SBC approves Annuity Board name change, ministry expansion

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Messengers to the 2004 Southern Baptist Convention approved recommendations to change the Annuity Board's name to GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and to expand its products and services to evangelical ministry organizations outside the SBC.

The recommendations were part of the Executive Committee report June 15.

The recommendation to change the board's name, its articles of incorporation and SBC bylaws require two successive votes of the convention, but a provision authorizing the board to do business as GuideStone for one year pending a second affirmative vote at the 2005 Convention was included and approved. The same process was used when LifeWay Christian Resources changed its name a few years ago from the Baptist Sunday School Board.

"We are grateful for the support of the messengers today," Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins said. "The name change and the opportunity to expand the scope of our work will further undergird our efforts to enhance the financial security of the pastor at the crossroads and other Southern Baptist ministers and employees we serve."

Prior to the approval of the recommendation extending the board's services to other evangelical ministry organizations, Mitchell Jackson of Sikeston, Mo., raised questions about the value of extending the board's products and services to non-Southern Baptist organizations and the limited information available about the eligibility guidelines.

Hawkins responded by saying the eligibility guidelines are listed in the "New Name, Expanded Ministry" brochure available at the board's exhibit, which states the board will "work with evangelical church and ministry organizations that are eligible to participate in a church plan and are not in conflict with the Southern Baptist Convention."

In addition, the board's trustees will approve the guidelines and will be involved in determining the evangelical ministries to be served. Among the factors to be considered as a part of the guidelines are:

-- A belief that Scripture has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.

-- A belief in the local church, with the primary task of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

-- A belief in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Even with the opportunities to service non-Southern Baptist entities, legal documents will require that the majority of participants served by GuideStone Financial Resources be Southern Baptists and all trustees must be members of Southern Baptist churches and elected by the Southern Baptist Convention as they have been since the board's founding in 1918.

"This proposed ministry expansion will enable us to first and foremost keep our focus on preparing our ministers for a secure financial future in addition to maintaining our high-touch customer service, competitive fee structure and enhance the buying power for risk management products," Hawkins said.

"The continued growth of the Annuity Board's asset base is vitally important to the overall health of our organization and our ability to be an advocate for our participants," he added. "We have three opportunities to enlarge our ministry -- retention, growth and expansion.

"We work diligently to retain our existing clients and assets. Growth is becoming more challenging since we have saturated the Southern Baptist market, but the third opportunity is through expansion. Expanding our markets will allow us to provide a larger client base and ultimately more assets under management," Hawkins said.

"Market expansion will also benefit our life, medical and disability programs by giving us greater buying power and enhancing the board's ability to provide more competitive products and services."

Even though the board will offer its retirement, investment and insurance products and services to other evangelical organization, its relief ministry to retirees will remain exclusive to Southern Baptist ministers and denominational employees.

Annuity Board trustees initially approved the recommendations July 30, 2002, and then the SBC Executive Committee gave its approval Sept. 23 of last year.

In recent years, several Southern Baptist entities have changed their names, including the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.

The new name, GuideStone, was selected after several months of research and deliberation. An extensive pool of naming specialists with a clear understanding of the uniqueness of the Southern Baptist Convention assisted in the process.

"The name GuideStone offers a unique combination of familiar words and the feeling of strength to provide a fitting symbol for our new identity," said Curt Sharp, Annuity Board executive officer for denominational and public relations.

"Our name highlights 'guide' referring to expert, trustworthy leaders in our industry and ministry who show the way and provide knowledge and guidance. 'Stone' refers to our permanence and stability. We will walk beside our participants throughout their journey to help them through the changes, complexities, emergencies and pitfalls along the road," Sharp said.

"Over the years our mission has grown, and we have improved and expanded our products and services," Hawkins added. "The one missing piece was a name that encompasses our history along with a broader vision of the scope of our mission.

"We believe GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention will be a name that will help guide our future while enabling us to build on our legacy of trust, service, values, experience and strength," Hawkins said.


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