Mission and Ministry Board Meets in Pennsylvania, Discusses Mission and Church Vitality Among Other Business

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Mission was one of the major topics of discussion at the Mission and Ministry Board’s spring meeting held at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

The Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board met at Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren over the weekend of March 13-16. Meetings were led by board chair Becky Ball-Miller, who is completing her term of service on the board by mid-2015.

It was the first time in many years that a full meeting of the denominational board has been hosted by a congregation. On Sunday morning, board members and several staff worshiped with some 14 churches in the surrounding area: Ambler, Annville, Chiques, Conestoga, Elizabethtown, Ephrata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Middle Creek, Mountville, Richland, Stevens Hill, West Greentree, as well as the Brethren Village retirement community. Board members or staff preached or gave Sunday school presentations for several of the churches.

A major action of the board was the decision not to renew the General Secretary’s contract, which ends on July 1, 2016–a decision made mutually with general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger. (See yesterday’s Newsline Special at www.brethren.org/news/2015/general-secretary-concludes-service-at-end-of-contract.html .)

Also on the business agenda were a conversation about the Church of the Brethren mission work and mission philosophy, a proposal for boosting church vitality, and a “Resolution on Christian Minority Communities.”

A positive financial report for 2014 was received, among other reports. The financial report highlighted very generous giving by congregations and individuals. Much of that generosity has been directed to the Nigeria Crisis Response and the Nigeria Crisis Fund, responding to the distressing situation of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). However, concern also was expressed for the financial health of the Core Ministries of the denomination, which depend on unrestricted giving. (A fuller report on 2014 financial results will appear in a future issue of Newsline.)

Three board committees met: the Board Development Committee, Audit and Investment Committee, and a new Strategic Planning Committee. The latter was made a standing committee of the board, with the function of reviewing the strategic planning process of the board and staff.

Times of worship were led by board member Gilbert Romero, of Montebello, Calif.

Mission conversation:

Much of Saturday’s meeting focused on the mission work of the Church of the Brethren, and church members and groups particularly active in mission were invited to attend. Groups present included the denomination’s Mission Advisory Committee, Brethren World Mission, and the Brethren Mission Fund of the Brethren Revival Fellowship. Also present were representatives of the Haiti Medical Project, district executives, and district mission representatives, among others.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The denominational board invited guests and groups active in mission work to attend a Saturday session where an update was shared about the Nigeria Crisis Response, and the group engaged in “table talk” about how the mission philosophy documents at Annual Conference relate to the current strategic goal on mission.

The conversation on mission included a detailed report about the progress of the Nigeria Crisis Response from Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer and associate executive director Roy Winter, who also heads up Brethren Disaster Ministries. The conversation also covered the most recent Annual Conference mission philosophy documents and the current strategic goal for international mission. Former mission worker Irv Heishman, who worked in the Dominican Republic for some years, was given an opportunity to pose a sharp critique of the mission efforts focused on informing how the church engages with cultures around the world.

A “table talk” discussion followed, including board, staff, and guests. The conversation focused on two questions: Do the Annual Conference statements on mission adequately serve the Church of the Brethren today? Are there inconsistencies between the Annual Conference statements and the current strategic goal for mission? Responses were shared and submitted to the board for further consideration.

Church vitality:

As requested by the board, staff made a proposal for a “Church of the Brethren Vitality Project.” At its Oct. 2014 meeting, the board requested a proposal to use $250,000 per year for five years to boost church vitality, if the board released those funds from reserves. Table talk with board, staff, and guests gave feedback about the proposal. Later in the meeting, the chair announced that because much of the feedback was not supportive, the board would return to the idea at another time.

In other business:

— A “Resolution on Christian Minority Communities” was approved and recommended to the 2015 Annual Conference for adoption. (See full story below, or online at www.brethren.org/news/2015/resolution-on-christian-minority-communities.html .)

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Members of the Lancaster congregation provided fabulous food and generous hospitality to the members of the board and staff.

— Brian Bultman’s appointment as treasurer of the Church of the Brethren was approved, and he was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the denomination’s Program Feasibility Committee.

— A term extension for Patrick Starkey, a current member of the board from Cloverdale, Va., was approved by the board for confirmation by the Annual Conference. Adding one year onto Starkey’s term is part of an effort by the Nominating Committee to complete the staggering of terms after the 2008 merger of the Association of Brethren Caregivers and General Board to form the Mission and Ministry Board.

— Jeff Bach’s appointment to the Brethren Historical Committee was approved. Bach directs the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies and teaches in the Religious Studies department of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

— The board received a report of a large insurance dividend from Brethren Mutual Aid and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, through that company’s Partnership Group Program. (See full story below, or online at www.brethren.org/news/2015/church-of-the-brethren-receives-insurance-dividend.html .)

For more information about the Mission and Ministry Board, go to www.brethren.org/mmb . Find a photo album of the meeting at www.bluemelon.com/churchofthebrethren/spring2015missionandministryboard .