Keith Harder of Hillsboro, Kan., retired March 31 as director of the Corinthian Plan, Mennonite Church USA’s health coverage program.
Duncan Smith of Beaverton, Ore., an area representative for the plan for the West Coast since 2010, began March 15 as interim director for one year.
The plan’s success was largely due to Harder’s passion and commitment, said Hal Loewen of Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz., chair of the board that oversees the plan.
“Keith has devoted countless hours to this project, helping the denomination see the need for health care coverage for congregational staff and then leading the charge to envision how it would be implemented,” Loewen said.
Harder’s background as a pastor and denominational minister helped equip him for the task he faced in 2007. He began working with the General Conference Mennonite Church in the Office of Ministerial Leadership in 1999.
When the General Conference merged with the Mennonite Church to form MC USA in 2002, he became co-director of the new ministerial leadership team. One of his responsibilities was overseeing the Covenant Mutual Benefits Plan, the health coverage plan offered to congregations and conference staff at the time.
Harder said participation in the COMB plan was limited, partly because area conferences needed to have a specific percentage of congregations participating to qualify. This meant some pastors were not able to participate and were uninsured.
The mutual aid component of the redesigned plan addressed this issue.
“Working with the plan has been gratifying, especially in knowing that we’re providing coverage for people who might not otherwise have any,” Harder said. “I describe that as a small step toward being a more just church.”
Harder will continue to serve the Corinthian Plan as an area representative for Western District, South Central and Central Plains conferences. Smith will continue as a representative for Pacific Northwest, Pacific Southwest and Mountain States in addition to the role of director.
“One of the reasons I wanted to serve as an area representative was to work with congregations on the margins — immigrant and lower-income congregations — especially in gaining access to health care,” Smith said.
Smith has served as a pastor and conference minister and also works in church consulting.
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