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OPINION

GuideStone asks to change ministry assignment

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SAN DIEGO (BP) -- GuideStone Financial Resources trustees have approved a recommendation to change the Southern Baptist entity's ministry assignment to make its mutual funds available to Southern Baptist and other evangelical church members.
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GuideStone representatives will make a report to the SBC Executive Committee in mid-September with the intention of presenting the recommendation to messengers at the SBC annual meeting next June in Houston.

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins, during the July 30-31 meeting in San Diego when the recommendation was approved, updated trustees on GuideStone's long-range plan, GuideStone 100.

In GuideStone's vision statement -- "GuideStone Financial Resources exists to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with its participants in enhancing their financial security" -- Hawkins said the SBC entity finds its motivation, message and mandate.

"GuideStone 100 was born out of our motivation, our message and our mandate," Hawkins noted. "Our motivation is to honor the Lord. Our message to each of our more than 200,000 participants is that we want to be your lifelong partner. Our mandate is to enhance their financial security. Each day, we set to live out and apply that vision."

The initiative to offer GuideStone Funds to church members, part of the earliest version of GuideStone 100, gained momentum from a motion made at the 2006 SBC annual meeting by Gary A. Smith, pastor of the Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. The motion asked that "GuideStone study the feasibility of allowing members of Southern Baptist churches to participate in the financial and insurance products of GuideStone."

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Citing recent accolades received by GuideStone within the mutual funds industry, which continue to shine a positive spotlight on the nation's largest Christian-based, socially screened registered mutual fund family, Hawkins said the best time to pursue this effort is now.

"We have been studying this for the better part of the last decade," Hawkins said. "What we have found is that the research indicates there are thousands of individual investors who belong to Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches who would welcome the opportunity to invest in the investment program made available through GuideStone Funds."

In regard to GuideStone medical plans, Hawkins told trustees that, during the current economic downturn, GuideStone has continued to provide high levels of coverage at competitive costs to its participants.

"Although GuideStone's medical plan participants, like the participants of all other providers, have seen rates increase in the past few years, by continuing to control costs through optimal PPO discounts, aggressive pharmacy benefit pricing negotiations and ongoing attention to administrative costs, GuideStone has been able to mitigate the increases for our participants," Hawkins said. "In addition, unlike many of our competitors, GuideStone participants can transfer coverage to richer or less expensive plans each year without providing evidence of good health, allowing them to choose the coverage that best fits their needs and budget."

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Hawkins emphasized that healthcare reform continues to be an issue that GuideStone is navigating, as are other historic church plans. For a full explanation on GuideStone's response to the healthcare reform law, visit www.GuideStone.org/healthreform.

In his remarks, Hawkins also noted GuideStones growth through expanded market ministries.

"Each year, we see evidenced the wisdom to pursue like-minded evangelical organizations," Hawkins said. "Currently, expanded market ministries comprise 21.4 percent of our total group medical plan participants and provide 9.9 percent of total retirement contributions.

"Additionally, many of the participants in our expanded ministries insurance base are younger, which enables us to keep our premiums lower for our participants, as well as the ability to attain additional economies of scale across all of our product lines."

John R. Jones, GuideStone's chief operating officer, reported on GuideStone's operations and updated trustees on various recognitions that GuideStone has received for outstanding investment returns.

"Over the last several years our mutual funds have continued to receive favorable recognition from industry firms such as Lipper and fi360," Jones said.

"In a remarkable achievement, GuideStone Funds has been ranked in the top five mutual fund families for five consecutive quarters by fi360 Fund Family Fiduciary Rankings. Most recently, GuideStone Funds was ranked No. 3 out of 221 funds for the quarter ending June 30, 2012. This is a particularly meaningful recognition because of the broad scope of criteria used by fi360 in their rankings. Their evaluation includes such factors as regulatory oversight, track record, assets under management, stability of the organization, expense ratio/fees relative to peers, risk-adjusted performance relative to peers, and overall investment performance relative to peers. Recognition by fi360 of GuideStone Funds as the number two fund in the United States is a remarkable achievement.

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"We are thrilled to know that GuideStone Funds continues to rank higher than most well-known household names in the mutual fund industry," Jones said.

Trustees also heard a positive report on GuideStone's property and casualty program, which transitioned to a partnership with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, headquartered in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Hawkins updated trustees on GuideStone's Mission:Dignity program, which raises financial support for needy Southern Baptist pastors, denominational workers, missionaries and their surviving spouses. Despite the current economic climate, Mission:Dignity saw a record-breaking 1,577 churches share in Mission:Dignity Sunday on June 24, more than double the number participating in 2011. The number of total donors is up 10.4 percent and the number of gifts is up 4.0 percent. As of June 30, 2012, Mission:Dignity served 1,909 individuals and couples. For more about Mission:Dignity, visit www.MissionDignitySBC.org or call 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).

Also in his remarks to trustees, Hawkins encouraged all GuideStone participants to take the time to re-evaluate their investment portfolio and to take advantage of available tax incentives in an effort to maximize the participant's income available upon their retirement.

Timothy E. Head is the executive officer for denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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