Mutual aid part of health coverage plan
Fifteen church plants receive subsidies through the Fair Balance Fund.by Laurie Oswald Robinson for Mennonite Church USA
When Jerry and Lori Acosta of Mathias, Texas, came to Wichita, Kan., in August to help launch a Hispanic church plant, Manos de Cristo (Hands of Christ), they did not have health insurance for themselves or their four sons.
Members prayer for the Acosta family at Manos de Cristo, Mathias, Texas, during their installation service on Oct. 9. Vada Snider for Mennonite Church USA.
But today they are in the process of enrolling in The Corinthian Plan—a Mennonite Church USA-sponsored health coverage and life insurance program based on mutual-care practices. And as a result of their family’s participation in the plan, the Acostas will be able to focus on ministry without worrying about how to pay for medical costs.
“Being part of the plan helps me be more at ease and at peace, knowing that my family is taken care of in emergencies,” says Jerry Acosta, who is working with a partnership of three Mennonite Church USA congregations in Wichita to launch the church plant on behalf of Western District Conference (WDC).
This reassurance and support is precisely what The Corinthian Plan is geared to provide, with its emphasis on mutual care across the church, says Keith Harder, director of the plan for Mennonite Church USA. Today, the plan provides benefits for pastors and staff members in 450 congregations within Mennonite Church USA. It also provides benefits for employees of some area conferences and church agencies.
At the end of the plan’s second year, 50 of 450 participating congregations are receiving assistance from the fair balance fund—a feature that shapes the mutual-care aspect of the program.
“Each participating congregation provides $10 per average attendance each year, a facet of the plan inspired by 2 Corinthians 8, which encourages believers to generously support one another in times of need,” Harder says. “It’s exciting to see people pooling resources and sharing risks.”
Church plants such as the new Manos de Cristo recognize how the plan helps them build upon a stronger foundation, Harder says. Many of the church plants are in urban areas, and often their budgets are minimal and their pastors bivocational.
Of the 50 congregations receiving a subsidy from the fair balance fund, 15 are new or recent church plants, Harder says. And just within the past several weeks, he’s received eight new calls from church plants inquiring about the plan.
Warren Tyson, conference minister for Atlantic Coast and Eastern District area conferences, helped enroll Hiwet Legeta (Life for the Lord Church), a new Ethiopian church plant led by pastor Redeat Abebe and consisting of two house groups from Lancaster, Pa., and Philadelphia. And Tyson is working with Solidarity and Harmony Church, a Haitian church plant in Philadelphia led by pastor Bernard Sejour, to discern whether this church plant will join. One congregation in each of the area conferences Tyson serves as conference minister is receiving a subsidy from the fair balance fund, he says. In total, 13 of Atlantic Coast’s 34 congregations participate, as do six of Eastern District’s 17 congregations.
“The amount of subsidy a congregation receives to cover their pastor’s health premium is determined by the size of the church budget,” Tyson says. “And even though the cost of the premium for each congregation receiving subsidy can be a concern, the mutual care still lowers those premiums considerably.”
An additional concern is how pastors can meet the $3,000 individual or $6,000 family high deductible if the pastor or his/her family has health-care expenses, he says. This may require conference leaders to secure additional support to assist a pastor family in a time of need.
The plan may not seem “equitable” from a worldly perspective. But it is “fair” from a churchly viewpoint shaped by the Anabaptist focus on peace- and justice-making and mutual care on a variety of fronts, says Nita Nikkel, chair of the support team for Manos de Cristo and a member of Mennonite Church of the Servant in Wichita.
“It’s a plan that also ties into immigration issues, since many of our church plants consist of recent immigrants,” says Nikkel, who is a member of WDC’s new church plant task force and who chairs WDC’s immigration task force. “It helps us share in God’s mission right here at home by taking care of our pastors.”
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