A 2012 budget for the denominational ministries was the top business item at the spring meeting of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board. Chair Ben Barlow led the March 9-12 meeting, which was held at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.
Also on the agenda were an allocation from the Global Food Crisis Fund, the Ministerial Leadership paper, an appointment to the Brethren Historical Committee, and a number of items presented for conversation and input from the board including financial policies related to self-funding ministries, the proposed denominational Vision Statement, and an emerging effort of Congregational Life Ministries called “Vital Ministry Journey.”
The Ecumenical Call to Just Peace document also was presented for board conversation. World Council of Churches (WCC) representative Michael Hostetter and general secretary Stan Noffsinger invited the board into conversation about the content of the paper, with special attention to its relevance to the Church of the Brethren. The document comes to the next Assembly of the WCC in 2013.
Finances and 2012 budget
Treasurer LeAnn Wine presented financial reports for 2011 (see her report in the Feb. 22 issue of Newsline, go to www.brethren.org/news/2012/financial-report-for-2011.html ) as well as a proposed 2012 budget for denominational ministries. The board had delayed approval of a 2012 budget because of financial decisions in late 2011.
|Photo by Randy Miller|
|A view of part of the campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., where the March 2012 meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board was held.|
The board approved a total budget for denominational ministries (including self-funding ministries) of $8,850,810 income, $8,900,080 expense, with an expected net loss of $49,270. The net loss is related to the closure of the New Windsor Conference Center. The conference center will continue to host groups and retreats until it closes June 4. The denomination’s other ministries at the Brethren Service Center are continuing.
Wine also informed the board of staff discussions about policies related to self-funding units. A review of those policies is part of the organization’s strategic plan, which has a directional goal on “sustainability.” The self-funding programs include Brethren Press, Brethren Disaster Ministries, New Windsor Conference Center, Global Food Crisis, Material Resources, the Conference Office, and “Messenger” magazine.
Although many different internal policies govern these self-funded ministries, one aspect gained the attention of the board: a practice of charging interest on interfund borrowing by self-funding departments. The board asked the treasurer to do additional study and bring a recommendation on whether this practice should be discontinued.
The board approved a grant of $58,000 to support agricultural development in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). This grant for the Ryongyon Community Development Program continues long-term Brethren support for four farm cooperatives that feed and are home to 17,000 people. The program is carried out in cooperation with other members of the Foods Resource Bank, and is directed by Dr. Pilju Kim Joo of Agglobe International.
“The need for food security is great,” said the grant request. “Caritas reports that floods, a harsh winter, poor farming infrastructure, and rising global food prices have left two-thirds of the 24.5 million population without enough to eat.” Find out more about the church’s work in North Korea at www.brethren.org/partners/northkorea
Ministerial Leadership paper
The board reviewed the provisional approval it gave at its last meeting to a draft of the Ministerial Leadership document, and approved the document to be brought to the 2012 Annual Conference. The proposal to the Conference will be to approve the document as a study paper, before it comes back for final adoption. The document reviewed by the board at this meeting included revisions from the previous version, with a new section of “Scriptural Theological Perspective,” as well as new sections of additional recommendations and a glossary of terms, among other smaller revisions. For more information go to www.brethren.org/ministryoffice/polity-revision.html
|Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford|
|A new concept of “Share and Prayer Triads” was experienced at the Mission and Ministry Board meeting. Congregational Life Ministries executive Jonathan Shively led the board in small group Bible study, personal sharing, and prayer. The model is part of the Vital Ministry Journey initiative that Congregational Life is putting into place in collaboration with districts.|
Vital Ministry Journey
An emerging effort of Congregational Life Ministries, the “Vital Ministry Journey” is a new way for denominational staff to partner with congregations and districts toward holistic health. Built around conversation, Bible study, prayer, and storytelling, the first phase seeks to identify churches that are ready to grow their “mission vitality.”
Initially developed with Middle Pennsylvania District, which plans to launch the process in September, the Vital Ministry Journey is a work in progress said Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries. As he presented an outline of the goals and steps envisioned for the two phases of the journey, Shively emphasized that at its core the process is adaptable and intended to be customized by congregations and districts.
Practices supporting the process include coaching, training, networking, mutual support, and the cultivation of shared mission among congregations. Shively led the board in an experience of “Share and Prayer Triads,” three-member study groups that will be in place for 60 days in a congregation, a time intended for self-study and discernment of a church’s state of health, calling as a community, and next steps in mission.
In other business
The Executive Committee appointed Dawne Dewey to a four-year term on the Brethren Historical Committee. She is head of special collections and archives at Wright State University in Ohio and attends Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren in Southern Ohio District.
Board members worshiped with Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, attending two of the four Sunday morning services held by the congregation. Frederick is the largest Church of the Brethren in the US. Following worship, the board was given lunch by the congregation, and pastor Paul Mundey led the board in a private workshop on “Developing Leadership Skills in Turbulent Times.” The board also held a conversation in closed session (see a release from the board below).
During the board meetings, Annual Conference moderator Tim Harvey led devotions focused on the proposed Vision Statement for the Church of the Brethren coming to the 2012 Conference. On behalf of the Conference officers, who also were meeting in New Windsor over the weekend, he made a recommendation that the Church of the Brethren as a whole and each congregation spend a month this fall focusing on the Vision Statement through Bible studies and small group discussions. Find the proposed statement, a study guide, a new theme hymn, and worship resources at www.cobannualconference.org/vision.html
Release from the Mission and Ministry Board: Executive Session Report
Recognizing the importance in the life of a board for generative time, the Mission and Ministry Board entered into executive session on Sunday afternoon, March 11, at the Frederick Church of the Brethren.
As a board development component of the afternoon, Frederick pastor Paul Mundey led the board through a seminar on “Developing Leadership Skills in Turbulent Times.”
General Secretary Stan Noffsinger brought a progress report on the New Windsor Conference Center closure and potential retasking of conference center facilities.
The board then entered into a conversation about how best to communicate with each other and with the wider church. The board focused on decisions made in the past year regarding BVS [Brethren Volunteer Service] project approvals. Specifically, the board spoke about the approval of the Brethren Mennonite Council’s BVS project application. The timeline and the process that led toward the decision was shared by the General Secretary and the board Chair.
In January 2011, the Executive Committee discussed the approval process for BVS projects in general and potential placements with BMC in particular. The Executive Committee affirmed that all BVS volunteers must be engaged in service consistent with the values of the Church of the Brethren as articulated by Annual Conference statements and policies. The Executive Committee further affirmed that any project placement meeting this criterion and not involving advocacy against Church of the Brethren positions should receive consideration. The Executive Committee then instructed the General Secretary and an Executive Committee member to engage in conversation with BMC representatives to determine whether potential BMC placements could meet those criteria and, if so, consider such placements. The General Secretary determined that the BMC project met the criteria articulated by the Executive Committee.
The board agreed that, going forward, all BVS projects should be reviewed periodically to assure that they meet these criteria.
The board acknowledged that the Executive Committee could have communicated this decision and its rationale more effectively with the wider board and the larger church and expressed regret for the confusion and pain that resulted.
Given that experience, the board committed itself in the future to find ways to communicate more effectively with the larger church. The board seeks in all of its work to be a unifying force that is respectful of all members of the Church of the Brethren.
The board ended its closed session in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance in its role in providing leadership for the Church of the Brethren.