From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Creation of Pension Plan detailed in recently

Date 28 Feb 2003 15:45:09 -0500

Note #7614 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Creation of Pension Plan detailed in recently discovered papers
February 28, 2003

Creation of Pension Plan detailed in recently discovered papers

Indiana attic yields valuable historic documents

by Karen Babik
The Board of Pensions

PHILADELPHIA - Dusty papers long lost in an Indiana attic tell part of the
story of the inception of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Pension Plan that now
serves almost 55,000 members and their dependents and which provided more
than $240 million in pension benefits last year alone. 

Some papers of Will H. Hays (1879-1954), a native of Sullivan, IN, where he
was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, were recently donated to the
PC(USA)'s Board of Pensions and will be deposited with the Department of
History here. 

Hays led the Laymen's Committee that the 1923 General Assembly charged with
raising money for a new church pension plan. They successfully raised $15
million - equivalent to $150 million today - to fund the new pension plan
during turbulent times in the history of the Church. 

When the Rev. Paul McGlasson, current pastor of the First Church, Sullivan,
called the Board of Pensions to say that a person had found several boxes of
papers of Will Hays, George T. Adams, the BOP's vice president and corporate
secretary, was excited by the opportunity to preserve the history they might

Hays was a Republican national chairman, Postmaster General, and head of the
Motion Picture Censorship Board. 

In the 1920's, he and the Laymen's Committee courageously changed course to
accomplish a new end: instead of simply raising funds for relief and basic
sustenance, they moved forward to establish the plan that "would provide the
Church with a scientific and actuarially correct pension system."  

As Hays explained to the 1924 General Assembly, the committee discovered
early in its work that "nothing short of a wholly new pension scheme would
meet the needs." The committee formulated a plan that would provide for all
who serve and hoped that "it could be heartily adopted as the pension system
of the Presbyterian Church for all time."

Even as the church worked hard to bring into fruition the new program - the
Service Pension Plan - it continued to meet all the obligations established
in the relief work and the Sustentation Fund. 

Indeed, the idea that some needs go beyond any benefits plan is continued
today by the work of the Board of Pensions through the Assistance Programs.
These programs are a way of meeting many special needs that should be met and
cannot be met in any other way. 

The Board continues to depend on the generosity of others, including those
who contribute to the Christmas Joy Offering or donate funds directly to the
Assistance Programs.

The Laymen's Committee accomplished the task during a turbulent time in the
life of the Presbyterian Church. During the same 1927 General Assembly that
Hays reported the conclusion of the Laymen's Committee effort to fund the
Service Pension Plan, the General Assembly adopted the report of the Special
Committee of 1925 formed to address the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy.

In Hays' report, he acknowledged the roar of the Fundamentalist-Modernist
controversy: "During the period of preparation [for the fund raising], 
there was, frankly, the difficulty of what, in the minds of some, was feared
to be a potential division in the Church."

The Laymen's Committee achieved the goal with a broad network of effort from
both nationally prominent persons and local volunteers. Hays reported to the
1927 General Assembly that in the 26 synods with 6,400 churches, more than
5,200 had local committees to support the fund raising.

After Adams revisited the record of the times and saw the material, he
commented that "I am profoundly reminded of the effort of so many who
provided a new direction, a commitment in difficult times and so broadly
shared in the effort to bring into reality the modern pension plan. It is an
inspiring story." 

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