A good giving and investment report for 2013, discussion of the Brethren Service Center, and several hours of board development work marked the spring meeting of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board. The meeting March 14-17 at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., was led by board chair Becky Ball-Miller.
In other business the board approved the Church of the Brethren Annual Report for 2013, amended a minute on India that dates back to 2010, and received numerous reports on recent events and updates on programs, as well as presentations on the work of fellow Annual Conference agencies Bethany Seminary, Brethren Benefit Trust, and On Earth Peace.
An honors string quartet from the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, which has its offices at the General Offices, provided dinner entertainment one evening. EYSO executive director Kathy Matthews introduced the quartet of high school string players, who performed selections from String Quartet No 1, Op. 27 by Edvard Grieg.
Worship led by board members focused on St. Patrick and Irish heritage, as a way to mark the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Janet Wayland Elsea preached for the Sunday morning service, and Tim Peter brought the closing message.
Finance reports reveal good giving, investment rebound
Highlights of the 2013 financial reports were an increase in overall giving to Church of the Brethren ministries, along with good investment news, and an increase in the denomination’s net assets. Treasurer LeAnn Harnist also presented an income and expense report for 2013.
All 2013 figures presented to the board were pre-audit. A fully audited financial report for the year will be available in advance of the 2014 Annual Conference.
Last year, total giving to denominational ministries exceeded $6,250,000 in pre-audit figures, Harnist said. The combined total of individual and congregational giving represents an increase of more than 15 percent over total donations received in 2012.
Giving to the Core Ministries Fund exceeded $3,050,000, an increase of almost 3 percent over 2012. Although giving to Core Ministries from congregations was down by about 3 percent, giving from individuals rose by about 27 percent over the previous year.
Harnist informed the board that the denomination’s investments have fully recovered value lost in the economic downturn that started in late 2008, and actually have increased in value compared to the high point experienced earlier in 2008. “We have recovered all of those significant market losses,” she said. As of the end of 2013, the investment balance had gained a value of close to $28 million, in contrast to a 2009 value of less than $21 million.
As of Dec. 31, 2013, the Church of the Brethren’s total net assets exceeded $31 million including more than $19 million in unrestricted assets. This represents an increase over 2012 of more than $4 million. Bequest income also increased over the previous year.
Discussion of the Brethren Service Center
The board spent time discussing the future of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. Chair Becky Ball-Miller focused small group discussion or “table talk” on how to lead Annual Conference delegates in a similar discussion this July, and what questions and resources would help increase the wider church’s understanding of the situation.
The Mission and Ministry Board holds authority for stewardship and ownership of denominational property. Board member questions focused on the nature of the discussion required at Annual Conference, and how to ensure that the future of the center is again on the agenda for the fall board meeting.
In June last year, following the closing of the New Windsor Conference Center, the board authorized officers to pursue all options for the property, up to and including receiving letters of intent from potential buyers.
Continuation of Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, and Material Resources--currently based at the Brethren Service Center--are not connected with the potential sale of the property.
The property is not being actively marketed, but staff have informed the board that they want to be prepared if a bona fide offer comes. Other solutions including leasing portions or all of the property will be entertained. However, it may take up to $10 million to bring the property up to standards.
General secretary Stan Noffsinger assured the board that former conference center facilities, now empty or underutilized, are being well maintained, but without income from the use of those facilities the maintenance expenses are paid out of the Core Ministries Fund with dollars diverted from mission and program. Any sale of the campus-style property will likely will take time, and would not be carried out quickly. Final details of a sale would have to be approved by the Mission and Ministry Board.
Four partner organizations lease facilities at the center: Mid-Atlantic District, SERRV, On Earth Peace, and IMA World Health. Lease agreements in place with partner organizations assure that work will be done to benefit both parties in the event either must leave the property.
Amendment to minute on India
The board amended a minute from 2010 regarding its responsibility to nominate trustees for former mission properties in India. Since there has been no Second District Church of the Brethren in India since 1970, the board amended the following paragraph from the July 3, 2010, minute, adding the underlined words: “Concern was raised regarding all the nominations being from the First District. Stan [Noffsinger] and Jay [Wittmeyer] asked that the board bring names from the area formerly known as the Second District Brethren so they can be in discussion with CNI [Church of North India].”
The board also adopted this statement: “The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board recognized that, while the Church of the Brethren has a formal relationship with the First District Church of the Brethren in India, we have had no relationship with a Second District Church of the Brethren in India since 1970. We have become aware there is a self-described ‘Second District Church of the Brethren in India’ allegedly operating. The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board has never had and does not have any relationship with this self-described ‘Second District Church of the Brethren in India.’”
In other business
Rick Stiffney of Mennonite Health Services Alliance led several hours of board development work. His opening session for both board and staff focused on trends and emerging practices in nonprofit governance, different roles and responsibilities of board and staff, roles of board committees, policy framework for a nonprofit board, and related topics. Stiffney then led some hours of sessions solely for the board.
Susan Liller of New Carlisle, Ohio, began a term on the board with this meeting. She was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Don Fitzkee, after he was chosen as chair elect. The chair elect begins a new term of service, and the remainder of his or her board term is filled by appointment.
The Executive Committee approved the appointment of Timothy S.G. Binkley to a second term on the Brethren Historical Committee.