MMBB: Seeking God’s Grace

Speech of MMBB Board President George Tooze at the MMBB luncheon celebrating 100 years, taking place at the ABC Biennial in Puerto Rico, June 2011.

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In 1938, expecting their first child, my parents bought a five room bungalow in a suburb of Boston. I was born in 1939, and my sister in 1941. By the end of the war they realized that they needed more space, and they began to talk about adding a second floor. I remember that one Saturday morning we were awakened by the sound of footsteps above us on the roof. I went outside with my father and there was the builder with whom he had talked about the addition. I heard my father say, “Paul, what’s going on?” The builder replied, “We’re starting your addition.” “But I haven’t been to the bank,” my father told him. “That’s all right,” Paul replied; “I went in and spoke to them, and they said to go ahead. You need to go in and sign the papers sometime next week.”

I cannot imagine something like that happening today. The small town bank – a business agreement over a handshake – a project started on trust – all of these are in the past. The way we do things has changed. Books are wired to a device and we read them on a screen. Taking a flight requires a proof of identification – security – and annoying if not embarrassing pat-downs. The chance of a banker knowing your name and your family background is remote. When Emily Judson sent a letter to her sister in Hamilton New York, it took three months for it to arrive, and another three months for a reply to be received. Now it is no more than a cell phone call. The world has changed around us and continues to change.

The Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board has changed as well. We no longer are the small denominational family that I joined in 1965 as a newly ordained pastor. We now serve eighteen thousand families. We have assets in excess of 2.5 billion dollars. We have a multitude of products to meet a variety of financial and retirement needs. We are offering our expertise and services beyond American Baptists to the wider Free Church. We are aggressive in exploring the markets of the institutional church and the retirement homes, the hospitals, the schools created by the Free Church. We are invested in markets that are global, subject to change in minutes because of events occurring on the other side of the earth.

I have had the great honor of serving MMBB for fifteen years, the last nine as the president of the board. I have been a part of some of the changes of which I speak. And this one thing I want you to know – in the midst of change there are some things that have remained the same, and here I speak of the values, the guidelines, the foundations, that have been in place since the beginning. We will always be a ministry serving the people of God who are in the frontlines of the church and the institutions that extend the outreach of the church. We will always have a commitment to the stewardship of the funds which are entrusted to our care – we see the future of you and your family as a sacred trust which we must guard and guide with prudence. We will always see excellence in leadership – in the members of the board of managers, in our executive staff, in our field staff – we demand the very best that we might be the very best. We will always seek to be visionary, trying with God’s help to plot a course that is not shaken by the transitory markets in which we must move.

As you read our history, we believe that we were formed out of God’s love and grace for the servants of God, and as we move into the future we know that we must always seek that love and grace, for being one of the hands – one of the feet – of God at work in God’s church is simply who we are and who we must continue to be. That is our hope, that is our faith, and that is our commitment to each of you. Thanks be to God. Amen.