Retirement Blessings to GUMF President Rev. Keith Lawder
The Rev. Keith E. Lawder will retire as president/CEO of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation on June 30, 2021. Keith joined the GUMF board and loan committee in 2008, serving until he was appointed GUMF vice president in January 2016. He was named president/CEO on July 1, 2016, when the Rev. Charles (Chuck) W. Savage II retired.
Chuck shares why Keith was the perfect successor. “The Foundation is a unique financial institution that offers loans and investments. But it’s also a ministry that requires a leader with the pastoral skills to grow God’s Kingdom,” he said. “Keith retired from banking because God placed a call on his life. He not only had the financial and pastoral skills to lead the Foundation successfully, but he also loves the Lord and loves people.”
Keith has worked closely with Bill Stewart, director of institutional relationships at Wespath Institutional Investments, regarding the management of GUMF’s funds. “Keith’s financial acumen started with an excellent education in both an undergraduate degree and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Virginia,” Stewart said. “From there, he honed his skills throughout a very successful career in credit management, providing leadership to his employer and his clients in challenging lending situations at one of the premier banking institutions in the world.”
Mary Lawder, Keith’s wife of 47 years, adds, “The Foundation has allowed Keith to utilize his many God-given gifts and experiences from his past financial career and full-time pastoral ministry and his love for mission and service to others for the Kingdom. He loves seeing God’s power and glory exercised through the Foundation’s mission. Keith has considered it an honor and a privilege to serve with the Foundation team, board, committee members, pastors, laity, and clients in both the North and South Georgia Conferences. It has been the ultimate experience of his career.”
Building on the strategic plan created during Chuck’s tenure, Keith has led GUMF in many positive transformative ways. In 2017, Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson assigned Keith to serve on the North Georgia Conference’s extended cabinet.
“Through strengthened relationships with conferences, districts, churches, and agencies, Foundation assets have increased from $125.2 million at the beginning of 2016 to $229.2 million at year-end 2020 under Keith’s leadership,” said Russell H. Jones, GUMF senior vice president, chief financial officer, and treasurer. “Likewise, our net loans to churches and agencies have increased from $24.8 million to $31.1 million.”
“Keith has continued the hard work of combining the North and South Georgia United Methodist Foundations and quietly built solid relationships of service across the State of Georgia,” said William T. Daniel Jr., GUMF trustee and former board chair. “Keith has brought a “pastor’s voice of love and caring” to every aspect of the Foundation and combined that voice with the careful considerations of a wonderfully educated good steward of our client churches’ financial health. What a blessing he has been to all of us!”
Bishop R. Lawson Bryan of The South Georgia Conference adds, “Since my arrival in 2016, Keith’s kindness and wise counsel have been a blessing to me. I am inspired by the particular ministry of finance and investment for which he is so well-qualified. His personal devotion to Christ and The United Methodist Church is inspiring to me. I am particularly grateful for his leadership in launching the Clergy Financial Literacy Academy. This will be one of the many ways his work will continue to shape the lives of clergy for years to come. Thanks be to God for Keith’s dynamic blend of character, competence, and chemistry.”
Keith developed the CFLA with the help of Program Leader Charles W. Buffington Jr. He said, “Keith’s contributions and the depth of his expertise that he brought to the church financial management content are immense. The CFLA equips, enables, and empowers clergy to have a greater impact in funding their church’s vision, understanding the methodologies involved in raising financial support, and stewarding that financial support toward Kingdom goals.”
GUMF Trustee Ruth A. Knox shares Keith’s impact in helping Georgia United Methodist students attend United Methodist-related higher education institutions. “Keith has made the Foundation’s Scholarship Ministry a priority, and that commitment to building more robust endowments has produced a significant number of both new scholarships and additions to existing ones,” she said. “Keith cares deeply about the students we serve, and I am particularly proud that a large number of our scholarships assist women and men who are dedicating their lives to ministry in The United Methodist Church.”
When asked about Keith’s retirement plans, Mary Lawder replies, “We’re looking forward to spending time with each other and with our three sons, daughters-in-law, and eight grandchildren. Although he wants to teach the CFLA, he doesn’t have an official plan. God has reminded Keith that He isn’t finished with him yet, and he wants to be open to what God has in store next with ministry and mission opportunities.”