GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins relayed the entity’s 98th report to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention on June 14. Citing GuideStone’s upcoming centennial in 2018, which will be celebrated with messengers convening in Dallas, Hawkins noted GuideStone’s uniqueness among the convention’s boards.
“Most all of the entities in Southern Baptist life focus on the message of the gospel,” Hawkins said. “We’re the only entity in Southern Baptist life that has a primary focus on the messenger of the gospel.”
Photo by Van Payne
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, gives his annual report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis Tuesday, June 14.
Hawkins reported on GuideStone’s Supreme Court challenge and its operational areas, including health care reform, property & casualty, investments and Mission:Dignity.
Hawkins cited the good news coming out of the Supreme Court in regard to GuideStone’s litigation against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its contraceptive mandate, which would require some ministries served by GuideStone to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices to women in their health plans or face crippling fines. Churches and integrated auxiliaries of churches and conventions of churches were exempt from the mandate.
In May, the Supreme Court ruled against the government, vacating lower court decisions, and requiring the government to come up with another plan to protect the religious liberty of ministries.
“Most media outlets completely got it wrong because they kept saying we were up there [in Washington] suing HHS over contraceptives, but that’s not true,” Hawkins said. “We were suing them because they demanded that GuideStone provide abortifacients, … do it for free and to pay for it.
“We told them we were never going to do that.”
Hawkins emphasized ministries remain protected from penalties under the mandate and that GuideStone and its legal advisers are cautiously optimistic as the case progresses.
Health care reform
Hawkins cited published media reports that indicate some medical insurers in state health care exchanges are either exiting the market or indicating the need for rate increases as high as 65 percent in Texas, with similar rate increases in Virginia and Indiana.
While emphasizing GuideStone does not expect its medical rate increases to be that high, Hawkins emphasized churches, regardless of their health plan provider, should be prepared for higher rates in 2017 as a result of the continued impact of the Affordable Care Act.
“GuideStone is continuing to work diligently to provide good products with lower costs,” Hawkins said. “We know affordability is the issue.”
GuideStone will notify churches of its health care rates for 2017 in September.
Hawkins also encouraged messengers to stop by the GuideStone wellness center. An annual tradition at the Southern Baptist Convention, the wellness center provides free screenings, valued at up to $150, looking at cholesterol, glucose, weight, body mass index and blood pressure. As of the close of business on Monday, nearly 360 messengers had visited the booth for screening.
Hawkins emphasized markets continue their volatility, and may for the foreseeable future. Despite the markets’ continued roller coaster ride, Hawkins said retirement plan investors should continue to be aware of their time horizon – how long they have before needing their money in retirement – and risk tolerance and to remain focused on those long-term goals, and not the markets’ short-term news.
Property & casualty
Citing GuideStone’s partnership with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, Hawkins indicated that 99 percent of property & casualty business, which renews annually, is retained by GuideStone and almost 70 percent of proposals GuideStone responds to turns into sales.
The industry-leading rates are testimony to GuideStone’s understanding of the unique needs of churches, Hawkins said, noting, “We know more about how to protect your church against risk than anyone.”
Hawkins reported on GuideStone’s ministry that provides financial assistance to retired ministers and their widows in financial need. Each year, the fourth Sunday in June is set aside as Mission:Dignity Sunday across the Southern Baptist Convention to raise awareness and funding for the ministry. Last year, 7,156 churches celebrated Mission:Dignity Sunday; this year, that number is expected to be more than 8,200 churches.
While June 26 is set aside for Mission:Dignity Sunday, materials provided free by GuideStone are undated, so churches can use them during other times of mission emphasis. Visit MDSunday.org to order materials.
Each year, GuideStone honors three churches with the Harold & Judy Vick Church Award for their support of Mission:Dignity. Hawkins honored First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, which has supported Mission:Dignity for 32 years; Fellowship in the Pass of Beaumont, Calif., which has supported Mission:Dignity for 22 years; and Ritchey Baptist Church of Granby, Mo., which has supported Mission:Dignity since August 1984.
Hawkins noted that GuideStone and Mission:Dignity remain committed to their original purpose of caring for ministers and their widows during their declining years, making a special note for pastors in the audience.
“If you’re sitting there by that precious partner of yours who has stood with you, served with you, worked with you and wept with you through these years, if God calls you home, I want you to know that we’ll be there as Christ’s hand extended to her until we all get to heaven together again,” Hawkins said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)