Hundreds of United Methodist Churches lose insurance, struggle to find new policy

AUSTIN (KXAN) — United Methodist Churches across Texas are scrambling after losing insurance coverage they’ve had for generations.

“We were notified…in the fall of ’23 that the carrier would not be continuing that coverage,” Kevin Reed, chair of the board of trustees for the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, said. “They had found that it wasn’t profitable for them.”

Reed said there are around 300 United Methodist Churches within the Rio Texas Conference. Reed told KXAN that until recently, the conference had a single policy plan for all of its churches, with the same provider for generations.

“We didn’t have any choice but to go out to the individual churches and say, ‘we need you to go out and see if you can find coverage because we can’t find coverage for the group as a whole,’” Reed said. “We have churches that still don’t have coverage.”

Church Mutual Insurance Company, which provided coverage for the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, provided a statement to KXAN.

We did not unilaterally cancel the church’s property insurance. You would need to follow up with the church to learn more about its specific situation.

Church Mutual faces the same challenges as the rest of the insurance industry as it relates to convective storms and inflation. Labor and material costs have increased significantly in recent years, which impacts insurers’ costs to repair and rebuild to settle claims. Changing weather patterns have increased the frequency and severity of catastrophic weather events, leading to huge losses for the insurance industry. According to NOAA, in 2023, the U.S. experienced a record breaking 28 major weather-related disasters, causing an estimated total of $92.9 billion in damages. This was the fourth consecutive year there have been 18 or more separate billion-dollar disasters, creating a consistent pattern of large catastrophic weather events becoming the new normal.

Church Mutual spokesperson

Not having coverage shouldn’t impact an individual church’s day-to-day or how they serve overall, Reed said. But there are still challenges ahead.

“[Churches are] still worshiping…they’re still running food banks,” Reed said. “The problem will be that if we have a severe storm, if we have a hail event, if we have a fire, those churches won’t be covered.”

Insurance expert Douglas Emerick said it’s not common for churches to lose coverage.

“The church might be able to obtain coverage by contacting a local independent insurance agency,” Emerick said.

Reed said it hasn’t been easy for churches to do that.

“Frankly, even those people who have been able to find coverage have found it to be incredibly expensive,” Reed said. “[Some] have had anywhere from a $25,000 a year increase to a $150,000 a year increase…and when you’re a relatively modest-sized church, a $70,000 increase in your insurance premium is enormous for you. That’s not something you plan for.”

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