Church of the Brethren Faces Challenging Financial Situation

The Church of the Brethren is facing a challenging financial situation at the start of 2009, according to the church’s finance staff. The denomination has recorded a total net loss of $638,770 for the year 2008 (in pre-audit figures).

A cluster of factors have brought about the situation, including loss of investment value, higher costs for fuel and utilities that have increased travel budgets and mission expenses, the exchange rate for the US dollar, and a decrease in donations from individuals and congregations.

The loss in value of the denomination’s investments is one contributing factor. As of the close of 2008, the Church of the Brethren had unrealized market losses of about 35 percent of the value of its total investments, coming to a little more than $4,863,900 (in pre-audit figures). This loss of investment value will continue to affect the church’s budget in coming years, staff reported.

However, a financial strategy to level the amount of investment income the denomination actually takes in each year has helped protect the church from what might have been a more severe loss of income in 2008. The denomination currently takes the average of the past five years of investment balances in any given year.

Expenses budgeted for 2008 have proved to be realistic, but a budgeting practice for anticipating giving may have been overly optimistic. For several years, a practice for calculating what to expect in annual giving from congregations has linked expectations to a high water mark set some years ago.

Although giving from congregations and individuals has declined, the decline has not been as sharp as it might have been given the gloomy state of the economy. The rate of giving may show a continuing commitment to denominational work, even as members and congregations face their own financial difficulties. The total in giving from congregations and individuals came to $3,611,460 in 2008, representing a decrease in giving of $150,560 or only 4 percent of the actual donations received in the previous year (in pre-audit figures).

Factors posing financial challenges also include the sharp rise in gas and fuel costs experienced last year, which in turn affected the costs of utilities as well as food, travel, and other expenses. The low value of the US dollar has made international mission work more expensive, in countries where costs of goods and services have increased for mission staff and sister churches.

In another financial note, the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center at the Brethren Service Center experienced a loss of $201,040 in 2008 (in pre-audit figures). The loss came from the conference center’s self-funded budget and did not affect the core ministries of the denomination. The loss is attributed to many groups canceling bookings as the national economy fell.

The denomination’s loss for 2008 has been able to be absorbed by net assets that had been built up over the last five years. General secretary Stan Noffsinger has called on staff to seek new ways to cut expenses and to trim spending from their programs in 2009. “We want the best thinking that you all can give to face this situation,” he told staff at a recent meeting. Plans for capital improvements at the denomination’s main facilities in Elgin, Ill., and New Windsor, Md., are being revisited as well, among other measures.

“Our big concern now is that giving is behind already for 2009,” said treasurer Judy Keyser. “It’s not just the 4 percent of last year. If the shortfall of giving continues at the current rate, it’s something like 13 percent. We’re carefully considering what the impact will be on both the 2009 budget and further years. Adjustments to the 2009 budget are expected at the March board meeting.”

Executive staff will bring options for action to the Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board at its next meeting on March 14-16, to be held at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor at For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


“Protestants awarded Lilly grants,” South Bend (Ind.) Tribune (Feb. 11, 2009). Northern Indiana District Church of the Brethren received $335,000 as one of 16 Protestant regional denominational bodies in Indiana awarded more than $11 million in Lilly Endowment’s new “Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Indiana Pastors.” Read more at

“Grof and Baer represent Meyersdale Area High School,” Daily American, Somerset County, Pa. (Feb. 10, 2009). Shawn Baer, a member of Beachdale Church of the Brethren, and Hannah Grof have been chosen to represent Meyersdale (Pa.) Area High School at the February Meyersdale Lions Club meetings. Baer is enrolled in the college preparatory course at the school. He is the son of Douglas and Jacalyn Baer of Meyersdale. Go to

“A bell, a baby and a baptism–Polar Sea revives a nautical tradition,” Seattle (Wash.) Post Intelligencer (Feb. 7, 2009). Dressed in white and with a bow wrapped around her head, 3-month-old Genevieve Carr and her parents have followed a US naval tradition dating back hundreds of years in which consecrations or baptisms are conducted with a ship’s bell. Rev. Jeffrey Barker from Columbia Lakewood Community Church in Seward Park conducted the blessing on the Coast Guard cutter Polar Sea. The family attends Columbia Lakewood Community Church, which is part of the Church of the Brethren. For the full story see

Obituary: Orphea Pearl Mummert, Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan (Feb. 8, 2009). Orphea Pearl Mummert, 95, of Fort Collins, Colo., passed away on Feb. 4. She was involved with Northern Colorado Church of the Brethren in Windsor, Colo., and also for many years was an active member of Peak Community Church in Fort Collins, where she taught Sunday school. She was a teacher for 41 years, teaching in Idaho, Indiana, and Colorado, and retiring in 1987. She married Harold Mummert in 1946. For the full obituary go to

“Yeager elected senior pastor,” Chambersburg (Pa.) Public Opinion (Feb. 7, 2009). Harold E. Yeager has been unanimously elected to serve as senior pastor of Chambersburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. An ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, Yeager was installed as senior pastor during a service on Feb. 1. He has been a moderator of the Southern Pennsylvania District of the Church of the Brethren, served on the Standing Committee of the Church of the Brethren, and serves as trustee emeritus of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. For the story, go to

Obituary: Larry L. Mundt, Post Bulletin, Rochester, Minn. (Feb. 6, 2009). Larry L. Mundt, 60, died on Feb. 5 at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wis. In 1971, he married Lynn Ellinghuysen. The couple made their home south of Utica, where they farmed their entire marriage. He was a member of Lewiston (Minn.) Church of the Brethren. For the full obituary go to

Obituary: Ethel L. Frazier, News Leader, Staunton, Va. (Feb. 6, 2009). Ethel Louise Frazier, 91, died on Feb. 5 at Augusta Medical Center. She was a member of Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren in Crimora, Va. She had worked with DuPont during the 1940s. In 1941, she married Clifton Edward Frazier, who preceded her in death in 2000. For the full obituary go to

“Lilly Endowment Awards Grants to Help Pastors Address Financial Challenges,” Lilly Endowment, Indianapolis, Ind. In a press release from the Lilly Endowment, the Church of the Brethren’s Northern Indiana District is named as one of 16 regional church bodies in Indiana to receive grants to help support pastors. The district received a grant of $335,000. Read the release at

“Retired teacher has time, so he gives it,” Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News. James Martin learned the value of helping others from his grandparents and his father, who was a minister for the Church of the Brethren in Lebanon County, Pa. Martin, who lives at Lebanon Valley Brethren Home, became an English teacher and taught thousands of students over the years. He started volunteering at Penn State’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center after his wife, Elizabeth, died of cancer. Read the full story at

“Argos Swap Shop helps clothe the needy,” WNDU-TV, South Bend, Ind. It’s been said “nothing in life is free” but that’s not the case at one store in Argos, Ind. The store is called the Argos Swap Shop sponsored by the Walnut Church of the Brethren CHAFIA. People can bring in their donations and swap them for other items in the store. The store also believes that if you can’t donate, don’t worry. They want to help out those in need during tough times. Find the report at

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