The Corinthian Plan will officially be put into operation starting January 2010.  According to a press release from Mennonite Church USA in early October, more than 50 congregations and their pastors will receive assistance with their health care.

The press release also stated that at least 450 congregations are expected to participate. This will generate more that $500,000 for the Fair Balance Fund, which will provide assistance for these pastors.

The Mennonite Church USA website states that “The Corinthian Plan offers all congregations the opportunity to share in the giving and receiving of resources, just as Paul urged the sharing of resources in 2 Corinthians 8:14, ‘It is a question of a fair balance between your abundance and their need.’”

With the Corinthian Plan, congregations will pay a minimum of $10 per attendee annually.  This money will go into a pool that will be used to assist any Mennonite pastors who need it in paying for health care.

Bob Yoder, campus pastor, said that the plan will likely benefit pastors searching for a specific church, as it will allow them to choose based on where they feel called to serve, rather than the availability of health care.

“I know that for some pastors it can often be helpful to be part of a larger group plan that allows you to geographically locate and not be ‘negatively affected’ in subscribing to health insurance plans,” said Yoder.  “Since a typical stay of a pastor at one church is often in the 6-7 year range on average, such a ‘mobile plan’ becomes important.”

The enrollment deadline has been extended to Nov. 15, or until the fund is exhausted, in order to allow as many congregations to sign up as possible.  The goal for participation has been adjusted as well, moving down from 80 percent to 70 percent of all Mennonite Church USA congregations.

Many Mennonite churches in the Goshen area will be affected by the plan.  According to Willie Kanagy, pastor of Finance and Facilities at College Mennonite Church, the congregation decided to join the plan because they wanted to reach out to pastors without health care.

Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship (BAMF) and Eighth Street Mennonite Church also chose to join the plan.

Dan Schrock, a pastor at BAMF, said, "BAMF joined the Corinthian plan because it has long been committed to providing health care for its pastors, and since some of our members were instrumental in helping to develop the Corinthian plan, it was natural that we would want to participate."

Although College Mennonite has been in support of this type of plan for a few years now, there were still some obstacles to consider during the decision-making process.

“It is more expensive, but MC USA talks about how the extra cost should be looked at as being apart of the congregation’s mission money, although this does take money away from other organizations,” said Kanagy.

Yoder questioned the long term viability of the plan.

“Given the rising costs of health care in this country, it makes me question when this plan will have run its course, and the need for a new plan will arise,” said Yoder.  “I have been in some sort of ministry for the past 15 years, and this is now the third denominational health plan offered by the Mennonite denomination for its churches and pastors.”

Initially, East Goshen Mennonite Church decided not to join the Corinthian Plan.

Steve Slagel, pastor at East Goshen, said, “We have been in a poor financial situation for a year or so and we have had to cut some staff benefits, and one of them was a less expensive health care plan.”  The current health plan is significantly less expensive than what the Corinthian Plan would be.

About three weeks ago, the Pastor Congregation Relations Committee at East Goshen decided to reconsider, recognizing that many churches are in a more desperate place in regard to health care.  The committee is currently still deciding on a course of action.

Kanagy said that being a part of the plan has helped raise awareness to the fact that there are a number of Mennonite pastors who don’t have health care.

“The health care issue is right here on our doorstep, not just with people who we don’t rub elbows with every day,” said Kanagy.

According to Keith Harder, project director of the Corinthian Plan, there are still more than 250 congregations that have yet to decide about the plan.  There are 190 congregations that have indicated they are not likely to participate.