Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wil Nolen to retire in 2008 as president of Brethren Benefit Trust.

Wilfred E. Nolen, president of Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) since the agency’s inception in 1988 and chief administrator and trustee of the Church of the Brethren Pension Board since 1983, has announced that he will retire in 2008.

Nolen informed the BBT Board of Directors of his decision as it met Nov. 17 in Lancaster, Pa. "The timing of such a decision is never easy as there are always pressing issues that must be addressed," Nolen said following the meeting. "Nevertheless, BBT is a healthy organization with about $440 million in assets under management for 6,000 pension, Foundation, insurance, and Church of the Brethren Credit Union clients and members. It has a sharp staff and a new strategic plan and is primed for continued success." In a letter to Harry Rhodes, BBT board chair, Nolen offered to retire on Dec. 31, 2008, or on a date mutually determined with the board.

"We, the church, owe much to Wil," Rhodes said, "for pastors and church staffs having sound retirements; for churches and organizations having their assets under strong management and invested in a way that reflects Brethren values through the Brethren Foundation; and for credit union members who receive competitive rates and compassionate service that promotes financial health and good monetary decision making. Wil has also advocated for and has overseen the growth of the Church Worker’s Assistance Plan, which assists eligible current and former church workers who are in financial need.

"We also owe much to Wil for the healthcare insurance BBT long provided pastors and church workers, despite an aging employee population and despite the challenges of providing healthcare in the midst of a national healthcare crisis," Rhodes said. "Even in the wake of Annual Conference delegates declaring that the Brethren Medical Plan for the ministers’ group should be shut down, BBT continues to reach out to those pastors who are finding difficulty in obtaining new healthcare insurance and is prepared to provide support for those having to pay much higher insurance premiums."

Nolen has spent his professional career in service to the church. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Bridgewater (Va.) College and a master of divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary. In the mid-1960s, he was selected to coordinate the 1966 National Youth Conference (NYC). Later that year he joined the Church of the Brethren General Board fulltime on the Christian Education Commission’s youth ministries staff.

Over the years, Nolen also worked for the General Board as coordinator of the Fund for the Americas, which provided grants for minority groups and encouraged Brethren to examine the causes of racial injustice; as a Parish Ministries Commission consultant for worship and the arts; as director of the SHARE program, which emphasized meeting human needs of economically disadvantaged groups in the US; as coordinator of Development Ministries; and as director of SERRV (now A Greater Gift) handcrafts ministry benefiting artisans from developing countries.

In 1983, he began as administrator of the Brethren Pension Board. In 1988, Annual Conference declared that the General Board and the Pension Board should no longer be composed of the same 25 people. The Pension Board was moved into a new organizational structure, named Brethren Benefit Trust. Nolen was heavily involved in this restructure and has served as president of BBT ever since.

As an ordained minister, Nolen has had an active avocation in the ministry of choral music. He has served as choir director at Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., for 37 years and has led choirs and congregational singing at Annual Conference and at National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), as well as conferences of other denominations. He also has promoted wellness among Brethren as a coordinator of fitness and recreational outings at Annual Conference and NOAC.

In other volunteer positions, Nolen served on the boards of Bridgewater (Va.) College, the Mutual Aid Association of the Church of the Brethren, the Elgin (Ill.) Choral Union, and Praxis Mutual Funds, and as president of the Church Benefits Association, a national coalition of 50 denominations and religious organizations.

A president search committee was appointed by the BBT board, consisting of four board members: chair Harry Rhodes, of Roanoke, Va.; vice chair Janice Bratton, of Hummelstown, Pa.; Eunice Culp, of Goshen, Ind.; and Donna Forbes Steiner, of Landisville, Pa. Also called to serve on the committee was H. Fred Bernhard of Arcanum, Ohio, a former pastor, Annual Conference moderator, and BBT board member.

--Nevin Dulabaum is director of communications for Brethren Benefit Trust.

Source: 11/21/2007 Newsline

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