Mission and Ministry Board approves grants, adopts statement on gun violence, holds conversations on race and mission at spring meetings




Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

"Table talk" during the spring 2018 meetings of the Mission and Ministry Board

A large Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) allocation for long-term hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico, a statement on gun violence, Wieand Trust grants to Chicago-area projects, and new names for some denominational ministries were on the agenda of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board. The board held spring meetings March 9-12 at the denomination’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill., led by chair Connie Davis and chair-elect Patrick Starkey.

Davis reported as board chair on correspondence leadership has received from a variety of church members since Annual Conference, revealing some troubling aspects that depart from long-standing Brethren beliefs and practices. Her report was followed by presentations by staff about Church of the Brethren structure related to the authority of church leadership, and the significance of our Anabaptist and Pietist history.

In-depth conversations were held on race and on issues related to international mission. Among numerous reports, the board received positive financial year-end review for 2017, initial information from the new “Stewardship of Property 2" group carrying out an Annual Conference mandate to assess stewardship of the General Offices, and an update from Annual Conference officers on work toward a “compelling vision.”

Ministry formation students from Bethany Seminary were among guests at the meeting, accompanied by professor Tara Hornbacker. According to long-standing practice, each year the seminary sends the current ministry formation class to observe a meeting of the board and to lead as a class one worship service, as part of their education for ministry in the Church of the Brethren. 

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‘Lukewarm no more’

The board adopted a statement on gun violence calling the denomination to repentance and action. The statement was initiated by staff of Global Mission and Service. It quotes from the Bible and previous church statements in its call to the wider church to recommit to the work of peacemaking, suggesting four action steps for church members, congregations, and ministries.

“Our sister churches pray for us as an American church in a time of violence, as we undergo repeated acts of mass shootings, and they express love and concern for us,” said Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, explaining some background to the statement. He recently returned from a trip to the emerging Brethren body in Venezuela.

Wittmeyer noted the scripture’s call for Christians not to lose their “saltiness.” In Venezuela, that may mean considering how the church may be “salt of the earth” in that country’s economic crisis. Here in the US, he commented, “if we have continued gun violence and we have ready access to guns, and mass shootings, and children are unsafe in schools, don’t we have to ask the question whether the church has lost its saltiness?”

See the full story at www.brethren.org/news/2018/lukewarm-no-more-statement-gun-violence.html .

Ministry name changes

Staff reported name changes for three denominational ministries:
-- The Office of Public Witness is now named the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy: A Witness of the Church of the Brethren.
-- Donor Relations and Donor Communications are now called Mission Advancement.
-- Congregational Life Ministries is now called Discipleship Ministries.

Along with a new name, staff of Discipleship Ministries also are articulating a new vision and are adopting a change of strategy for carrying out the work. Three new strategic emphases will connect and inform all the work of the team: make and grow disciples, form and develop leaders, and transform communities. These emphases will shape the events, resources, and relationships overseen and cultivated by the team. To facilitate this work, the team will be comprised of director-level staff alongside two administrative support staff. In addition, Discipleship Ministries will develop a team of contractors who will provide leadership in congregations and districts related to specific ministries such as evangelism, conflict transformation, and Christian education.

See the full story at www.brethren.org/news/2018/discipleship-ministries-new-name-for-clm.html .

Allocations and grants

An allocation of $200,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) was approved by the board for work by Brethren Disaster Ministries and Puerto Rico District. The money will fund long-term recovery on the island, following the 2017 hurricanes. See the full story at www.brethren.org/news/2018/bdm-puerto-rico-district-plan-longterm-recovery.html .

A Global Food Initiative (GFI) allocation of $15,440 was approved to fund expansion of the gardening program of Lybrook Community Ministries in Cuba, N.M. The goal is to expand the gardening program to include more Navajo families in six communities in the area. Lybrook Community Ministries works closely with the community gardening project of Tokahookaadi Church of the Brethren.

The board approved grants from the Wieand Trust for two projects of Illinois and Wisconsin District in the Chicago area: the Parables Community, hosted at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., and the Gathering Chicago, which meets in a high-rise in the Hyde Park neighborhood. The Parables Community will receive $34,135 for the rest of this year, 2018, and $46,288 for 2019. The Gathering Chicago will receive $85,100 for the rest of this year, 2018, and $87,000 for 2019. Christian work in the inner city of Chicago is one of the three purposes for grants from the David J. and Mary Elizabeth Wieand Trust.

In other business

-- The board approved several updates to the denomination’s financial policies representing clarifications, changes of nomenclature and titles, or revisions to bring policies up to date with current practice.

-- Kelley Brenneman was appointed to the Brethren Historical Committee. She is the archivist at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, and previously served as an intern at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives from 2014-15. She is a member of Agape Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Find a link to an album of photos of the meeting at www.brethren.org/album .

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