The Committee on Ministerial Care (CMC) gathered for its August 2018 meeting at Bethel Presbyterian in Wheaton, Illinois. Humbled and honored to be a part of the group—my first time on a denominational committee—I was anticipating some solemn OPC proceedings.
Retired OP pastor and committee president Lendall Smith called the group to order. “A committee,” Smith read from his notes, “is a group of men who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.”
“If you want to kill any idea in the world,” he continued, “get a committee working on it.”
And for a final dose of inspiration: “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”
As our laughter subsided, Smith read Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in the abundance of counselors there is safety.” He charged this committee, the CMC, not to take these characterizations of committee work to heart but to see what we could accomplish to help and encourage the ministers of our denomination who face unique needs because of their pastoral calling.
Since that August meeting, members of the CMC have been visiting fall presbytery meetings to get the word out about our committee and the services we provide to OP ministers. “You really will have people assist me with my finances for free?” one pastor asked. The answer is yes.
In September, one member worked with Ken Montgomery, pastor of Geneva OPC in Marietta, Georgia, on structuring retirement contributions and the housing allowance portion of his call in a way that would be most helpful to his family. Afterward Montgomery wrote to us:
In seminary, we learned various important dates in church history and were introduced to aspectual nuance in Greek verbs, but we did not spend time studying the details of the IRS tax code as related to pastors! Thankfully, a member of the CMC was able to give me sound advice and even researched further and sought second opinions to ensure our household and church were complying with regulations. I would recommend that my fellow OPC pastors utilize the resources of the CMC. I am glad GA established this committee for the well-being of our ministers.
The committee was established by the general assembly in 2017, but its first iteration was back in 2014 as the Temporary Committee to Study the Care for the Ministers of the Church. In God’s gracious providence, a great deal has been accomplished since that time—and the committee’s name has become more concise! Initial membership included David Haney, Lendall Smith, David Vander Ploeg, Doug Watson, and David Winslow Jr. This group was asked to “investigate needs of OPC ministers and suggest ways [to provide or enhance care for these men and their widows] during all phases of ministry.”
The study committee worked throughout 2015 and 2016, considering two main approaches for the future. First, they considered expanding the roles of the standing committees whose work touches on aspects of ministerial care: the Committee on Diaconal Ministries, the Committee on Pensions, the Committee on Christian Education, and the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. However, after wrestling with the problem, the study committee determined that the wide range of work would be hard to fit into the existing committee structure.
The second idea was a single, new committee, with a mandate to handle all areas of ministerial care. The study committee concluded that this would be the best way forward, and so in 2016 they asked the Eighty-Third General Assembly to approve the establishment of a Committee on Ministerial Care and to propose to the Eighty-Fourth General Assembly a change in its standing rules so that the Committee on Ministerial Care could replace the Committee on Pensions. The CMC would consist of nine ordained ministers, ruling elders, or deacons, with “the purpose…to provide financial direction and ministries of encouragement and support to ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.” The assembly ratified this plan, and the Committee on Ministerial Care was born; its inaugural meeting was held July 5, 2017.
Since 2017, the CMC has pursued its mission, to care for ministers of the OPC, by building on the foundation laid by the historic Committee on Pensions and by the work done for pastors by the Committee on Diaconal Ministries.
The CMC accomplishes its work through three subcommittees: Investment & Finance, Pastoral Care, and Resource Development.
First, the Investment & Finance Subcommittee provides fiduciary oversight of the OPC Retirement Fund, which seeks to ensure that OPC ministers have access to an excellent retirement plan. The OPC’s plan is called a 403(b), similar to a private-sector 401(k), in which ministers and their sessions can choose to defer a portion of their compensation. Then, those dollars can grow to help provide for ministers in their retirement.
The OPC Obadiah Fund for retired ministers and their widows is now administered by the Investment and Finance Subcommittee of the CMC. (You can learn more about the Obadiah Fund and how it’s used in “Remember Your Leaders,” New Horizons, January 2013.) The Obadiah Fund regularly makes gifts to retired OP pastors, who often respond with notes of doxology like this one from George Cottenden: “The Obadiah Fund gift is again a wonderful reminder of the glorious doctrine of the communion of the saints. We are thankful for it and for the praise to our Savior that results from it.”
Second, the Pastoral Care Subcommittee assists ministers with practical needs through counsel and/or diaconal help, including help with financial planning and insurance needs. The subcommittee seeks to address ministers’ diaconal needs at the denominational level, as well as to help presbyteries and sessions consider ways of caring for ministers—including their emotional and spiritual well-being—through mentoring programs, counseling, retreats, and sabbaticals.
Third, the Resource Development Subcommittee seeks to provide educational and denominational resources pertinent to ministerial care. The goal is that these resources will be helpful to ministers, as well as to sessions and presbyteries wishing to provide their ministers with support and encouragement.
For example, this subcommittee is developing an interactive salary tool that provides insight about whether the terms of a call will be adequate to meet the pastor’s expected financial needs, given his family size, local factors like housing cost, and other specific needs the minister’s family has.
Ministers who would like to get in touch with the committee can email David Haney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May the Lord grant that our pastors be free from worldly care to devote themselves to the ministry of Word, sacrament, and prayer on behalf of Christ’s church!
The author is a ruling elder at Pilgrim OPC in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a fiduciary planner. New Horizons, December 2018.