In addition to its decision to cease operation of the New Windsor (Md.) Conference Center (reported in Newsline on Sunday, Oct. 16 — go to http://www.brethren.org/news/2011/board-decides-to-cease-conference-center-operation.html), the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board in its Fall meeting appointed LeAnn Wine as treasurer, and Ed Woolf as assistant treasurer; gave provisional approval to a revision of the denomination’s Ministerial Leadership Paper; and approved a $300,000 grant from the Emergency Disaster Fund to continue disaster relief and rebuilding in Haiti following the earthquake of 2010.
The Executive Committee of the board also named chair-elect Becky Ball-Miller as Church of the Brethren representative to a National Council of Churches delegation to Cuba this November.
Ministerial Leadership Paper
The board gave provisional approval to the Ministerial Leadership Paper, which is a proposed revision of an existing polity document of the denomination. The action ensures a place for the paper on the Annual Conference business docket next year, where delegates will be asked to consider it as a study paper before it is brought back for final approval a year later.
In the meantime, the paper will undergo further development with leadership from associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury, who also supervises the Ministry Office. The document will go back to the Ministry Advisory Council and the Council of District Executives for continued refinements, and then return to the Mission and Ministry Board next March for recommendation to Annual Conference.
The document’s revision is aimed at more consistency and accountability in the credentialing and quality of ministerial leadership in the denomination, and enhancement of the calling process for ministers. The concepts of the priesthood of all believers and of circles of ministry are key for the paper. Ministry circles are conceived as offering both accompaniment and accountability for people discerning a call to ministry and for established ministers, helping ensure healthy connections in the congregation, among peers, with mentors, and with the wider community.
“No paper is perfect,” Flory-Steury commented, “but a paper can point us toward healthy practices for sustaining our ministers.”
Disaster relief in Haiti, Horn of Africa
Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries gave a 20-month report on the church’s work following the Haiti earthquake. With the $300,000 grant approved at this meeting, the program will have come close to spending all of the more than $1.3 million donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund that were earmarked for Haiti earthquake response.
Continuing aspects of the earthquake response include home reconstruction and repair, several agricultural development projects, capacity building for the Church of the Brethren in Haiti, volunteer housing combined with a denominational offices for the Haitian Brethren, a health care initiative in partnership with IMA World Health, and trauma recovery with STAR Haiti.
Winter described the drought in the Horn of Africa as “a real tragedy that nobody is talking about.” For example, Church World Service (CWS) has had only a meager response to its appeal for $1.2 million toward relief in areas of northeast Africa where 20 percent of people are without food and 30 percent of children are acutely malnourished. Of the $283,484 that CWS has received so far, the Church of the Brethren has given $65,000 to date–the most of any US denomination, Winter said. He plans further grants to aid the millions of Africans faced by starvation. Brethren grants to the Horn of Africa famine have come from both the Emergency Disaster Fund and the Global Food Crisis Fund.
In other business, departing employees were recognized following recent layoffs, and appreciation and thanks were expressed for their years of service. The meeting also included reports on the “remapping” process for staff as new strategic goals are implemented, finances, a denominational vision statement, Brethren Disaster Ministries domestic and international work, conferences for junior highs and older adults, the Outdoor Ministry Association, a Global Christian Forum in Indonesia, the Lybrook ministry of Western Plains District, digital communication and forthcoming Brethren Press books, and exploration of a mission relationship in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board held its Fall meeting Oct. 15-17 at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. The meeting was led by Ben Barlow, who started his term of service as chair with this meeting, and Becky Ball-Miller, who also started her term as chair-elect. In addition, the board welcomed six new members. The board worked with a consensus model of decision making.
As at every Mission and Ministry Board meeting, the group spent time in worship and devotions. Decisions such as that made about the Conference Center were marked by time for prayer, hymns, and silence.