223rd Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren
San Diego, California — June 26, 2009
The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren addressed a full agenda at a pre-Conference meeting June 26, led by chair Eddie Edmonds. The group set a budget parameter for Core Ministries for 2010, received financial reports and a report on a survey studying the feasibility of a capital campaign to support the work of the denomination.
Other business included the establishment of a committee to write a resolution on the issue of torture, a report from a youth/young adult meeting of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), a report from the Church of the Brethren’s representative to the United Nations focusing on the situation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic and a report from the DR mission co-coordinators, celebration of a Brethren delegation to Angola (story to come), and discussion of a first draft of a new Vision Statement for the board. Reports were received from the Executive Committee, the general secretary, and executive staff.
The group also named a new Executive Committee, chair, and chair-elect.
Budget Parameter for Core Ministries in 2010
The board adopted a balanced budget with a parameter of $4,962,000 for the Church of the Brethren’s Core Ministries in 2010, with the understanding that if staff cannot meet the parameter a deficit budget may be presented to the board at its October meeting. The decision requires another reduction of $381,000 in expenses, over the present year’s budget. The board will make a final decision on the 2010 budget in October.
Treasurer Judy Keyser told the board that it was “not a good year financially” for the Church of the Brethren, and reported on financial challenges facing the denominational ministries, as well as some points of improvement.
Giving from congregations currently is ahead of the budget for 2009 (which was revised downward at the March meeting of the board), investment income has improved since the first of the year, and “we are financially viable at this point,” Keyser said.
However, “we are still living in a volatile economy,” she warned, sharing concerns about maintaining adequate net assets to support operations, the anticipation of large deficits this year in the budgets of several self-funded ministries including Annual Conference and the New Windsor Conference Center, and how to sustain the church’s Core Ministries when that fund has had a loss of over $1 million in two years.
Discussion of the budget centered on a phrase in Keyser’s report, indicating that the recommendation for 2010 would mean “the loss of some major ministries.” General secretary Stan Noffsinger explained that a plan is not yet in place for the required reduction in expenses for next year, but he anticipates a number of measures to meet that requirement including reviewing any staff positions that come open before filling them, reviewing the cost of the church’s properties and programs, and no increase in employee salaries or benefits in 2010. “We will provide as much information before the October meeting as we have available,” he assured the board.
Report on Survey for Capital Campaign
Stewardship and Donor Development director Ken Neher presented the results of a survey by fundraising consulting firm RSI, on the feasibility of a new capital campaign to support denominational ministries. The survey found both “unprecedented” high levels of support for denominational ministry, he reported, as well as lack of confidence from potential donors in the capacity of the church to raise a large amount of money, and skepticism from some over the purpose of the campaign.
RSI recommended a number of next steps, Neher said, including to postpone implementation of the proposed campaign, engage in board development, revise the “case statement” for support to give more details, and when ready to adopt a multifaceted campaign and to retain fundraising counsel to start the campaign.
The board adopted an Executive Committee recommendation to receive the report and request staff to give clarification of the need and rationale for the campaign.
Study Committee on the Issue of Torture
The board adopted a recommendation from its Executive Committee that a committee be formed to write a resolution on the issue of torture, working with the general secretary. Noffsinger reported encouragement from ecumenical colleagues to address the issue, saying that the Church of the Brethren currently does not have a statement on torture. The four-person committee will include board members Andy Hamilton, John Katonah, and Tammy Kiser, and a staff member to be named by the general secretary.
Report on Situation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic
As one of two reports centering on the DR, Doris Abdullah, the Church of the Brethren’s representative to the UN, reported on the issue of civil rights and blocks to citizenship for people of Haitian descent living in or born in the DR.
Her report followed on that of DR mission co-coordinators Irvin and Nancy Heishman, who reported that Iglesia de los Hermanos (the Dominican Church of the Brethren) has begun a process of advocacy with the DR government on behalf of Haitian members and others in the Haitian community in the country.
The board of the church in the DR has decided to send an attorney to a government hearing on proposed changes to the laws of the country, to encourage changes and improvements in how Haitians are treated. About half of the Brethren in the Dominican church are of Haitian descent, and will potentially be affected, Irvin Heishman reported.
Abdullah reported on findings from a UN special rapporteur and other experts, which set the situation in the context of UN statements against racism and prejudice based on ethnicity. The situation of Haitians in the DR, which Abdullah likened to modern-day slavery, guarantees cheap labor to the country she said. Many people of Haitian descent in the DR live in very dire conditions. They are denied citizenship and civil rights, may be subject to deportation or other mistreatment, and many lack access to education and other services that are enjoyed by Dominicans.
Hundreds of thousands of people of Haitian descent–many of whom are children who were born in the DR, and may be second or third generation descendants of their families’ original immigrant into the country–live in shanty towns originally built for sugar cane cutters, and work in “shocking” conditions, Abdullah said. Some 250,000 of these “stateless people” are children, and have limited access to schools or education, according to the UN study of the issue.
The United Nations has sent a document giving 25 recommendations to the DR government concerning those of Haitian descent living in the country, including recommendations on migration laws, treatment of children, concern for birth certificates for those born in the DR, access to education, and other concerns, Abdullah reported.
“What is our (the church’s) role in combating racism in the DR?” she asked. Quoting from Isaiah 43:18, “Watch for the new thing I am going to do,” she encouraged the church to pray for those who are carrying out the injustice, as well as for those who are mistreated.
Nancy Heishman also asked for prayer for the Dominican Church of the Brethren, which she said had sent the Heishmans to the United States with an assurance of their prayer and support for the US church.
In other notes from the Heishmans’ report, the church in the DR currently has approximately 40 students in a theological education program, more than half of whom are of Haitian descent. The program has sponsored the translation into the Spanish and Haitian Creole languages of a text by Galen Hackman first written for EYN in Nigeria, “Introduction to the Church of the Brethren.” Theological students in the DR have the assignment to teach from the book in their congregations this summer, she reported. The Heishmans report that the book is available to Spanish and Creole speaking Brethren in Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the United States as well.
New Executive Committee Is Named
The board selected a new Executive Committee: Dale Minnich, who will serve as chair through 2011; Ben Barlow, who will serve as chair-elect through 2011, and then as chair through 2013; and at-large members Vernne Greiner and Andy Hamilton. The Executive Committee also includes ex officio members general secretary Stan Noffsinger and 2010 Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle.
The board named Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, to the denomination’s new Vision Committee.
Special recognition was given to outgoing members of the board, including outgoing chair Eddie Edmonds and Ken Wenger, who is completing service on the Executive Committee with this meeting. Also recognized was Kathy Reid, who has resigned as associate general secretary and executive director of Caring Ministries. A special citation was shared for the staff members whose positions were ended following the economic downturn and the reductions in the Church of the Brethren’s 2009 budget.
Board member Ben Barlow reported on a youth/young adult meeting of EYN in Nigeria, which he attended with a small delegation of young adults from the Church of the Brethren in the US. It was the 17th such conference for EYN, he reported, and included 2,200 youth/young adults. The theme was, “Launch Out into the Deep,” from a passage in Luke. He experienced “a powerful spirit” in EYN, he said, also listing a number of challenges facing the Nigerian Brethren including a difference between urban and rural churches, differences between the older and younger generations in leadership, and the question of the ordination of women–at a time when some women already are engaged in church ministry.
The Executive Committee announced that it is starting a process for a performance review for general secretary Stan Noffsinger, whose present contract ends in June 2011. The performance review will culminate at the October meeting of the board.
–Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren
The News Team for the 2009 Annual Conference includes writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Melissa Troyer, Rich Troyer; photographers Ken Wenger, Glenn Riegel, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, and Kay Guyer; staff Becky Ullom and Amy Heckert. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.