The Oregon-Idaho Conference is continuing its commitment to dismantle racism and create beloved community through a new fund designated for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) serving its churches as well as BIPOC ministry settings.
The Board of Pensions has approved setting aside portions of the investment earnings from its pension reserve fund and health insurance reserve fund to create the BIPOC Benefit Support Fund, which certain churches and ministries can apply for to cover the cost of health insurance and benefits obligations for their ministry leaders.
Rev. Jeremy Hajdu-Paulen, chairperson of the board, said the idea is to support BIPOC ministry leaders primarily serving in BIPOC churches (or one or the other), where there has historically been inequities and an inability to cover benefits costs for pastors.
The first round of grants was allocated to ministries in early 2021 and Hajdu-Paulen said the board is moving to make this a permanent fund in the future.
The fund balance in the health and pension reserve funds has been healthy the last few years, so Hajdu-Paulen said an initial $300,000 has been set aside for the BIPOC Benefit Support Fund. The plan is to continue putting at least 10 percent of reserve fund investment earnings into the program.
“This was an opportunity for the board of pensions to leverage its resources to address systemic racism,” he said.
Oregon-Idaho Conference Director of Connectional Ministries Laurie Day said historic, current, and structural racism has consistently limited economic opportunities for many BIPOC communities. This can lead to low compensation levels and limited generational wealth. Within the church, this often results in many BIPOC ministries with limited congregational resources to independently support their pastor, provide a full-time salary, and/or pay above minimum compensation.
Since launching the BIPOC Benefit Support Fund last spring, one church struggling with finances received enough funding to keep a full-time pastor serving its BIPOC community. In another situation, it allowed a BIPOC congregation to keep its BIPOC pastor serving its church part-time, while adding another part-time appointment.
Having a BIPOC clergyperson serving in a BIPOC community is mutually beneficial for both the pastor and congregation as they see representation and are served with culturally specific ministry.
“Opportunities being created through the BIPOC Benefits Support Fund are really making a difference,” Day said.
Hajdu-Paulen said there will be a sub-committee of the Board of Pensions, comprised of a majority of BIPOC individuals, who will help guide the grant application and distribution each year.