Oct. 22, 2009
“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers…” (James 1:22a).
1) Mission and Ministry Board adopts budget, begins strategic financial planning.
Brethren bits: Seminary courses, anniversaries, and other upcoming events (see column at right).
New online at www.brethren.org/flu is a resource provided by the National Council of Churches (NCC) on “best practices” for churches to help prevent spread of the new H1N1 flu strain. The resource from the NCC’s Health Task Force gives succinct, practical advice for how to practice communion, pass the peace, do handwashing, and clean church buildings, among other matters. ************************************************
1) Mission and Ministry Board adopts budget, begins strategic financial planning.
The Church of the Brethren’s Mission and Ministry Board met for its fall meeting on Oct. 15-19 at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Chair Dale Minnich led the board in a consensus model of decision-making. “Hearers and Doers of the Word” provided the theme for the meeting, based on James 1:16-25.
The board adopted a budget for 2010 and called for development of a long-range strategic financial plan; adopted new vision, mission, and core values statements; adopted a revision of the corporate by-laws; and adopted a Resolution Against Torture. Other major work at the meeting included a job evaluation for general secretary Stan Noffsinger and the renewal of his five-year contract.
The budget approved by the board anticipates an income of $9,488,760 and an expense of $9,807,100 for all Church of the Brethren ministries in 2010, representing a net expense of $318,340. Adoption of this overall budget included a Core Ministries budget of $4,962,000 of projected income, $5,342,930 of projected expense, and a net expense of $380,930.
Along with the 2010 budget the board also approved a statement calling on the general secretary “to initiate development of a long-range strategic plan…that matches income and expense for the core budget beginning in 2011, using consulting help as needed” and that “this plan be based on a series of income enhancement and cost reduction studies to explore new options.” The plan is to be presented to the October 2010 meeting of the board for approval.
The Executive Committee was “of a mind that we resist more cuts at this time,” Minnich told the board as he reflected on approving a deficit budget. The decision may represent postponement of further cuts in staff, salaries, and benefits, but it also may give time for the exploration of options “to be in a better place a year from now,” he said. “Something needs to happen…that will address income and expense so we don’t just keep sliding down the slope.”
“Every budget is a leap of faith,” treasurer Judy Keyser told the board. “We put the amount out there as a challenge to fulfill these budgets.” She characterized the approval of a deficit budget as “taking time to regroup” from the large losses of the last two years.
The board also received year-to-date budget information for 2009 and projections of cumulative losses in net assets over the next several years if general economic trends and giving to the church do not improve. In a separate session, the board discussed a number of questions related to longterm financial resourcing of denominational ministries, related to capital improvement needs at properties owned and operated by the church and other stewardship issues.
In a decision that Minnich reported as part of the renewal of contract for the General Secretary, the church’s funding department is to be reorganized under the direction of the General Secretary’s office, as part of the effort to develop new models.
Vision, Mission, and Core Values Statements:
The board engaged in several sessions of “table talk” in small groups as it gave input for new vision, mission, and core values statements. The new statements were written with leadership from a small group of board members and staff, as a follow-up to the combining of the former General Board with the former Association of Brethren Caregivers. Each of the previous bodies had its own separate sets of statements.
Heading the new document is the Vision Statement, “The Mission and Ministry Board envisions the Church of the Brethren wholly engaged in the reconciliation of all people to God and to each other.”
A three-paragraph Mission Statement focuses on the calling of the board to extend the church’s witness around the world, caring for the whole fabric of the community of the Church of the Brethren, and supporting congregations “in their task to create joyful communities of faith that proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, cultivate discipleship, respond to human need, and make peace.”
Eight core values of the board are described with one short phrase each, including Christ-likeness, servant leadership, discernment, community, stewardship, simplicity, hospitality, and peacemaking. (Go to www.brethren.org/site/DocServer/MMB_Vision_Mission_Core_Values_2009.pdf?docID=5381 for the Vision, Mission, and Core Values document.)
Resolution Against Torture:
A “Church of the Brethren Resolution Against Torture” was adopted after lengthy discussion and numerous revisions to a document originally presented by a small group of board members and staff. The resolution will be passed on to the 2010 Annual Conference for its consideration.
One question that motivated the small group presenting the resolution was, “Why didn’t we act sooner?” said board member Andy Hamilton as he presented the paper. He noted that it has been close to 10 years since questions about the use of torture have begun to rise in the United States.
The resolution includes four sections: an introduction from the Church of the Brethren’s experience of persecution and violence at times in its 300-year history, a biblical basis represented as “foundational for our conviction regarding the sanctity of life,” a section headed “Torture Is a Violation of Word and Life” stating the church’s awareness of growing occurrences of torture throughout the world and attempts to legitimize it, and a section calling the church to confession and action in response. An additional page of references accompanies the resolution. (Go to www.brethren.org/site/DocServer/statement_against_torture_approved.pdf?docID=5321 for the full resolution.)
The Intercultural Advisory Committee met concurrently with the Mission and Ministry Board and presented a report from an intercultural survey of selected denominational leaders. A primary motivation for the study was the mandate of the 2007 Annual Conference statement “Separate No More” for intercultural ministry in the Church of the Brethren. Ruben Deoleo, director for Intercultural Ministries, led the advisory committee into the study and has provided the primary oversight for it.
This was the first time in several years that the committee had been able to meet with all members present. Current members of the committee are Founa Augustin, Barbara Daté, Thomas Dowdy, Robert Jackson, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, Dennis Webb, with Deoleo as staff.
An overview of the survey results was given by Darin Short of In[ter]sights, which conducted the survey. In[ter]sights used an “Intercultural Development Inventory” to survey leadership competency for health intercultural engagement. The survey assumes that cultural differences always are present in an organization, and that there is gradual movement and growth toward an intercultural mindset among leadership, Short said. He showed a graph of the Brethren survey, on a continuum from denial of other cultures, through polarization or minimization of cultural differences, to acceptance, and finally to adaptation to other cultures.
The majority of Brethren individuals surveyed (64 percent) showed a primary orientation of minimization, with 24 percent displaying a “reverse polarization” toward cultural differences—indicating more regard for other cultures than one’s own, 6 percent at a level of acceptance of other cultures, and small numbers in other categories. The survey results will provide a framework for the church to move forward in its intercultural work, Deoleo said.
Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, then presented several questions from the Intercultural Advisory Committee responding to the survey: how to invite the involvement and gifts of all people at Annual Conference, how to plant new congregations and strengthen existing congregations in ways that integrate diverse cultures, how to dedicate financial resources to facilitate growth in a culturally responsive manner, and how the board may help lead the church to carry out the intercultural vision.
Sustainable community development in North Korea:
A highlight of the reports received at the meeting was a presentation on work against hunger in North Korea, given by Pilju Kim Joo of Agglobe Services International, and Global Food Crisis Fund manager Howard Royer.
Through annual grants and other efforts, the church is supporting four farm cooperatives in North Korea, in partnership with Joo’s nonprofit agency. In addition, the church has been invited to help provide faculty to teach at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which has just opened outside the North Korean capital city Pyongyang. The university is a unique venture made possible through cooperative work by faith-based groups with the countries of North and South Korea.
Joo emphasized her endebtedness to the Church of the Brethren, which has been working with Agglobe Services International since 1997. Her wide-ranging slide presentation encompassed a variety of efforts taking place at the four farm cooperatives where some 15,000 people live, from the testing of new varieties of crops to providing basic farm equipment to the feeding of orphans—all under the heading “sustainable community development.” At the conclusion of her presentation, the board rose in a standing ovation in appreciation for her work. (Go to www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=8999&view=UserAlbum for a photo album of the project in North Korea.)
In other business:
The board approved a revision of the Church of the Brethren corporate by-laws to bring to Annual Conference for approval next year. The revision was made necessary by the creation of the Church of the Brethren Inc. as a new entity merging the former General Board, the former Association of Brethren Caregivers, and functions of the former Annual Conference Council.
An update was given on trustee appointments in India. The Church of the Brethren continues to hold responsibility to appoint trustees for church properties that formerly belonged to the Brethren mission in India. On July 29, in a conference call, the board had received an update on legal developments in India, recalled commitments to continue in relationship with both the Church of North India and the India Brethren, and approved a resolution appointing Darryl Raphael Sankey of Valsad, India, to the trust. Noffsinger reported the action to the board because a small number of members were not able to be part of the conference call.
A Bible study led by Dana Cassell, a former intern in the Ministry Office, studied biblical images for the role of the minister. The Bible study was intended to help board members give feedback to a revision of a denominational document on ministerial leadership.
A time of blessing closed the meeting. Board members, staff, and guests were invited to express silent blessings for eyes, ears, hearts, and hands to hear and do the Word.
Go to www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserAlbum&AlbumID=9523 for an online photo album from the meeting.
A new photo album at http://www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=9523&view=UserAlbum offers pictures from the Mission and Ministry Board’s October meeting. Shown here are board members and executive staff engaging in one of the times for small group discussion. The board used a consensus decision making process, meeting at round tables to facilitate discussion. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.
Pilju Kim Joo of Agglobe Services International (above right) spoke to the board about the church’s work in North Korea. She is shown here in a field of cotton that has been made possible in part by grants from the Global Food Crisis Fund. See the photo album at http://www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=8999&view=UserAlbum
— The Outdoor Ministries Association of the Church of the Brethren will hold its National Conference on Nov. 13-15 at Woodland Altars in Peebles, Ohio. The theme for the event is “Christ as Cornerstone.” Richard Dawson, executive director at Camp Highroad in Virginia, will bring the keynote address. He has led a camp visioning team for the Southeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church which produced “The Seven Foundation Documents of Christian Camping,” and has established an EcoEternity Forest at Camp Highroad, becoming the first such forest in the US. The schedule also includes worship, a concert, an OMA Auction to benefit the work of the association, and “break out sessions” featuring a nature hike, challenge course, and arts and crafts projects. Cost is $100 or $75 for Saturday only, with a late fee of $25 applying after Oct. 25. For more information contact email@example.com or 937-417-1184.
— A new deadline of Nov. 10 has been given to register for the annual Nigeria workcamp sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships. The workcamp is scheduled for Jan. 9-30, 2010. Workcampers will worship, learn, create relationships, and work with Christians from Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and Mission 21. The group will work in Kwarhi, tour Kulp Bible College, Hillcrest, and other schools, and visit a game reserve in Yankari. Cost is $2,200 inclusive of a round-trip flight to Nigeria, meals, lodging, in-country transportation, and overseas travel insurance. Requirements include a passport (valid for at least six months after the workcamp) and appropriate vaccinations and medications. Participants must be 18 or older. Those 14-17 years of age may participate if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who also is participating in the workcamp. Contact Global Mission Partnerships at 800-323-8039 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Bethany Theological Seminary will offer two courses focusing on Brethren heritage in the Spring semester of 2010. Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies and associate professor of religious studies at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College, will teach “Church of the Brethren History” at the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center in Elizabethtown. Adjunct faculty member Denise Kettering will teach “Brethren Beliefs and Practices” as a weekend intensive at the seminary’s campus in Richmond, Ind. For more details see www.bethanyseminary.edu/educational-opportunities . Application deadline is the beginning of December. Contact Elizabeth Keller, director of admissions, at email@example.com or 800-287-8822 ext. 1832.
— Celebrations of the 125th anniversary of First Church of the Brethren in York, Pa., continue on Oct. 25, “Heritage Sunday,” with performance of an anthem specially written for the anniversary. The anthem, “Generations Now,” is by Greg Bachman of Tallahassee, Fla., a former member of the church. On Sunday, Nov. 22, the church holds its 125th Anniversary Celebration Banquet at 12:15 p.m. with former pastor Curtis Dubble speaking.
— Common Spirit Church of the Brethren is celebrating its new fellowship status on Nov. 1, from 3-6 p.m. The celebration will be held at Open Circle Church of the Brethren in Burnsville, Minn., and will include entertainment provided by musicians from within Northern Plains District, a meal, and worship. Contact 612-724-0264 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Daleville (Va.) Church of the Brethren plans a “Marathon Bible Study” on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. “The marathon will provide a quick study of the 66 books in the Bible in an instructive, but fun way,” said the Virlina District newsletter. Contact 540-992-2042.
— Western Plains District is holding its “Gathering V” on Oct. 23-25 at the Webster Conference Center in Salina, Kan., on the theme, “Transformed by Jesus to Make Disciples.” Plenary sessions and some other sessions at the gathering will be webcast in a joint effort of the denomination’s Congregational Life Ministries, Bethany Seminary, and the district. Plenary sessions will be led by Annual Conference moderator Shawn Flory Replogle and Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively. Continuing education units (CEUs) are available for those who view the events live–no recordings will qualify. The CEU fee is currently being waived for webcast events in October and November. To obtain credit, submit an online CEU request following a webcast to the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership at http://www.bethanyseminary.edu/
webcast/request-ceu . For the detailed schedule of webcasts go to www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcast/
— The inauguration of Michael P. Schneider as the 14th president of McPherson (Kan.) College will be held on Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. Go to www.mcpherson.edu/president for more details.
— An International Day of Climate Action is being organized with the help of a number of faith communities, focusing attention on new scientific data about the pace of climate change. The major day for activities is Oct. 24. In one example, the Episcopal Church will hold bell ringings and is sponsoring a postcard campaign to call for a fair climate treaty when world leaders gather in Copenhagen in December. More information about the effort is available at www.350.org , named for the 350 parts per million considered to be the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere.
— Church World Service and a coalition of other faith groups are supporting this week’s 2009 Media Violence Fast. The focus is the impact of anti-immigrant hate speech in the media. The initiative signs up thousands of people from across the nation to consciously abstain from violence on television and radio, at least for one week. Join at www.MediaViolenceFast.org .