"'Shocking' is not too strong a word to describe the impact this action has had on the Seniors of Southwestern. It is difficult to avoid the feeling of abandonment or betrayal."

“On April 27, 2010, the administration of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary notified all retirees their health insurance would be cancelled on July 31.” Comment: just like corporate America

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Rick Franklin's picture

This a very disheartening story. Here is a class of people who dedicated major (perhaps all) of their careers to the service of the King, with assurances that they would be taken of in their retirement years. Many of these people are in no position to reenter the workforce, and are probably living on fixed incomes.

I wonder whether or not the decision by SWBTS was in part related to expected effects of the Obamacare.

Rick Franklin Gresham, Oregon Romans 8:38-39

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

More of the rationale can be found here...
http://www.baptiststandard.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id...

Quote:
“The seminary administration carefully considered all available options in reaching this very difficult decision,” he said, noting Patterson “began communicating with trustees and retirees about this issue several years ago.”
“I commend Dr. Patterson for the courage and foresight he has shown in leading the seminary on this issue. I know for a fact this decision pains Dr. Patterson greatly, and if he could have found a way to continue the benefit, without hampering the long term financial viability of the seminary, he would have done so.”

BryanBice's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
More of the rationale can be found here...
http://www.baptiststandard.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id...

Quote:
“The seminary administration carefully considered all available options in reaching this very difficult decision,” he said, noting Patterson “began communicating with trustees and retirees about this issue several years ago.”
“I commend Dr. Patterson for the courage and foresight he has shown in leading the seminary on this issue. I know for a fact this decision pains Dr. Patterson greatly, and if he could have found a way to continue the benefit, without hampering the long term financial viability of the seminary, he would have done so.”

Quote:
Psalm 15:
O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

Is it better to go back on one's word for the "long-term viability" of the institution/empire/"ministry" than to keep one's promises even though the empire may crumble? Seems to me that this lack of integrity will ensure the empire crumbles regardless.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

The days of depending on an institution -- even a Christian one -- for a job or a career, say nothing of retirement, are long gone for the overwhelming majority of people.
Everyone needs to view himself or herself as self-employed -- no matter what field he or she is in or what gig they have landed for the moment -- and plan accordingly.
I don't know whether this situation at SWBTS has anything to do with Obamacare or not, but everyone needs to know that the bills from Mr. O begin arriving Jan. 1, when [URL=http://www.taxfoundation.org/blog/show/1476.html many tax laws [/URL ]will "change."
You may be surprised to see many things "change" in the coming days that should not be a surprise at all. Perhaps we can get some of the folks back here who praised this legislation as the keystone to social justice and the springing forth of righteousness from all corners of the fruited plain.
If you need financial advice in the meantime, go to www.DaveRamsey.com.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

[quote]Is it better to go back on one's word for the "long-term viability" of the institution/empire/"ministry" than to keep one's promises even though the empire may crumble? /quote ] No. But I wonder if they ever said "We promise this no matter what"? Few organizations do that sort of thing, knowing how uncertain the future can be. For all I know, they may have stated or implied that this benefit would be available for free forever... but for all I know, they didn't. It looks very unlikely to me that they would do this if they could see any way to avoid it.

Keep in mind, too, that what has apparently happened is that the benefit has gone from "totally free" to "premium based." It's not like they've said "We don't care what happens to you." But if the school folds, there is no more group plan to even buy into.
Just suggesting a few factors. I have no inside knowledge of what went on, but it's easy to imagine multiple scenarios where the folks in charge acted as compassionately as they could given all of their obligations.

BryanBice's picture

Aaron Blumer ][quote wrote:
Is it better to go back on one's word for the "long-term viability" of the institution/empire/"ministry" than to keep one's promises even though the empire may crumble? /quote ] No. But I wonder if they ever said "We promise this no matter what"? Few organizations do that sort of thing, knowing how uncertain the future can be. For all I know, they may have stated or implied that this benefit would be available for free forever... but for all I know, they didn't. It looks very unlikely to me that they would do this if they could see any way to avoid it.

Keep in mind, too, that what has apparently happened is that the benefit has gone from "totally free" to "premium based." It's not like they've said "We don't care what happens to you." But if the school folds, there is no more group plan to even buy into.
Just suggesting a few factors. I have no inside knowledge of what went on, but it's easy to imagine multiple scenarios where the folks in charge acted as compassionately as they could given all of their obligations.

I get what you're saying here, Aaron, but the article, written by one directly affected by this change, seems to indicate that a promise was given to retirees that part of their retirement package would include health insurance coverage (not simply making it available for them to buy into the group plan). I also believe that the seminary could've taken other steps that wouldn't result in such a harsh impact on their retirees.

I find an interesting contrast to the way BJU operated under similar circumstances. I'm sure I don't remember all the details correctly, but I know that at least into the mid-80's faculty were promised that if they gave x number of years to teaching at the univ., BJU would make sure they had housing, health care, etc. through their retirement years, so long as they remained in BJU-owned housing. That was a commitment made by BJ Sr. and carried on through the years. By 1980, though, the school had gotten to be so large, and the number of potential retirees so great, the admin looked ahead & realized they'd be in big trouble in just a few years. So, instead of reneging on their commitment to these folks, they appealed to the alumni & set up a fund to help ensure that they could honor the commitments to those to whom they were made. I'm not sure if the nature of the retirement package has changed by now, but the significant difference is that they found a way to keep their word.

Regardless of the details, motives, discussed options, etc., involved in the SW case, it seems apparent that those affected interpret the final decision as a betrayal--and they're the ones whose opinions matter most, I think.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, I agree that the perception is there. And it's certainly possible that promises were made or that poor communication occurred so that promises were perceived where not intended. I hope it's just a misunderstanding, though I feel bad for the folks that are now having to scramble to cover the bases in ways they hadn't anticipated.

Rick Franklin's picture

First, a few caveats: I don't know how much the seminary has been paying for retiree health premiums. I don't know how much of the overall budget those premiums represent. I don't know the nature, let alone the specific verbiage, of the communication that led retirees to feel "an assurance that if we were faithful during our working years, the seminary would be faithful in providing retirement benefits as long as they were needed."

But I do know that the administration has been aware of the problem for several years. And I see that [URL=http://www.swbts.edu/campusnews/story.cfm?id=7E333E28-15C5-E47C-F9CEB026... ]Southwestern is currently building a new chapel on campus.[/URL ] In order to do so, the office of development must have approached donors with requests to help fund that project. So my next two caveats are that a) I don't know how much the new chapel costs, although I see that they are saving "nearly at least" (an ambiguous phrase) $10 million by building while construction costs are low and b) I don't know whether or not those same development officers approached donors to try to raise money designated for retiree health benefits. I believe that paying the retirees' health insurance premiums should have a higher priority than a building program.

One of the most brutal aspects of this decision is that the cost of this insurance is going from 100% employer-paid to 0% employer-paid. If there needed to be a change (and [B ]assuming the Seminary could do so without violating its leadership's word,[/B ]) it would have been far better to phase this change in over a number of years. Or to leave current and near retirees alone, and charge future retirees a portion of the health insurance premiums.

Rick Franklin Gresham, Oregon Romans 8:38-39

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Re: the new chapel --

If I were one of the retirees whose benefits were cut, I would be tempted to be bitter about the situation.

If I were a current or prospective student, I would be tempted to care less about the retirees' health care -- any more than I want 1/2 the cost of a new car to go to the health care of people in Timbuktu. I would want to see the chapel built ASAP.

Those things are human nature.

As was mentioned earlier, without current and prospective students, there is no healthcare for anybody. Also, it is doubtful that donors would give to the healthcare of retirees in the same way they would give for the chapel. In fact, one could argue that giving toward the former on an ongoing basis is a matter of poor stewardship on several levels.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Rick Franklin's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
If I were a current or prospective student, I would be tempted to care less about the retirees' health care -- any more than I want 1/2 the cost of a new car to go to the health care of people in Timbuktu. I would want to see the chapel built ASAP.

Sorry if I didn't make my point clearly. I was endorsing Bryan's posts. It's only partially about retiree health care. It's more about keeping your word and maintaining your integrity. In other words, if I were a current or prospective staff member, I would want to know that the administration would take care of me in my retirement years. If the prospective and current students are or become aware of the issue of promises made and broken, I expect that in a group of seminarians, that issue would trump the building project.
Paul J. Scharf wrote:
As was mentioned earlier, without current and prospective students, there is no healthcare for anybody. Also, it is doubtful that donors would give to the healthcare of retirees in the same way they would give for the chapel. In fact, one could argue that giving toward the former on an ongoing basis is a matter of poor stewardship on several levels.
Without staff, there is no seminary. Without God's blessing, a Baptist seminary may just devolve into liberalism.

Paul, you're right that donors probably wouldn't designate gifts to retiree healthcare. So I need to retract my suggestion that development staff promote giving toward that. Retiree health benefit expense would come from the general fund, and fundraising staff should always have some emphasis on general expenses.

Not sure how honoring a commitment would constitute poor stewardship on any level, let alone "several levels."

Rick Franklin Gresham, Oregon Romans 8:38-39