The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board has determined that “operating the New Windsor Conference Center is not in alignment with the directional goals of our strategic plan and not financially sustainable.” The decision was made this afternoon through a consensus process during the board’s regular Fall meeting at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill.
The board’s decision is not about the Brethren Service Center property as a whole nor the other ministries located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
The board has directed the General Secretary to develop and implement plans to cease Conference Center operations as soon as is practical. Conference Center operations will not cease immediately. The General Secretary and executive staff will be in close conversation with partner organizations at the Brethren Service Center about the decision. Those conversations will include continuing needs for hospitality for the many volunteers that serve at the Material Resources program, IMA World Health, and SERRV.
Financial background of the decision includes previous board consideration of the viability of the Conference Center dating back to 2007 and previous years. The Conference Center is a self-funded ministry and has been hit hard by the national economic downturn, beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2011. The past four years have seen annual financial losses at the Conference Center, this year already close to $145,000. The Conference Center’s net asset balance has been in negative territory for some years. As of Aug. 31 it exceeds $660,000. These financial losses reflect a continuing annual fall in number of nights of occupancy at the Conference Center and number of meals eaten in the Conference Center’s dining facility.
Associate executive director Roy Winter has been in communication with Conference Center staff concerning the board’s decision and is returning to New Windsor to be present personally as staff begin carrying out the board’s directive.
During the discussion of the New Windsor Conference Center, board members expressed concern for the effects of their decision on staff and on the wider Church of the Brethren, as well as ecumenical partners. The board recognized the tremendous place the Conference Center has held in the denomination, and members expressed concern for those in the church and beyond who have a passion for the Brethren Service Center. Board members spoke with deep appreciation for efforts of staff to mitigate expenses of the Conference Center, which were characterized as “heroic,” and how staff has cared for needs of Brethren Service Center partners.
The board discussion also called for clear recognition that the Conference Center ceasing operations does not mean that other ministries at the Brethren Service Center will cease operations. Ministries continue at the Brethren Service Center including Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, Material Resources, On Earth Peace, SERRV, IMA World Health, and the Mid-Atlantic District Office.