The Mission and Ministry Board held a blessing and laying on of hands for the new Strategic Planning Working Group during its spring meetings on March 12-16. The new group will help guide the board’s long-range strategic planning process that has begun with this meeting. Members of the working group are named in the story at left. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A map of Port-au-Prince shows locations of four of the five clinics planned by a Church of the Brethren medical delegation working in Haiti next week. The Newsline editor is accompanying the group and if Internet access is available, will be posting to a blog at https://www.brethren.org/blog/?p=59 and a photo album at http://www.brethren.org/site/
PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserAlbum&AlbumID=10795 (the next regular Newsline will be postponed until April 7). The delegation includes physicians, nurses, a crisis counselor, a psychologist, members of Haitian Brethren communities in Florida and New York, and the Brethren Disaster Ministries coordinator for Haiti. Members of the delegation traveling from the United States are Neslin Augustin, Jeff Boshart, Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, Jonathan Cadette, Jerry Eller, Jean Leroy, Paul Ullom Minnich, Verel Montauban, Kelent Pierre, Litania Sanon, and Lori Zimmerman. Those joining the delegation in Haiti are Evelyn Dick, Klebert Exceus, Dr. Hyacinthe, and Emerson Pierre. The group plans to provide mobile clinics Monday through Friday at locations of Haitian Brethren congregations and preaching points: on March 22 at the Delmas Church; on March 23 at a church in Croix des Missions; on March 24 at the Marin Church; on March 25 at the Léogâne (Tonm Gato) preaching point; and on March 26 at the Croix des Bouquets Church. Go to www.brethren.org/
HaitiEarthquake for quick links and updates.
A new worship resource provides a meditation on the Family Household Kit for Haiti and an accompanying PowerPoint presentation, available at www.brethren.org/HaitiEarthquake. The Family Household Kit is a new kind of disaster response kit specially designed for Haitian Brethren families and neighbors who lost their homes in the earthquake of Jan. 12. The meditation includes scripture and a focus on the practical uses and spiritual meaning of the items included in the kit, with a PowerPoint showing pictures of kit items.
Bethany Theological Seminary is featuring Dr. Martin Marty as the main speaker at the Presidential Forum on April 9-10 (www.bethanyseminary.edu/
forum2010 or call 765-983-1823). Marty is distinguished service professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and columnist for “The Christian Century,” and give two plenaries on the topics “The Demands of the Stranger: Un-Angelic-Looking Other” and “The Gifts of the Stranger: The Other as Angelic Presence.” Other leadership will represent the three Historic Peace Churches. A play exploring the issue of immigration, “Man from Magdalena” by Earlham School of Religion student Patty Willis, will be presented as part of the forum, which also includes times of worship and small group discussion. Registration costs $75, or $25 for students. Go to www.bethanyseminary.edu/forum2010.
Remember to register for National Youth Conference (NYC) prior to April 5. Register today at www.brethren.org/nyreg for $450. If you already are registered, remember to pay the registration balance by April 5. To register after April 5 or if you have questions, please contact the NYC Office at 800-323-8039 ext. 246.
The New Church Planting Conference on the theme, “Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully,” is an event of the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries and Bethany Seminary. It is held May 20-22 on the seminary campus in Richmond, Ind. The scripture, “I (Paul) planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6), will guide experiences of worship, keynote addresses, workshops, small group conversations, networking, and community outreach. For the first time, the conference offers a workshop track for Spanish-speaking planters and leaders along with translation of keynote addresses and general sessions. Register at www.brethren.org/site/PageServer?pagename=grow_church_planting
Corrections to previous issues of Newsline:
— In the article on an upcoming film showing at Bethany Seminary, the Newsline editor added to the original announcement a detail that may be incorrect: according to the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, although some of William Stafford’s close family were members of the Church of the Brethren it has never been documented that he joined the church.
— The correct link to register for this year’s Song and Story Fest is www.onearthpeace.org/programs/
— The correct spelling of the name of the co-author of a report on the Creation Care retreat is Brian Paff.
— The correct website for Melanie G. Snyder, author of “Grace Goes to Prison,” is http://www.melaniegsnyder.com/ .
March 19, 2010
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19a).
MISSION AND MINISTRY BOARD BEGINS STRATEGIC PLANNING PROCESS
The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board met on March 12-16 at the church’s General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The board began a new strategic planning process for the ministries that it oversees. Also on the agenda were financial reports, a “first read” of revisions to financial policies, the revision of bylaws being presented at Annual Conference this year, the annual report of Church of the Brethren, a review of ecumenical involvements, and a number of reports.
Board chair Dale E. Minnich led the meetings on the theme, “Hearers and Doers of the Word.” The board also engaged in worship, biblical reflection, and an intercultural training event led by members of the church’s Intercultural Advisory Committee. The meeting was held at round tables in a configuration that allowed for “table talk” in small groups.
Strategic planning process:
The board embarked on long-range strategic planning, naming a Strategic Planning Working Group from among its members and staff, and meeting with Rick Augsburger of KonTerra, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.
The working group includes Minnich as board chair; board members Andy Hamilton, Colleen Michael, Willie Hisey Pierson, and Frances Townsend; general secretary Stan Noffsinger; and treasurer Judy Keyser.
The strategic planning is the result of a board decision to approve a deficit budget for this year, with the understanding that the general secretary initiate development of long-range planning to help more closely match income and expense for the church’s core ministries in 2011.
The process will include a survey of a diverse representation of church members and leaders, as well as review of other such surveys and the Together denominational conversation that have been carried out in recent years. The board hopes to have a working draft of directional goals in place to help with budget decisions in October.
Augsburger, who is of Mennonite background, previously has served as deputy director of Church World Service 2005-07 and director of CWS Emergency Response Programs 1996-2005. He introduced what he characterized as strategic planning that emphasizes the positive. “The challenges emerge through this process,” he said, “but you don’t focus on the challenges. You focus on the strengths.”
The discussion of strategic planning included calls for spiritual discernment, and for more biblical and theological reflection to be built into the process. In her opening devotion for the executive committee, Vernne Greiner set the planning in the context of Mark 4, Jesus’ parables about growing seeds. She highlighted the board’s desire to seek God’s leading for the Church of the Brethren. “God always is calling us out of our futures,” she quoted from author Philip Sheldrake, known for his writings on Christian spirituality. And she added, “We’re not just individually on a journey; our church is on a journey.”
In reports on financial results for 2009, the board learned that the deficit for the year in the core ministries budget was less than expected. However, treasurer Judy Keyser warned that overall the year’s operating results did not present a positive picture. She assured the board that “we are working hard to stabilize…. We’re planning for a stable foundation for our ministries in the short-term and the long run.”
All figures reported to the board were pre-audit. The core ministries budget ended the year with an operating deficit of $122,230, while several self-funding programs also closed the year with deficits including the Material Resources program with a $58,050 deficit, the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center with a $147,540 deficit, and the Annual Conference with a $259,330 deficit.
Charts showing income and expense over several years for each of the church’s funds were presented by LeAnn Wine, assistant treasurer. The presentation allowed the board to visually track a graph line showing trends of increasing expense over income for some funds, in particular the Annual Conference fund and the New Windsor Conference Center fund. For most of the funds, Wine commented that in general expenses and income are “matching each other not too badly.”
A high point came with the news that total giving received from congregations exceeded staff expectations for 2009 by 7.9 percent. However, this figure also represents a decrease of 3.6 percent in giving by congregations from the previous year 2008. Giving by individuals to the core ministries of the church increased by 1 percent.
In his report to the executive committee, Ken Neher, director of stewardship and donor development, said he considers the donations level of the church to be good given the recession and the experience of other nonprofits that have seen donations fall by up to 30 percent.
The investment income of the church also began to rebound in 2009, although staff warned it will be a long time before the losses of 2008 are regained.
Haiti earthquake response:
Reports to the board included a review of the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries with Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Haitian Church of the Brethren) following the earthquake in Haiti. Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, and Jeff Boshart, coordinator of the church’s disaster response in Haiti, reported to the board. Both participated in an assessment trip to Haiti in late January.
The earthquake response has built on a Brethren program started following the four hurricanes and tropical storms that hit the island in 2008. “Without all this in place, we couldn’t be doing earthquake response this quickly or effectively,” Winter said. He reported that the death toll from the earthquake now stands at around 230,000, but that the final number is expected to be close to 300,000 people killed in and around the city of Port-au-Prince. Up to 1.2 million Haitians are homeless.
The National Committee of Eglise des Freres Haitiens has officially invited Brethren Disaster Ministries to continue working in Haiti, Boshart reported. The invitation was included in the minutes of the group’s February meeting. “It was a statement of affirmation, for sure,” Boshart said, but added that it was a reminder of the fact that the program is working with an independent denomination in Haiti.
“We need to keep those relationships solid,” he told the board as he reviewed the way the earthquake response is being organized and led. The Haitian and US churches are intentionally working together in assessment and planning, he said. Coordination for the effort is coming from Brethren Disaster Ministries in the US, Haitian church leaders are carrying out the on-the-ground relief work, and the Church of the Brethren is providing funding through its Emergency Disaster Fund.
The earthquake response includes support for feeding programs at six locations in Port-au-Prince: a daily hot meal for children at a school in Port-au-Prince, through which about 20,000 meals have been served Winter said; a feeding program through the Kids Club of the Delmas Church of the Brethren; feeding programs for the church communities and neighborhoods around the three Port-au-Prince congregations at Marin, Delmas, and Croix des Bouquets; and a feeding program for children at the Vine Ministry Church, which has Brethren connections.
Another part of the response is the building of temporary shelters primarily for Haitian Brethren families–“effectively a plywood shed with a tin roof” in Winter’s description–with the first families moving in this past weekend. A short-term medical delegation will be offering five clinics in Port-au-Prince next week at the Brethren church sites. There are plans for donations of canned chicken by Southern Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Districts, with canning to take place in April. Brethren Disaster Ministries is helping support a program to aid Haitian refugees in New York, located at Haitian First Church of New York.
Through grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund, the Church of the Brethren is providing support for the wider ecumenical effort of Church World Service (CWS) and ACT International in Haiti. There also is work going on to connect with some of the other mission efforts in Haiti that are not denominational in scope but have support from congregations or districts of the Church of the Brethren.
A final element of the response is the collection of Family Household Kits for Haiti. These kits will help homeless families rebuild their lives, and are a new type of kit created primarily for Haitian Brethren families. The kits “have really caught on across the denomination,” Winter told the board.
Members of the Mission and Ministry Board signed letters of support and encouragement to Eglise des Freres Haitiens in Haiti, and to the Haitian Brethren congregations in the US.
New disaster rebuilding site in American Samoa:
In other reports, Brethren Disaster Ministries staff announced a new project site in American Samoa, following an earthquake and tsunami in Sept. 2009. Associate director Zach Wolgemuth reported on his assessment trip to the south Pacific island earlier this year.
The Church of the Brethren has been invited to help rebuild homes on American Samoa by FEMA and the American Samoa VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). Working with the United Church of Christ and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Brethren Disaster Ministries will be the lead organization for the project and will coordinate and manage the construction.
The project will offer skilled assistance in disaster rebuilding, while also helping with the high unemployment rate on the island by having local apprentices from a government-funded program work with rotating teams of skilled volunteers selected by the three church organizations. The first team of disaster volunteers from the US will travel to American Samoa on March 28.
In other business:
The board approved a revision of the bylaws of the Church of the Brethren Inc., which will come as an item of business to Annual Conference this year.
The board also approved the Annual Report of the Church of the Brethren for 2009.
Timothy Binkley was named to the Brethren Historical Committee, to fill a position vacated by Ken Kreider who has completed his term. Binkley is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren currently serving as archivist of the J.S. Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas.
The executive committee approved a Pension Plan resolution required by law in late 2009. The action does not change any current aspects of the Pension Plan.
The scope and emphasis of the Global Mission Partnerships was reviewed in a report by Jay Wittmeyer, executive director, along with a review of the listening process on Brethren Witness program. He talked about the current situation in several countries where the Church of the Brethren has a mission program or a sister church relationship. He also mentioned interest in the Church of the Brethren by groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Spain.
The board spent time in table talk discussing a new document on calling, that is being prepared by the Ministry Office in consultation with the Ministry Advisory Council and the Council of District Executives. The document will be part of an upcoming revision of the denomination’s Ministerial Leadership paper.
A review of the Church of the Brethren’s ecumenical involvements was set in motion with a decision asking the Leadership Team–Annual Conference moderator, moderator-elect, and secretary, and the general secretary–to examine how the church coordinates its ecumenical work, and to “discern where we are, and what next steps are needed.”
The item of business began with an executive committee dicussion of the role of the Committee on Interchurch Relations, a joint committee of the board and Annual Conference. Discussion in executive committee and then in the full board made it clear that the Brethren commitment to ecumenism is, in the words of board chair-elect Ben Barlow, “loud and strong. The question is if this committee is the way to do it.”
Annual Conference officers weighed in during the discussion, with moderator Shawn Flory Replogle expressing a desire for the officers to be more involved in ecumenical events, and secretary Fred Swartz saying he liked the direction of the proposal. “It seems to me we’re doing a comprehensive review of our ecumenical goals and practices,” Swartz said, adding that an end result of the process could be broader ecumenical participation from the denomination.
The Mission and Ministry Board holds its next meeting prior to Annual Conference, on July 3 in Pittsburgh, Pa.