Written by W. Evan Golder
January - February 2002
Michael A. Downs, 52, executive director of the UCC Insurance Board since 1997, has been selected to be the next executive vice president of the UCC Pension Boards, effective April 1. He will succeed Joan Brannick, who has served with the Pension Boards for 22 years, the last six as its head.
Downs has a national reputation as a committed Christian lay leader, an imaginative entrepreneur and a consensus builder. During his four years with the UCC Insurance Board, more than 1,000 new church organizations came into the program, increasing the overall property values covered from $4 billion to more than $6 billion. The program is growing at 10 percent annually and covers more than 3,800 properties in all 50 states.
Leader for the future
"In calling Mike Downs the Pension Boards has made a superb choice of leadership for the coming years," says the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC General Minister and President. "Mike is a highly respected leader throughout the United Church of Christ, known for his effective and energetic management style. From his experience at the Insurance Board he will bring a commitment to growth, customer service and financial responsibility."
"The Conference Ministers rejoice over the choice of Mike Downs as EVP of the Pension Boards," adds the Rev. F. Russell Mitman, who chairs the Council of Conference Ministers. "He comes with a great deal of experience and a deep concern for the church and has demonstrated his abilities to work in collegial relationships with various settings of the church."
The Pension Boards is an Affiliated Ministry of the United Church of Christ. Through its pension, disability, health, dental, death, and survivor benefits programs, it provides lay and clergy employees of the UCC and their families with the financial security they need, throughout their active years of service and in retirement.
The Pension Boards currently manages $2.3 billion in assets on behalf of Annuity Fund members.
"I am humbled and honored by this opportunity," says Downs. "I certainly am aware of the challenges facing the Pension Boards and look forward to doing whatever I can to serve the church by bringing whatever gifts God has given me to do that."
UCC health plan concerns
Since his name was announced, Downs has received calls and e-mails daily from individuals and Conferences concerned about the future of the UCC health care plan. Since the two "conversations" on the UCC's health care plan, in which both he and Joan Brannick participated, he has been involved with others in the process of expanding the Pension Boards' health advisory committee.
"We are already considering alternative options for implementation for program year 2003," he says, "some of which will be reported at the Consultation." This annual event for Conference Ministers, seminary presidents and national executives is scheduled for San Antonio from Feb. 20-22.
Downs came to the UCC Insurance Board in September, 1997, from the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, where he was vice president of the Cornerstone Fund. In that position, he consulted with more than 600 local churches and authored or co-authored 20 church building resources.
Born and raised in Detroit, Downs is a graduate of the University of Florida with a B.A. cum laude in Economics. Following seven years as a cryptographic technician in the U.S. Marines, serving primarily in Vietnam, he ran his family mechanical/electrical contracting firm in Michigan.