by Frances Townsend
The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren has approved a $5,192,000 budget parameter for its Core Ministries in 2018, which is the same as the current 2017 budget. On June 28 in its pre-Annual Conference meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., the board also heard a report on the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., among other business.
Giving from congregations and individuals is projected to provide $2,585,000 toward the Core Ministries budget in 2018, the board heard from Brian Bultman, chief financial officer. The rest of the support for the budget is projected to come from draws on savings and other funds, such as bequests.
Salary and benefit costs in the new budget will rise slightly due to a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment for personnel. Costs for medical insurance premiums are also projected to increase.
In an update on the sale of the upper campus of the Brethren Service Center, the board learned that a quasi-endowment created with a portion of the proceeds from the sale will provide up to $512,000 for the Core Ministries budget in 2018.
Discussion noted that the Brethren Service Center property was subsidized for years by the Core Ministries budget, and now some of the accumulated assets will be put to work in current ministry projects. If that money were not used in 2018, church ministries and personnel would have to be cut significantly, the board heard.
The board also noted that the $512,000 is part of budget “patches” approved a year ago, which gave the board time to lay the ground work for a capital campaign. There was an acknowledgment that draws beyond 2018 are not sustainable.
At its March board meeting, the board had allocated percentages of the anticipated property sale to several funds. A designated fund for upkeep of the historic Brethren property at Germantown, Pa.--where the denomination owns the church, parsonage, and cemetery--receives $100,000 to help support major work at this site. Thirty percent of the remainder of the sale proceeds, totaling $1,584,809, is being put into a new Brethren Faith in Action Fund. Seventy percent, or $3,692,697, is going into the quasi-endowment fund.
The lower campus of the property in New Windsor continues as the Brethren Service Center. Offices there have been renovated and more than 20 people remain employed at various departments and agencies. The facility houses Brethren Disaster Ministries, Material Resources, and other staff of the Church of the Brethren, as well as office space for On Earth Peace and the SERRV distribution center. SERRV International has signed a three-year lease for the space.
In other business
The board gave staff permission to explore hiring a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study to determine if and how to launch a major fundraising effort. If the board gives approval to move forward, at its fall meeting when a recommendation is brought by staff, such a campaign may put the denomination on a more sustainable financial footing so that patching budget holes with one-time draws on special funds will not be necessary.
Congregational Life Ministries presented awards and citations. Two congregations received citations from the Disabilities Ministry, and director Debbie Eisenbise welcomed them to the Open Roof Fellowship: Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren and York Center Church of the Brethren, both in Illinois and Wisconsin District. Don and Belita Mitchell received the Revelation 7:9 Award from the Intercultural Ministry, in recognition of their time, passion, and energy given for many years to make the Church of the Brethren an intercultural church. Most recently, they have offered intercultural leadership in Atlantic Northeast District.
International guests were introduced from Church of the Brethren bodies in the Great Lakes region of Africa, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Spain, and the Dominican Republic. The international guests who were at Annual Conference included EYN leaders from Nigeria Joel and Salamatu Billi, Daniel and Abigail Mbaya, and Markus Gamache, along with “self-sponsored” Nigerian guests Hauwa Zoaka and Adamu Malik. Attending from Rwanda was Etienne Nsanzimana. From Haiti, guests included Haitian church leaders Jean Bily Telfort and Vildor Archange. From the Dominican Republic, attendees representing the Dominican church were Gustavo Lendi Bueno and Besaida Diny Encarnacion. Spanish Brethren leaders included Santos Terrero Feliz and Ruch Matos Vargas. The First District Church of the Brethren in India was represented by Ramesh Makwan and Ravindra Patel.
The guests shared greetings and some gave brief reports. The representative of the church in Rwanda reported that the country now has four congregations of the Church of the Brethren. No leaders were present from the church in the Democratic Republic of Congo because of difficulty in obtaining visas. A representative of the India Brethren expressed gratitude for the connection with American Brethren, and great concern for increasing anti-Christian activity in India. The EYN presidents brought greetings from the Nigerian Brethren, and thanks for the recent donation of two new tractors. The president of the church in Spain shared information about a goal to work across Europe. The Spanish Brethren recently opened a church plant in London, and have a dream to complete the circle back to their Brethren roots and plant a church in Germany.
The board thanked three members who are completing their terms of service: Don Fitzkee, who has been serving as chair, J. Trent Smith, and Donita Keister.
In a reorganization meeting, the board chose new members for its executive committee: Carl Fike, Jonathan Prater, and Dennis Webb. They will serve with chair Connie Burk Davis and chair-elect Patrick Starkey.