Safeguard the Sustentation Fund

Why we need to retain the plan first inaugurated in 1911.

By H. H. COBBAN, Assistant Treasurer of the General Conference

Nearly ten million dollars has been paid in helping aged and incapacitated Sev­enth-day Adventist workers, their widows and orphans ! That is the Sustentation Fund record for the twenty-eight-year period in which the plan has been in operation. To be exact, the amount disbursed from 1911 to 1938 was $9,642,181.27. No one can estimate the good accomplished by this fund in helping workers and their widows who would have suf­fered perplexity and hardship without this assistance. We can hardly imagine what a difficult situation our denomination would be in if we had no provision for taking care of our incapacitated workers. Surely the Lord guided the men who conceived the plan and put it into operation.

The sustentation plan was inaugurated in 1911. At first it provided for assisting only aged and incapacitated conference workers, but very soon it was made to include all denomi­national workers in need who were entitled to its benefits. At the beginning of the plan it was designed that the Sustentation Fund was particularly to assist those who had given long years of service to the cause, but no stated period of service was required for eligibility to its benefits. As time went by and the number who applied for assistance increased year by year, and a larger and larger outlay of money was necessary, it was recognized that certain safeguards should be thrown about the fund to protect the denomination from a financial load it would be unable to carry.

One of these safeguards was that a mini­mum length of service be required for eligi­bility. In 1922 a seven-year service period was adopted; in 1926 this was increased to ten years ; and in 1930 to fifteen. Fifteen years is the present minimum requirement so far as service is concerned. The only exceptions made to the requirement are for widows left with dependent children, workers who have lost their health in overseas service, and widows whose husbands have died in overseas service. Workers entering denominational service after they have reached the age of thirty-five are required to put in more than fifteen years of service, the length of the period depending upon their age at the time of beginning work.

The sustentation committee has carefully avoided making exception to the regulations on the length of service required for admit­tance to sustentation benefits. As proof of this, it may be stated that at the present time we do not have on the fund a single individual admitted since 1930 who has less than fifteen years of service, unless it be in the case of those for whom exception is provided.

Even with the safeguards adopted, the num­ber of beneficiaries has increased from year to year. At the close of 1911 there were 120 beneficiaries; by 1918 the number had increased to 400; in 1928 it was 869; and from 1928 to 1938 the number grew to t,u5. Dur­ing the past year [1938] there were ro9 ad­missions to the fund, and 49 persons were dropped from the list, making a net gain of 6o in the number of beneficiaries for the year. Of those dropped 4o were claimed by death, 5 were reemployed in active work, and 4 were transferred to the sustentation fund of an overseas division. The average length of service of those who were admitted to the fund as regular beneficiaries was 29.61 years, and of those admitted as temporary bene­ficiaries, 23.20 years.

The disbursements for the first year the fund was operated were $41,634.31. Contrast this figure with $604,427.87, the amount paid out in 1938. We are now paying $10,000 more each month than we paid in the entire year of 1911. Year by year our disbursements are increasing. For the year 1934, they were $441,809.23, or $162,618.64 less than in 1938. Therefore, between the years 1934 and 1938 we increased our disbursements on an average of more than $40,000 a year.

As we view the ever-increasing sum paid annually for sustentation benefits, calling as it does for a corresponding increase in con­tributed income from our conferences and in­stitutions, we are led to wonder just how long the denomination can continue to meet these increases. We are not suggesting that the time will ever come when, as a denomination, we will not maintain a sustentation fund. But it is probable that as time goes on, additional safeguards will have to be thrown about the fund to prevent crippling the aggressive work of our conferences and institutions because of too heavy financial demands for its main­tenance.

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By H. H. COBBAN, Assistant Treasurer of the General Conference

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