Presbytery elected Rev. Dean Strong as Stated Clerk. He will serve the remainder of Rev. Karen Breckenridge’s one-year term, which ends January 1, 2018. Karen resigned as clerk at the end of April. We thank Karen for her faithful service during the past two and a half years.
Dean is also the Stated Clerk for the Presbytery of Northwest Coast, and the Synod of Alaska-Northwest, specializing in ecclesiology, polity, conflict resolution, parliamentary procedure and intergroup relations. He has served as a chaplain at a regional medical trauma center, head of staff in a mid-sized church, an associate for adult education and spiritual development in a large urban church and organizing pastor of a suburban new church development.
You can reach Dean at: 425.210.8997 (direct) and firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 4, 2017
From Patricia M. Haines, Executive Vice President and Chief Benefits Officer
As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Should the Senate approve it and it become law, this legislation would not change coverage provided under the PPO (preferred provider organization) or EPO (exclusive provider organization) in our Medical Plan.
Even before the ACA became law, our plan met its most significant provisions, such as 100 percent coverage for preventive care, as well as coverage for maternity care and mental health services.
The Board, on behalf of the Church, stands as a witness to Christ's wish that each of us experience life abundant. We have designed our benefits and programs to support the four quadrants of well-being: spiritual, health, financial, and vocational. We will continue to maintain our programmatic commitment to wholeness and all aspects of well-being.
Please read the Board's press release, below, for more information.
Healthcare Bill Won't Diminish Essential Features of Church Medical Plan
PHILADELPHIA (May 4, 2017) -- The American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed today by the U.S. House of Representatives, would not affect coverage under the Medical Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should it become law.
"Even before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, our Medical Plan covered what's now required by the ACA," said Patricia M. Haines, Executive Vice President and Chief Benefits Officer of the Board of Pensions. The Board administers the plan for the Church, supporting congregations and other PC(USA)-affiliated employers and their employees.
The Medical Plan includes a PPO (preferred provider organization) and an EPO (exclusive provider organization). Both exceed the benefits currently required under the ACA. Ms. Haines said the PPO and EPO coverage provisions would not change should the AHCA become law.
The most notable changes in the AHCA, which still faces a Senate vote, would permit states to obtain waivers from the following significant provisions now required of insurers under the ACA:
- a basic set of benefits, including emergency services, maternity care, and mental health and substance abuse services
- uniform pricing for customers in the same area of the same age (e.g., those with pre-existing conditions may not be charged higher prices)
- pricing for the oldest customers of no more than three times pricing for the youngest (The House bill would shift from a 3:1 ratio to a 5:1 but allow states to waive that rule and establish an even higher ratio.)
"As administrators of the Benefits Plan of the PC(USA), it's our responsibility to serve as a witness to the world of what Christ wished for each of us," Ms. Haines said. "Our plan is built on foundational values, including compassionate care, community, and justice. The changes set forth in the AHCA do not align with these values."
Ms. Haines said, "The House bill would severely cut access to healthcare currently provided by the ACA and hurt the most vulnerable among us."
About the Board of Pensions
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a connectional church. The Board of Pensions, one of six agencies of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), fulfills a unique role in the community by upholding the commitment made by congregations to care for installed pastors and by providing ways for churches and other Presbyterian-affiliated employers to care for other ministers of the Word and Sacrament and other employees. The Board administers the church Benefits Plan, serving about 20,600 pensioners and survivors, 12,900 active plan members, 18,300 dependents, and 8,700 inactive members (those with vested pension credits who are not actively participating in the plan).
The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship announced today that it will fund another 33 worship renewal projects for 2017-2018 as part of its Vital Worship Grants Program.
April 25, 2017
These projects have a variety of emphases—visual arts, storytelling, music, preaching, contemplation and more—but have as a common purpose a desire to both deepen people’s understanding of worship and strengthen practices of public worship and faith formation.
Said Kathy Smith, director of the Vital Worship Grants Program: “These collaborative projects bring people together to study, plan and create, foster new learning and nourish intergenerational community in worship.”
This year’s recipients are from around North America and include 20 congregations, one high school, four colleges and universities, three seminaries, and five other organizations, including a retirement community, a military ministry, a hospital ministry, a denominational worship committee and a regional synod. They also represent congregations and schools from 18 denominations, 19 states and two Canadian provinces.
Each grant will fund a year-long project (beginning in June) that promotes vital worship and faith formation, and this year’s awards range from $6,000 to $18,000 per project.
From The Center for Innovative Ministry
McCormick Theological Seminary and the Center for Innovative Ministry are pleased to announce the winning entries of the 2017 McCormick Prize for Innovation. The Annual Prize recognizes “impactful use of innovation in ministry,” and this year will award $7,000 in prizes to the winners.
“The quality of this year’s entries was very strong,” said Center for Innovative Ministry Director Dr. Thomas Dickelman. “We received entries from throughout the country reflecting a wide range of ministries. In most cases, the innovations began with a single idea that ultimately had multiple impacts. Choosing three winners from among all the outstanding entries was a sizeable challenge.”
The First Prize of $5,000 is awarded to St. Mark Lutheran Church in Lacey, Washington, led by Pastors Eric and Beth Utto-Galarneau. In 2016, the North Thurston Public Schools had nearly 800 homeless children, with at least one homeless child in virtually every classroom. When the church went to the schools to see how they could help, they were told the greatest need beside housing was clean clothes. Students with dirty clothes were bullied, embarrassed, suffered from low self-esteem, and don’t want to go to school. The St. Mark innovation was creating a free laundry facility by converting a Sunday School classroom in their church for local homeless families. The laundry also includes a food pantry, and during harvest, guests receive fresh produce from the church’s organic garden. Additionally, St, Mark is actively working to address the larger issue – housing – with plans to build 5 tiny houses on church property for unaccompanied, homeless female teens. “We applaud Co-Pastors Pastors Eric and Beth Utto-Galarneau for their dynamic leadership, and the creative use of church resources to positively impact homeless children,” offered Dickelman.
The Second Prize of $1,500 goes to Steel Lake Presbyterian Church in Federal Way, Washington where Rev. Dr. Will Mason is the minister. “Steel Lake is an example of how innovation is ultimately about solving problems and creating opportunities,” Dickelman said. The leaders of the church did a thoughtful assessment of their congregation and community, and felt called to dramatically change their ministry from an inward to an outward focus. They made multiple courageous decisions, including right-sizing by selling their campus and targeting ministry to the rapidly-growing local senior segment by partnering with numerous care facilities in their community.
The Third Prize winner of $500 goes to Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois. After many years of declining membership and community impact, in 2016 the church adopted “The Compassion Project” as its future vision. “Lincoln Park led by the Rev. Dr. Beth Brown is yet another example of a church that focuses on serving others outside it doors, and in the process, comes alive itself,” Dickelman offered. “The range of innovative programs they are developing is significant, from creating a way to engage people of all faiths and no faith in addressing some of the critical justice issues of our time, to developing a mechanism to generate ongoing income.”
Two additional ministries were recognized, receiving Honorable Mention. ROC SALT Center (Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson) is a collaborative ministry that serves people in a high-poverty Rochester, New York neighborhood and invites mission groups to be transformed spiritually as they serve in the community. The Joyful Feast (Rev. Dr. John Vest) in Richmond, Virginia uses meals to allow people to reconnect with each other, with the natural world, and with the divine. Both ROC SALT and The Joyful Feast are relatively new, innovative ministries, and show great promise to have powerful impact in their communities.
For additional information contact Dr. Thomas Dickelman, email@example.com
Seattle Presbytery received word today that the Rev. Dennis Hughes passed away very early Easter Sunday morning, April 16.
Northminster Presbyterian Church will host a service of witness to the resurrection on May 20, 2017 at 2:00 PM.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness; Compassion, Peace and Justice Program. Please make checks payable to The Presbyterian Church Office of Public Witness and mailed to Northwest Coast Presbytery at 1010 E. Casino Road, Everett, WA. 98203.
We join Dennis' wife Ann and the Hughes family in their grief and yet rejoice that our friend and colleague has now joined the church triumphant and completed his baptism.
New provisions take effect June 25, 2017
APRIL 10, 2017
Jerry Van Marter
OFFICE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY COMMUNICATIONS
All sixteen constitutional amendments proposed by the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have received the 86 affirmative votes from among the 170 presbyteries needed for ratification.
The new provisions will take effect on June 25, 2017—one year from the adjournment of the assembly that proposed them. Presbyteries have until that date to vote on the proposals and are encouraged to do so.
The amendments (descriptions provided by the Association of Stated Clerks) and the voting tallies as of April 10, 2017:
- 16-A: to require all councils to adopt and implement a child and youth protection policy. (107-3)
- 16-B: to create flexibility in filling the membership of committees above the session by not requiring “at least one-half being members of congregations,” instead requiring “in numbers as nearly equal as possible.” (98-11)
- 16-C.1–8: to change ordered ministry titles back to their form before the Book of Order was amended in 2014—“teaching elder” changed back to “minister of the Word and Sacrament”; “ruling elder” changed back to “elder”; and “commissioned ruling elder” changed back to “commissioned lay pastor.” The eight amendments change this wording in eight different places in the Constitution.
- 16-C.1. (98-12)
- 16-C.2. (98-12)
- 16-C.3. (99-11)
- 16-C.4. (98-12)
- 16-C.5. (98-12)
- 16-C.6. (88-22)
- 16-C.7. (95-15)
- 16-C.8. (98-12)
- 16-D.1: to remove a permanent ban—the result of a 2014 amendment to G-2.0509—on teaching elders who had renounced jurisdiction while in the disciplinary process from working in or for a church under the jurisdiction of the PC(USA) in either a paid or volunteer position. The new provision removes this restriction by requiring the former teaching elder to rejoin the church and to resubmit to the original disciplinary process. (86-22)
- 16-D.2: to remove any statute of limitations regarding the alleged prior offense cited in 16-D.1. (87-21)
- 16-E: to remove the requirement in G-2.1101 that all certifying bodies must have a “handbook.” (108-1)
- 16-F: to add the phrase “caring for God’s creation” to the “Ministry of Members” listed in G-1.0304. (104-5)
- 16-G: to make the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper available to developing Christians who have not yet made the baptismal declaration. (97-3)
- 16-H: to replace the current Directory for Worship with a new Directory for Worship. (94-6)
From Tall Timber:
If you’re still searching for the right summer camp where your kids can be surrounded by fresh air, many laughs, great friends, majestic mountains, and serene rivers, look no further – Tall Timber (in Leavenworth, by Lake Wenatchee) is in its 60th year, and planning a great season of summer camps and expeditions. Tall Timber offers summer youth camps for all ages (and family camps, too) in its beautiful location bordering Glacier Peak Wilderness. Just some of the fun and life-changing (and safe!) activities include rock climbing, hiking, archery, music, arts and crafts, bible studies, team games and sports, the high and low ropes courses, mountain biking, group prayer, lots of cookouts, and so much more. Tall Timber offers a rich environment for campers to get outside, disconnect from the screens, and reconnect with Self, Nature, Friends, Community, and Creation. www.talltimber.org/youth-camps
How can churches raise awareness around the issue of child sexual abuse—and take steps to prevent it?
In recognizing National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Church Law & Tax is offering free access to five articles on this topic throughout the month of April. Additionally, any orders placed for our newly-revised awareness training program Reducing the Risk on ChurchLawAndTaxStore.com will receive free shipping with the coupon code "rtr417" (coupon expires at the end of April).