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Florida-Bahamas Synod encounters insurance difficulties

Florida-Bahamas Synod congregations face an unprecedented insurance crisis after last year’s hurricane season, said Ken Aicher, an assistant to the bishop.

Many of the congregations received letters from Zurich Insurance announcing changes to or cancellation of their coverage after a June 1 renewal date. Aicher said ELCA congregation insurance broker Charity First attempted to replace previous coverage through a state program, but found it wouldn’t provide full coverage.

Zurich offered a self-insurance option that Aicher called “no insurance at all.” The option called for the synod to assume the first $2 million in hurricane losses per incident, with a deductible of as much as 20 percent.

The synod instead proposed a Lexington Insurance plan with a shared limit of $10 million per occurrence, and a 5 percent deductible. Premiums would have risen regardless of the insurance selected. But the Lexington plan fell through when all 113 synod congregations didn’t sign up. Zurich gave an extension until June 15, but at presstime the situation remained unresolved. (For updates, see the synod’s Web site.)

Aicher said “a workable shared risk insurance program for all congregations in the ELCA is still very much needed.” Such a program is projected for all ELCA congregations in 2007—a goal of the ELCA Shared Risk Insurance Task Force, which Aicher chairs. ELCA-wide coverage would allow a significant reduction in church costs.

Florida-Bahamas Synod Bishop Edward Benoway cautioned against thinking it was “just a Florida crisis or a Gulf Coast crisis [or] an ELCA crisis.” He called it “an insurance crisis that is going to affect the whole church in the U.S.,” impacting congregations’ ability to fund mission and ministry.


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