Weekly Response to COVID 19
May 26th Zoom meeting with ABCOTS Executive Minister Dr. Harrison and ABCOTS pastors with special invited guest speakers Dr. Barney Graham and Ms. Brykyta Shelton.
Sovereign Insurance Group's Risk Management resource, ThinkHR, is hosting a The FFCRA - What Employers Need to Know Webinar
As we hear more about reopening you are excited about the prospects of getting back to the business of the church. I am also sure you are taking as many precautions as possible to help your congregations reopen safely. As a part of our continued effort to provide your congregations with more information about changes in operations and changes in employment law due to the FFCRA, Sovereign Insurance Group's Risk Management resource, ThinkHR, is hosting a The FFCRA - What Employers Need to Know Webinar. Join us for our next webinar on Thursday, June 4th at 10:00 AM PDT / 1:00 PM EDT, a comprehensive look at the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, including all available regulatory guidance. This is a free resource that any of your congregations can sign up and learn more about the FFCRA and how it will impact their employees and what it means for them during this time. If you have any questions regarding this resource or if you are interested in knowing more about the National Insurance Program and our resources please feel free to reach out to or visit Sovereign Insurance Group 484.654.3393
Clergy (Pastors, Chaplains, Spiritual Caregivers) are invited to participate in ABHMS' virtual retreat.
Are you struggling with grief and loss due to the challenges
during COVID-19? Are you struggling with grief as you try to minister to individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic?
You are invited to American Baptist Home Mission Societies' (ABHMS) three-day virtual conference
"You Are Not Alone: A Space for Grace Retreat"
1-3 p.m. Tuesdays, June 16, 23 and 30.
Each day will feature a different grief-related topic; you can participate in as many or as few days as you prefer.
Day 1: June 16th - You Are Not Alone: We have each other. We can grieve. Topics Covered: Stages of Grief and Loss
Registration is free, but required for this webinar. Spaces are limited. Register at youarenotalone.ministrelife.org
ABC-USA Office of the General Secretary Releases Discussion Guide for Reopening Church Buildings
VALLEY FORGE, PA (5/1/20)—The American Baptist Churches USA Office of the General Secretary has released a new resource for American Baptist churches. The resource, “Discussion Guide for Reopening Your Church Building,” is designed to help American Baptist churches look at various points of consideration as they implement new methods, policies and procedures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is available in English and Spanish.
The Discussion Guide, developed with input from members of the Regional Executive Ministers Council, specifically focuses on two core areas, the physical and the personal. The physical area focuses on considering how to safely practice ministry and prepare your facility for ministry in this new era. The personal looks at the lingering effects of grief, economic distress, isolation, and other negative impacts from the pandemic which may create new needs among congregants.
View the Discussion Guide for Reopening Your Church Building here.
April 7, 2020
Dear MMBB Family:
As we continue to grapple with the continuing effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the pace of change is rapid and ongoing. It can be challenging to keep up with the volume of information whether it concerns the rising number of people stricken with the disease and its rapid spread, the shifting market and investment environment, or understanding the details of the recent stimulus legislation passed by Congress and its impact on pastoral leaders, churches and faith-based organizations. We take seriously MMBB’s fiduciary responsibility and ongoing commitment to serve our members. Therefore, we strive to ensure that the information presented about the CARES Act is accurate and reflects the clearest understanding of the specific provisions available to non-profits, clergy, churches and other religious entities. We appreciate your patience as we exercise our due diligence to examine multiple legal, financial, and legislative resources.
To that end, below is a list of frequently asked questions about the CARES Act. We hope this offers a clear explanation of what is available to members (individuals) and employers, and the procedures you need to follow to apply for assistance and various benefits. Our Service Center is available to answer questions that apply to your individual needs. Please call us at 800.986.6222 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May you, your families and your congregations remain healthy and safe and continue to find hope in the knowledge that God is our refuge and strength.
Grace and Peace,
Louis P. Barbarin, CPA
Chief Executive Officer
CARES Act Frequently Asked Questions
On March 27, 2020 President Trump signed the Coronavirus Relief, Aid and Recovery Economic Act (CARES Act), which is intended to “provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families and businesses affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.” The types of assistance are broad and complex, covering many different aspects of American life. These FAQs will focus on those aspects that may be the most impactful for MMBB’s members and employers.
Relief for Individuals
Student Loan Relief
Relief for Employers
What provisions of the CARES Act applies to churches and church-related employers?
The CARES Act provides several forms of relief that churches and church-related organizations may be able to utilize. These include the Paycheck Protection Program Loan, Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan, a limited payroll tax credit, and the delay of payment of payroll taxes for a limited period of time.
What is an Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)?Please contact MMBB at 800.986.6222 or for information about either of these programs.
General Secretary Letter
March 24, 2020
Supporting our churches, pastors, and regions
Dear American Baptist Family:
Thank you for sharing your prayers, litanies, and resources during our 21 day Call to Prayer issued by the members of our National Executive Council and Regional Executive Ministers Council for the healing and recovery of COVID-19 victims. While this special emphasis runs from March 21 thru April 11, we will continue to post your submissions in the coming months at www.abc-usa.org/coronavirus. I’ve never known of a great act of the church that was not undergirded with prayer.
As Christians, we know that prayer and action go hand in hand. We pray fervently and we act diligently by maintaining social distances, washing our hands, safely volunteering, and following the mandates of our local, state, and national governments. As American Baptists, we have an exemplary record of exceeding expectations in doing the right thing.
Today, I am encouraging all of us to take another action and continue to support our churches, pastors, and regions during this critical time of ministry.
I have spoken to many pastors during this time of chaos and bewilderment and I believe that our ABC pastors are working harder now than prior to the onset of COVID-19. They are working differently, and with even more effort as they check on their congregants through electronic means, meet the emotional needs of families, youth, and the elderly, help staff community resources, research and post best practices related to the pandemic, figure out how to stream worship services and Bible studies, and the list goes on and on.
In the same way that a missionary must learn an entirely new set of practices in order to minister in a new culture, our pastors are learning how to be a pastor in the midst of social distancing restrictions and other disruptive conditions. Some of these learnings will have positive implications for the future of ministry and require deeper thinking, more collaboration, and increased creativity. Such adaptive work is extremely difficult and can take its toll on the leaders of our congregations and regions. Ministry has become even more difficult in recent days and we must not ignore the emotional, financial, and physical health of our pastors.
Our local churches, pastors, and regions are worthy of our support. Thank you to all who are continuing to support your local church and pastor through the mailing of your tithes and offerings and online giving, For those who are able, consider giving a special donation to your region as well. Some have told me that they plan to donate all or a portion of their government reimbursement check to their church or their region’s pastoral emergency fund. Just as many churches have discretionary funds to be able to support members and neighbors in need, many regions have special funds dedicated to supporting pastors in need.
Our national offices are also searching for ways to support our pastors and churches and we are monitoring potential benefits from the government stimulus package and other sources of assistance. News of benefits will be distributed through multiple channels including our ABC regional offices.
We have always been a bold and compassionate people. This is an opportunity to shine once again as we pray, act, and support our churches, pastors, and regions.
Acting General Secretary
I have never visited a congregation that was not able to care for the needs of persons in their community in critical times. I am encouraging all of us to do the same for our pastors during this unprecedented set of circumstances.
Our national and regional leaders pray and support you daily.
We act – mandates and service. We support - our pastors and regions.
People in New Testament times were not always able to assemble together and they found ways to support their local shepherds and ministry servants. Today, we benefit from enhanced technology.
IF your congregation needs assistance in streaming your worship online, contact your region or this website. If your congregation needs assistance with online giving, contact your region or this website.
In previous communications I have emphasized early protocols from the CDC, called for concern without panic, and reminded us to care for those hardest hit by this health crisis.
THE MINISTERS AND MISSIONARIES BENEFIT BOARD MMBB RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS FROM NEC AND REMC OFFICERS
NON-CONTRACTUAL BENEFITS AVAILABLE TO ABC-USA CLERGY
Ordained pastoral leaders, whose employers who cannot afford to continue their premiums during this time, will be placed on temporary continuance of $10/month premium for a period of up to 2 years. The key objective is to keep intact important life insurance and disability protections for members of the Comprehensive Plan.
This involves a reduction in compensation to fix the premium to the lowest level while maintaining important life and disability benefits for the member. This could be extended to those pastoral leaders who are forced to leave their churches or whose church is forced to close.
During the period of continuance, MMBB would pay the $10/month premium on behalf of the employer from its Non-Contractual Benefits Fund.
Emergency Financial Assistance
Given the extraordinary and unique nature in which financial assistance requests are coming to MMBB considering the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for MMBB to develop an equitable approach to administering financial assistance to those in need. In addition, it is also equally important to determine the magnitude of such requests.
Emergency financial assistance is meant to relieve personal, short-term financial crises and to augment continued financial solvency of pastoral leaders in the event of loss of employment or extended financial difficulty experienced by the church or employer. This policy is developed with the understanding that recipients of financial assistance would engage in financial wellness counseling through MMBB.
This policy continues with the current guidelines for Emergency Assistance. While all members are eligible for assistance, focus would be placed on assisting those in pastoral leadership and those who are most likely to suffer income loss during this crisis. Requests would be made on a one-time basis rather than spread over a period for expedition and ease of administration. Using current thresholds, assistance would be limited to $3,500 (or $4,000 in extreme circumstances) per request. Due to the limited non-contractual budget, the limits are set based on the reality that the fund must be shared amongst a variety of needs.
Member confidentiality will be maintained in the administration of benefits.
PORTIONS OF THE CARES ACT PERTINENT TO THE CLERGY COMMUNITY AND THEIR CHURCHES
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is a $2 trillion legislative package that was enacted on Friday, March 27, 2020. Below are provisions that could assist the clergy community:
Subtitle B – Rebates and Other Individual Provisions
Section 2201. 2020 Recovery Rebates for Individuals
All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 married), who are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a work eligible social security number, are eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 married) rebate. In addition, they are eligible for an additional $500 per qualifying child under the age of 17. This is true even for those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs, such as SSI benefits.
For most Americans, no action on their part will be required in order to receive a rebate check as IRS will use a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return if filed, or in the alternative their 2018 return. This includes many low-income individuals who file a tax return in order to take advantage of the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds the phase-out threshold. The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.
Section 2202. Special rules for use of retirement funds
Consistent with previous disaster-related relief, the provision waives the 10-percent early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes made on or after January 1, 2020. In addition, income attributable to such distributions would be subject to tax over three years, and the taxpayer may recontribute the funds to an eligible retirement plan within three years without regard to that year’s cap on contributions. Further, the provision provides flexibility for loans from certain retirement plans for coronavirus-related relief.
Please note that while the 10-percent early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts is waived, it does not waive income tax on such distributions.
A coronavirus-related distribution is one made to an individual: (1) who is diagnosed with COVID-19, (2) whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with COVID-19, or (3) who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, having work hours reduced, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to COVID-19, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to COVID-19, or other factors as determined by the Treasury Secretary.
Section 2203. Temporary waiver of required minimum distribution rules for certain retirement plans and accounts.
The provision waives the required minimum distribution rules for certain defined contribution plans and IRAs for calendar year 2020. This provision provides relief to individuals who would otherwise be required to withdraw funds from such retirement accounts during the economic slowdown due to COVID-19.
Section 2204. Allowance of partial above the line deduction for charitable contributions
The provision encourages Americans to contribute to churches and charitable organizations in 2020 by permitting them to deduct up to $300 of cash contributions. This provision is for taxpayers who do not itemize, but instead take the standard deduction. This is applicable for tax years beginning after 2019 and does not sunset after 2020.
From the Desk of Dr. James M. Harrison, ABCOTS Executive Minister
A Message from The Center for Career Development and Ministry
Can we help?
Pastors, would it help to talk with one of our coaches as you navigate through these uncertain times?
We know you are feeling the stress not only as this pandemic affects you and your family personally
but also as you address the needs and concerns of a congregation that is depending on you for leadership and vision.
We know that many of you are worried about how your church can continue to pay you
if this "stay at home" mandate continues for an extended time. We know that each day brings new challenges and fresh anxiety.
Can we help?
Contact me at and I'll match you with a coach who can meet with you via Zoom Videoconference.
No charge. We can get through this together.
The Center for Career Development and Ministry
ABCOTS Response to the NOVEL CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19
1. Let us start with prayer for our Churches, its Leaders, and our Government Leaders. (I Timothy 2:1-2; II Chronicles 7:14).
2. Recognize this is a very serious time. The World Health Organization has made the assessment that COVID19 can be characterized as pandemic. It is a real threat to the health of our communities.
3. Let us begin to plan well and not panic while serving our congregations and communities. Make choices using good judgement giving thought to safety especially with regards to the more vulnerable congregants (sickly, elderly, etc.). (Proverbs 3:5-8;19-23)
4. Obey and observe all local, state, and federal prohibitions and regulations relating to a healthy response to this pandemic event. (Romans 13:1-5).
5. Practice good and careful hygiene; wash your hands often, use hand sanitizers.
6. Avoid crowds, large groups around traditional gathering places.
7. If you choose to continue corporate worship meetings cease the hugs, friendly kisses, and intimate contact. Choose the “fist bump”, folded arms and bow to greet fellow congregants.
8. Look for alternative ways to experience services, online, video, or Facebook. Remember we are still connected in spirit/heart and in mind.
9. Avoid the small ministry group gatherings where people may be in more intimate and in close proximity to each other; Bible Study, Auxiliary Meetings, Fellowship Meals and such.
10. Sanitize Ministry and Worship Spaces before and after use…using appropriate chemicals, supplies and thorough cleaning methods following manufacturers’ directions and guidelines always.
11. Consider suspending “Communion of the Lord’s Supper” for a period remembering the words of the Apostle Paul. (I Corinthians 11:26).
12. Seek correct information and updates, you may contact:
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention/Interim Guidance for Communities and Faith Leaders Tele: 800-232-4636 | Website:
Continue to be faithful, informed, and thoughtful. Freedom is being responsible, obedient, and demonstrating love always.
James M. Harrison, Executive Minister
American Baptist Churches of the South